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Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass, 1855


You would like to know something more of Miss Shadd than the simple introduction of her name. She is a daughter of Pennsylvania. But before speaking of her, let me say a word about one who is setting over against, and watching her ever changing countenance. He is a young man, and very small - even smaller than Remond. In looking at him you ask yourself, how can a large mind be contained within so small a mould?

Yet, with all his dimunition of the outer man, there is a vigorous set about his limbs and a well knit frame; and as the eye passes upward, the head indicates breadth and compass; and though small great compactness and phrenological proportions. The lower face, too, especially the under jaw, is wonderfully indicative of intellectual power. All this would not be apparent to the common observer among the delicate people of color. The truth is, my dear M—, we are so led away with the idea of the whites and the whites superiority, that we seldom look for intellectual superiority, or even excellence in a direction diametrically opposite; or where-of there is an Ethiopic preponderance, unless something palpable is exhibited in proof. The young man I have thus rudely crayoned, has intellectual ability of the highest order-has culture, has moral courage, and stamina-has all the elements indicative of greatness; and has forever established his title to a niche among our leading minds. This young man is Isaiah C. Wears, leader of the Pennsylvania delegation, and of whom I before made mention. He is not only an elegant and vigorous speaker, but one of the best debaters in the house, or to which I have yet listened. Pennsylvania need well be proud of as many such sons as she can muster.


But it was of a daughter of Pennsylvania rather I intended to speak. Miss Shadd is rather tall, but of fine physical organization—wholly feminine in appearance and demeanor-has a well moulded head set upon a rather slender neck, which gives her, when erect or speaking animatedly, what white folks would say, a very saucy look. An anecdote of her, will best illustrate this. In New York, and coming down Broadway at a time when colored women scarcely dared to think of riding in the stages, Miss Shadd threw up her head, gave one look, and a wave of her hand.

There was such an air of impressive command in it that the huge, coarse, ruffianly driver, who had been known to refuse colored ladies as though suddenly seized with paralysis, reined up to the curb and she entered, and, without hinderance, rode to the end of her Journey.

Miss Shadd's eyes are small and penetrating, and fairly flash when she is speaking. Her ideas seem to flow so fast that she, at times hesitates for words; yet she overcomes any apparent imperfection in her speaking by the earnestness of her manner, and the quality of her thoughts. She is a superior woman; and it is useless to deny it; and, however much we may differ with her on the subject of emigration.

She obtained the floor and proceeded to, and succeeded in making one of the most convincing and telling speeches in favor of Canadian emigration I ever heard—It was one of the speeches of the convention. She at first had ten minutes granted her as had the other members. At their expiration, ten more were granted, and by this time came the hour of adjournment; but so interested was the House, that it granted additional time to her to finish,


and the House was crowded and breathless in its attention to her masterly exposition of our present condition, and the advantages. Canada opens to colored men of enterprise. Herein consisted the charm and potency of her speech. But I must, for the present, conclude; so, adieu.


(For Frederick Douglass; Paper.
(From our Brooklyn Correspondent.)



Ethiop (William J. Wilson)




This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Leon Gardiner Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania



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