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Frederick Douglass to Julia Griffiths, April 28, 1848


Rochester, [N.Y.] 28 April 1848.


Pardon my seeming neglect in not replying to your last welcome letters.1This series of letters from Griffiths to Douglass has not been located. Absence from home on a long antislavery tour, from which I have but just returned2Douglass had just finished a lecture tour for the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society beginning in Canandaigua, New York, on 23 March 1848 and returning to Rochester on 27 April 1848. NS, 17, 24 March, 7, 14 April 1848. has prevented an earlier letter. Do accept my warmist thanks for the unfatering interest which you continue to take in my humble welfare. The London Times comes quite regularly—always bearing the evidence of your ever kind and sisterly hand. The “Illustrated News” containing a portriature of the revolution in France came safely to hand—and were most gratefully received.3While the North Star printed summaries of news of recent events in Europe during spring 1848, the paper did not list the London Illustrated News as a source for any of those summaries.

My Dear Julia, I have a repugnance to making a poor face and always desire to look at the bright side of the future—and seldom can bring myself to say that I have undertaken more than I have the ability to perform. It therefore greatly pains me to tell you that my present prospect of success in my honist effort at improving my free-colored Brethren by publishing a newspaper is far from encourageing. I fear I have miscalculated in regard to the amount of support which would be extended to my enterprise. There is however this consolation in my present embarrassment, the first year is in every similar case—not only attended with more expense from various causes—but it more difficult to obtain subscribers during that time than after the paper is established. Things have not turned out at all as I expected. The colored people themselves—owing to the long night of ignorance which which has overshaddowed and subdued their spirit. Then again my paper is too free from party dictation to receive much support from any existing antislavery party. They have all their own party organs to support and feel only a negative interest in mine. I am also somwhat behind and on account of the small assistence in getting subscribers—rendered me by my Dear Friend Delany[.]4Martin R. Delany, one of the editors of the North Star, solicited subscriptions to the paper until 1849. Like many black newspapers in the nineteenth century, the North Star faced precarious financial circumstances. In 1848 the paper had only 700 subscribers to support production costs of fifty-five dollars per week. Douglass to Martin R. Delany, 12 January 1848, General Correspondence File, reel 1, frame 647, FD Papers, DLC; Robert S. Levine, Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1997), 18–57, 247; Ullman, Martin R. Delany, 88. When I united with him the understanding was that I should remain in Rochester and edit the paper while he travelled and obtained subscribers—this from various causes he has been able to do only


to a very limited extent. The consequence is I I have been compelled to edit lecture—and obtain subscribers—and furnish the money with which to proceed thus far. I will however hope on—labor on and deserve success—though I may meet with failure[.] I have expended more than the some sent me from England, and shall require sixty dollars per week for six months to come in order to keep my paper a float. The average increase of subscribers amounts to twenty five dollars a week. I feel sure if I can keep the paper in existance one year I can sustain it permanently. “The North Star” must sustained. It has alredy accomplished somthing. It has taken a respectable stand among (at least) American newspapers—and in a measure demonstrated the slave’ s capacity for higher achievements. It has also impressed the colored people themselves, that they are destined higher attainments—even in this country than now enjoy. This is very little to have accomplished but is somet[hing]

ALf: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frame 649, FD Papers, DLC. PLf: Foner, Life and Writings, 1:306–07.


Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)




Yale University Press 2009


Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass Papers



Publication Status



Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass Papers