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Ebenezer Tucker to Frederick Douglass, September 9, 1851


EBENEZER TUCKER1Ebenezer Tucker (1819-85), an educator and Congregational minister born in Cherry Hill, New York, spent the years 1846-1855 and 1873-1879 as principal of the Union Literary Institute in Randolph County, Indiana. In 1846 antislavery Quakers and others established the school to educate an African American population, and it received a charter from the state legislature in 1848. Though founded primarily for African Americans, the school was willing to serve pupils of all races, religions, and social classes. Students, most twelve years old and up, learned manual labor skills as well as traditional subjects. Some boarded at the school while others were day students. Tucker served as president of Liber College in Jay County, Indiana, and later taught at Straight University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at Tougaloo University in Tougaloo, Mississippi. Philadelphia Non-Slaveholder, February 1847, October 1849; Indianapolis News, 13 April 1885; Emma Lou Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana before 1900: A Study of a Minority (1957; Bloomington, Ind., 1993), 173-78; Ebenezer Tucker, History of Randolph County (Chicago, 1882), 43, 172-73, 179-80, 195. TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS

Spartanburg,2The printed letter erroneously lists the town as “Spartansburg.” Spartanburg is located in Randolph County, Indiana, twenty miles north of Richmond. Thomas and Baldwin, Lippincott’s Gazetteer, 3:1825. In[d]. 9 Sept[ember] 1851.


In reading your paper a short time ago, I lighted on an article recommending an Association for the education of the colored race.3Tucker probably refers to Douglass’s article “Report of the Committee on Education Presented to the Convention of Citizens of Color,” appearing in the 17 April 1851 issue of Frederick Douglass’ Paper. The article described the meeting of a committee dedicated to the improvement of black schools in New York. The committee resolved “That an association of at least 40 ladies and 40 gentlemen, which shall take upon itself the duty of securing a more full attendance of children at school, and of providing for them, when they leave school, suitable places of employment, where they may obtain a knowledge of the mechanical branches, either in or out of the city, or any branch of business that shall promise steady employment, as well as to develop their physical, social and mental capacity.” They further recommended that the association visit parents to encourage them to send their children to school, that they raise funds to enable parents to educate their children, and that similar associations be formed in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Williamsburgh. FDP, 17 April 1851. And my object in this note is simply to say, that I think that such an Association is entirely practicable, and would be greatly useful.

As the things are, the attention of the friends of the people of color is divided between various, and sometimes conflicting enterprises, some of them feasible, and some visionary. A little is done for all, but nothing as it should be. The worthless ones die out, as they ought to do, and the good enterprises languish and dwindle under the odium arising from the failure of the others.

I cannot write much now, and if I could, my voice would avail but little; but you will allow me to say, that I rega[r]d the actual, mental, and moral elevation of the people of color, by their own efforts, aided by their friends, to be the great lever of humanity in this country at the present time. I do not under-value any other means, but I am sure I can scarcely overvalue this, since without it, all else will avail but little. The discouragements are many and great, but they can be overcome—men of color may become learned—the mass of the people may become intellectual, moral, and respected, and if they will but try, and their friends will but second the effort.

But the labor will be hard, and the struggle long and single-handed, the battle will be wearisome; but in this case as in others, Union will be strength. With joy I repeat the call. Let an Association be formed on a proper basis, having for its specific object the Education of the people of color. Men who now give for this object, would give much more freely, and many who now give nothing, would cheerfully contribute and that largely, if a specific and safe channel were created in which their gifts might flow for the benefit of this “scattered and peeled” people.44. Isa. 18:2


There are a large number throughout the country, who would rejoice to co-operate by word and deed in such an Association.

Your friend,


PLSr: FDP, 18 September 1851.


Tucker, Ebenezer




Yale University Press 2009



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