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Abram Brooke to Frederick Douglass, March 23, 1848



Oakland, O., March 23, 1848.

Dear Frederick:ーI am too well acquainted with you to suppose that you desire a puff from me in this my first epistle to you and the Star jointly, and you too well with me to expect it, even if you did desire it. The paper is not half as good as I should like to see it, and expect to see it, and yet it
is quite as good as any reasonable person could anticipate. No man is born an editor any more than he is a philosopher or sage; but herewith you receive my best wishes for your rapid and complete success in your new career.

It is painful to have occasion to record apparent retrogression, where all would naturally expect to witness advancement. You were somewhat acquainted with the condition of public sentiment on the anti-slavery question in this region four years ago, and may recollect the good name then borne by Harveysburgh, in Warren county. Some years since, a pro-slavery acquaintance remarked to me, he wondered the Almighty did not sink Harveysburgh, it was such an abolition hole.ーThat acquaintance has since greatly changed, and so has the village of which he spoke.

You will have seen in the Anti-Slavery Bugle and Cincinnati Herald, certain statements in relation to the dismissal from school of a young lady in that place, solely on account of the stain upon the complexions of her ancestry, by some critical observers supposed to have been slightly imparted to her own. It gave occasion for some, standing high in that community as intelligent and moral persons, to manifest the wickedness, the deep depravity they had covered up under a fair profession. These were remonstrated with and entreated in vain. A meeting was called to consider the general subject of education, and its bearings upon this particular case. The assemblage was addressed by the intrepid and eloquent Samuel Lewis, with a truthfulness to humanity and a power worthyof himself and his high theme. It was a discourse so able, so unanswerable, as to carry with it both the intellect and the conscience, wherever these existed to be reached, in all who heard. Time passed. The evil doers, and their abettors, offering no amends or atonement, the immediate victim sought her home in Highland county, there to mourn over blighted hopes and prospects. The injured and proscribed race of which she had hus been made the representative, submitted silently, as usual, to the additional indignity and injury heaped upon them by professed friends. The pulpit resounds again, as heretofore, with empty declamations and ridiculous prayers. The physician peddles abroad his pills and potions, the lawyer deals around his pettifogging opinions, the farmer draws again his furrow to receive the seed of hope and promise, the merchant vends his tape and tea, the mechanic whistles merrily to the sound of hammer and saw, and the mighty march of human events urges onward, as if no deed of wrong and outrage had been committed, no rights invaded, no sensibilities crushed, no aspirations for advancement in knowledge extinguished, by greedy and mercenary men! Upon the surface of society all seems smooth and serene, not a ripple discernible to indicate there has been a disturbing eventーa wreck of hopes and happiness! But is all calm and quiet as it seems? I hopeI believe not. In the breast of eachof each of these oppressors dwells an accusing spirit, which renders the thought of Margaret Campbell, and her wrongs, an uneasy one, despite all his efforts to the contrary. He may try to lay the phantom by dwelling upon his own wrongs, by the accusation of "slanderous editorials" and "false rumors" circulated against himself; but from these appliances he gains no ease. A guilty conscience carves a memorial of itself upon the countenance of each so plainly, that he who runsーmay read. The members implicated may be trumpeted, as justification, before a world as guilty as themselves in humanity, destroying prejudices, or venal worship of lucre; but these serve not to drown the still small voice within. To silence that, but one of two modes is possibleーa continual practice of the same or guiltier deeds, or repentance and reparation.

But what does the present calm portend, as existing beneath the surface, with the other class, the abolitionists, who have proved themselves faithful and true, in vindication of the rights of the oppressed and rebuke of their oppressors? Do they give up the conflict, weary and in despair? I trust not. Let him do so who feels that in this contest he has erred in principle. In the depths of their souls, it is not to be doubted, burns a zeal against tyranny and oppression, stronger and more enduring than before, which awaits in silence for time to ripen opportunity, the more effectually to disclose itself. The seed is but buried, not destroyed, as we hope, and in due season will be witnessed its germination and justification.

My dear friend, who can measure the length, and breadth, and depth of the unholy prejudice against color of the American people? He only whose instruments can grasp the tenuity of conscience, and the all-devouring appetite for wealth which characterizes them. Not one of those who were audacious enough to drive Miss Campbell from the school, dare show manly courage sufficient to avow that he had any objection, so far as himself was concerned, to her continuing. Each one was only afraid some others whom he had heard of would object. Now, who is responsible for the existing state of things? Some will tell us, The priests; for they claim for themselves power and opportunity to make public sentiment what they wish. I hold them bound for a full share. They have in a great measure the ears of the people, and they have set times and places wherein to teach them. But perhaps they overrate their own power and capability.

Unfortunately, by position, they are a marketable commodity. Like the goods upon the auction stand, for them the highest bidder is the buyer, and we are too keen traders to buy what we do not like, or to keep the article if we make a blunder in the selection. And as the people have a choice in what shall be preached to them, of course they take care to have a supply suitable to the demand. It will not do, then, to lay the whole responsibility at the door of the priests. Like the most of their hearers, they try to suit their wares to the market, and as all maintain, both preach-
ers and people, each for himself in his own case, this is done through compulsion. As well blame the Yankee for vending wooden nutmegs, when trading in a region where people would buy no others.

I am disposed to lay the burden on the whole community, and bare my shoulders for their share. Inasmuch as I have not done all which I might have done, I acknowledge my portion of it. And how shall I discharge the obligation? By opposing slavery through all her forms and disguises, with the whole of my moral influence. Her creatures, (or the minions of Mammon, whichever they be,) in and around Harveysburgh Academy, have not yet to learn what are my resolves upon this subject. But the sense of my own shortcomings, admonishes me to remember that those who err are my brothers and sisters in fallibility, and in capacity for transcending the wrong. Let this thought control my intercourse with them, not to silence rebuke and admonition, but to temper these with kindness.

Affectionately yours,



Brooke, Abram




Abram Brooke to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: NS, 21 April 1848. Reports wrongful school suspension of black girl.


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


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper