FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO GERRIT SMITH
Rochester[, N.Y.] 18 July 1855.
My DEAR FRIEND—
Your note No note or letter from Gerrit Smith matching this description has survived. with five Dolls came safely to hand. We arrived safely at home—all the better for our visit at your home, Mrs DouglassAnna Murray Douglass (c. 1813-82), Douglass’s first wife, was born free in Denton, Maryland. She was the eighth child of Bambarra and Mary Murray, slaves who had been manumitted shortly before her birth. At seventeen she moved to Baltimore, where she worked as a domestic and met Douglass at meetings of the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society. In 1838, Murray helped Douglass finance his escape, and she joined him in New York City, where they were married on 15 September. During Douglass’s first tour of the British Isles (1845-47), she remained in Lynn, Massachusetts, where she supported the family by binding shoes. She gained a reputation for frugality and skillful household management, qualities that would contribute greatly to her family’s financial prosperity over the years. A member of the Lynn Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society and a regular participant in the annual antislavery bazaars in Boston, she continued her antislavery activities after moving to Rochester in 1847. Unlettered, reserved, and, according to her husband, never completely at ease in white company, she seldom appeared at public functions with Douglass. She was nevertheless affectionately remembered by her husband’s associates as a “warm” and “hospitable” hostess at their home. On 9 July 1882, Anna Douglass suffered an attack of paralysis in Washington, D.C., and died there on 4 August. Lib., 18 November, 2 December 1853; Philadelphia Christian Recorder, 20 July 1882; Washington (D.C.) Post, 5 August 1882; Rosetta Douglass Sprague, My Mother as I Recall Her: A Paper Delivered before the Anna Murray Douglass Union, W.C.T.U., May 10, 1900 (1900; Washington, D.C., 1923); Jane Marsh Parker, “Reminiscences of Frederick Douglass,” Outlook, 51:552-53 (6 April 1895); Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1984), 132-37; Julie R. Nelson, “The Best of Intentions: Anna Murray Douglass, Helen Pitts Douglass, and the Challenge of Social Equality,’ Proteus: A Journal of Ideas, 12:39-42 (Spring 1995); Sylvia Lyons Render, “Afro-American Women: The Outstanding and the Obscure,” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 32:306-10 (October 1975).—has been unwell since reaching home—but is better to day. I am right glad you caught Mr PierpontJohn Pierpont (1785-1866) was a poet and an activist Unitarian minister of Boston’s Hollis Street Church from 1819 to 1845. Douglass quoted Pierpont’s work in many speeches and writings and published this poem, composed in 1839, in the first issue of the North Star. He misquoted a line from the “The Fugitive Slave’s Apostrophe to the North Star” in a lecture to the New Lyceum in Manchester, New Hampshire, on 24 January 1854. Pierpont also appeared with Douglass and many luminaries of the abolitionist movement at the well-publicized fourteenth anniversary meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society on 9 May 1848 at the Broadway Tabernacle in New York City. NS, 3 December 1847; New York Daily Tribune, 9 May 1848; NASS, 11 May 1848; John Pierpont, The Anti-Slavery Poems of John Pierpont (Boston, 1843), 29-33; DAB, 14:586-87. and have taken him to Peterboro—I should greatly like to be seated in a corner of your study & to hear the many good things which will fall from the lips of two men of so great experience. I hope you will talk about the Boston ConventionPossibly Douglass alludes to the planning for a “General Convention of Radical Political Abolitionists,” called for Boston on 23—25 October 1855. The call for this convention had been issued by a similarly named convention held in Syracuse on 26-28 June 1855. The earlier meeting had been attended by Douglass, Gerrit Smith, John Brown, James McCune Smith, William Goodell, and many other militant abolitionists, black and white. FDP, 28 September, 9 November 1855; Stauffer, Black Hearts of Men, 8-20.
—I am busy at work on my book—It is more of a Job than at first I supposed it would be—and I am beginning to be weary of it—Remember me most kindly and gratefully to MrS Gerrit SmithAnn Carroll Fitzhugh Smith.—tell her that my wife is all the better for having seen her and joins me fully in love to her—
With great respect and affection—yours—
ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.