Skip to main content

B. to Frederick Douglass, April 7, 1854


For Frederick Douglass' Paper.

I am glad to see that the plan for an Industrial School, to be opened to colored youth, has assumed a tangible shape; with even partial success it will do immense good. Nothing more retards emancipation than the too general idea that the colored man is unable to direct his own energies. The mists of prejudice against color can only be dispelled by mental and moral ele-vation; and schemes of colonization and expulsion can only be frustrated by making the colored people, scattered through the Northern States, a necessary and useful portion of its population. All these ends your plan will accomplish. I venture a few suggestions, and these shall not be my only contribution unless I can plead the best of reasons for my excuse.

As you cannot expect government endowment, you must make the institution as far as possible self-sustaining. Apprentices to shop trades can do much toward paying their way; but mechanical education must not be confined to these—the tastes of pupils, and the demands of society must be recognized. Our temporary wooden buildings admonish that builders and out door mechanics are to be more wanted than shop mechanics—masons more than shoemakers— carpenters and joiners more than tailors.— Here may be some difficulty; but it should be overcome as far as practicable.

Make a judicious location—secure as large a tract as you can at the average value of farming lands, with reference to its facilities of communication by vessel and railroad. A good clay bed, suitable for brick, water pipe, drawing tile and potting, will be of great importance. A water power will be important, though not indispensable.

In the commencement, be satisfied with as few buildings as possible; if they are of a temporary nature, no matter—the more building you have to do after you commence, the better. It will afford opportunity of instructing in the most useful trades. Build of brick, and make your own. Let the scholars do all the carpenter and joiner work; and when they become good workmen, they may be employed in making wooden houses to be put up in the cities and villages, with which you may have easy communication. I do not suggest this as the most profitable employment, but as a necessary one, in order to afford the means of instruction in one of the most useful trades.

Brick making may be made a good business, if you have a good location, and there is to be an increading demand for the labor of those who can make them. The working of clay into a great variety of articles, now made of wood and iron, may yet become an important business requiring both scientific and practical skill.

The importance of the enterprize cannot be overrated. It should command the sympathies and, if necessary, the contributions of every friend of humanity. Such an institution, well conducted, is wanted in every county of the State for the vagrant white youth who are growing up without being educated to some pursuit by which they may gain an honest living. Success in your enterprize may make it a pioneer of many others, wanted nearly as much for friendly white boys, as yours is for colored ones.



B. (Pseudonym)




B. to Frederick Douglass. PLIr: Frederick Douglass P, 7 April 1854. Makes suggestions for the planned industrial school in New York, including ideas for funding, location, and building materials.


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


Frederick Douglass' Papers



Publication Status



Frederick Douglass' Papers