Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were two of the most well-known and respected abolitionists during the American Civil War era. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard, by way of BlackMail4U, that Douglass pinned a letter to Tubman.
Both Douglass and Tubman were born into slavery in Maryland. Frederick Douglass escaped to the North to become a renowned orator and writer, and Harriet Tubman escaped to become the most famous conductor of The Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life to lead more than 300 hundred slaves to freedom, making 19 trips from the South to the North. This left Douglass impressed with the work of Tubman, garnering her the nickname “Moses.”
When a biography of Harriet Tubman was written in 1868, she asked Frederick Douglass for an endorsement. She pointed out to him that she “never lost a single passenger.” He replied with the following letter:
Rochester, August 29, 1868
I am glad to know that the story of your eventful life has been written by a kind lady, and that the same is soon to be published. You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt, “God bless you,” has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilege to bear testimony for your character and your works, and to say to those to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthful and trustworthy.
I will be doing a book review on Harriet Tubman’s biography in the future. You can check out my review of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography by clicking here.
Until Next Time…
Bradford, S. H. (n.d.). Harriet Tubman Historical Society. Retrieved February 11, 2020, from http://www.harriet-tubman.org/letter-from-frederick-douglass/
Jones, J. (2020, February 9). A LETTER FROM FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO HARRIET TUBMAN. Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://blackthen.com/a-letter-from-frederick-douglass-to-harriet-tubman/
Frederick Douglass Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/activist/frederick-douglass
Harriet Tubman Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/activist/harriet-tubman