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Reconstruction

Mary Ann Shadd Cary to Oliver Otis Howard. autograph letter signed, Washington, D.C., March 3, 1871 [Oliver Otis Howard Papers]. - Shadd, a free black woman born in Delaware, moved to Ontario in the 1850s after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. In Canada, she became a teacher and worked for the Provincial Freedman, a newspaper aimed at the fugitive population that encouraged its readers to view Canada as “home” rather than a place of “exile.” Despite being a naturalized Canadian citizen, the now married Mrs. Cary returned to the United States in 1863, where she wrote for Frederick Douglass’s The New National Era and studied law at Howard University. While a law student, Cary also taught in the Normal School attached to the university. In this letter to Howard, who was the university’s president at the time, she explains that her duties were so time consuming that her legal studies were suffering.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary to Oliver Otis Howard. autograph letter signed, Washington, D.C., March 3, 1871 [Oliver Otis Howard Papers]. - Shadd, a free black woman born in Delaware, moved to Ontario in the 1850s after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. In Canada, she became a teacher and worked for the Provincial Freedman, a newspaper aimed at the fugitive population that encouraged its readers to view Canada as “home” rather than a place of “exile.” Despite being a naturalized Canadian citizen, the now married Mrs. Cary returned to the United States in 1863, where she wrote for Frederick Douglass’s The New National Era and studied law at Howard University. While a law student, Cary also taught in the Normal School attached to the university. In this letter to Howard, who was the university’s president at the time, she explains that her duties were so time consuming that her legal studies were suffering.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary to Oliver Otis Howard. autograph letter signed, Washington, D.C., March 3, 1871 [Oliver Otis Howard Papers].

“The Freedmen’s Bureau.” In: Harper’s Weekly (July 28, 1868), p. 478.

“The Freedmen’s Bureau.”  In:  Harper’s Weekly (July 28, 1868), p. 478.

Oliver Otis Howard [Oliver Otis Howard Papers]. [M91s15f3i1]

Oliver Otis Howard [Oliver Otis Howard Papers]. [M91s15f3i1]

After the collapse of the Confederacy, Bowdoin College alumni played important roles in federal attempts to establish new socio-economic and political constructs and to address the desperate needs of emancipated African Americans throughout the United States. Those efforts are reflected most fully in the manuscript collections of Oliver Otis Howard (Class of 1850), his brother Charles Henry Howard (Class of 1859), and the Fessenden Family.

  • Fessenden Collection. The Fessenden family, including Samuel Fessenden and his son William Pitt Fessenden (Class of 1823), were politically influential abolitionist—William Pitt served as Lincoln’s Treasury secretary and, after the war, in the U.S. Senate as a member of the Reconstruction Committee.
  • Oliver Otis Howard Papers. Howard (Class of 1850), a career officer in the U.S. Army, was also commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) during Reconstruction, held commands in the American West after 1874, was superintendent at the U.S. Military Academy, and was instrumental in founding Howard and Lincoln Memorial universities. Among his voluminous papers are semi-official exchanges with Freedmen’s Bureau agents, letters concerning the operation of and investigations into the Bureau, as well as correspondence with freedmen and African American leaders, including southern black Reconstruction era politicians: Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, William Still, Booker T. Washington, Blanche Kelso Bruce, and numerous freed blacks seeking aid and guidance in their new lives. He took a special interest in James Webster Smith, the first African American cadet at West Point, and maintained substantial correspondence with Charles B. Purvis about training African American physicians.
  • Charles Henry Howard Collection. Brother of Oliver Otis, Charles (Class of 1859), held command of the United States Colored Troop training camp at Beaufort, S.C. Letters he wrote during the Civil War make frequent mention of experiences that include African Americans, especially in Virginia and Tennessee.
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