Frederick Douglass to Oliver Otis Howard, July 13, 1870

Douglass writes on the subject of race and religion, responding to Howard’s query as to whether “slavery was abolished by Devine or human intervention.”

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

Rochester, July 13, 1870

Genl. O. O. Howard:
Dear Sir: You were among the first
in my thoughts this morning, and very
gratefully so. I had read your noble
letter to young Smith now so shamefully
persecuted because of his color at W. Point.
Your cheering and fortifying words to this young
man are like yourself. But I did not
know till I went to the Post Office this
morning that you had a word for
me as well as for him and one equally
well meant. Whether the church in any
age is more favorable to progress than
the world- ^whether it is in advance of the World
in adopting and propagating new truth,
or new applications of old and admitted
truths, can easily be answered by an
appeal to history. So far as the ques-
tion relates to the great truth of human
Liberty in our own country. I think that history proves
that the church taken as a whole

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

was [not] more ready to receive it
and aid in its propagation than
was the world. The public Hall
rather than the sacred sanctuary,
the public platform rather than
the Holy pulpit- the secular press
rather than the religious papers-
the political conventions rather
than the religious associations-
the men standing outside, rather
than the men standing inside-
educated the public mind and heart-
up to the point of making a stand
against slavery- and held the public
mind and heart there, until it was
was possible to Elect Abraham
Lincoln- and thus bring Liberty and
Slavery face to face on the battlefield-
and all subsequent events in relation
to slavery and Liberty. Of course, I
do not deny- that good men in the
church, assisted in this great
work. My statement simply respects

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

the church as such- as a grand
organized power- and this grand
organized power- I claim was from
the first- no more friendly to the
cause of the Slave than the outside
world. Who are those who are to-
day persecuting young Smith at
W. Point? Are they not the educated
respectable young Christian gentlemen-
who have gone up there from among
Christian families- Christian pews-
and Christian Sabbath schools?
Your own noble broad heart con-
-demns this inhuman spirit of-
persecution- this malignant hate;
but where do you find more of
it than in the Christian Church?
I remember the odium you brought
upon your own glorious name- none
the less glorious in my eyes- for
the effort recently made to cover
it with shame, because you were
in favor of opening the gates

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

[of the] Congregational Church in Washington
without regard to color or race. To me
it matters not whether I am made
a slave by a Christian or an infidel-
whether I ^am degraded by a church or
a theatre- I regard them all on a
moral level- and I have neither reverence
nor respect for either. You remind
me- not offensively, that you were
reared under a religious ^influence & training a different
religious from those of mine. In
this you are fortunate- you would
say: blest. I think however, my religious
schooling- has done me good- in that
it has compelled me to test the value-
of ideas presented me in the name
of religion. When I was once com-
pelled to select between a text[?] and
manhood- I chose the latter. I could
not run away and Obey my master
at the same time- but I did run-
away- and when I did this- I threw
off a religion of authority.

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

You will naturally ask me; then
Douglass- what have you now to
guide you? I will tell you: I
have the general enlightenment of
the age-  and my own moral convictions
of right and wrong- to guide me.
I have the truth- as open to me as
to the Infallible Pope pious IXth- or
any of his Protestant feeble imitators.
On the question as to whether
Slavery was abolished  by Devine or
human intervention I nod [i.e. need] not dwell-
for you virtually admit- that God
does what men do, and that he
leaves undone what men leave
undone.
     Very truly yours
          Fredk Douglass-

Cite as: Frederick Douglass to O.O. Howard, 1870 July 13, ALS, Oliver Otis Howard Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary to Oliver Otis Howard, March 3, 1871

Abolitionist, activist, journalist, and educator Mary Ann Shadd Cary writes to Howard regarding financial hardships while a law student at Howard University, citing one reason being "women's salary for men's work."

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

Washington March 3rd 1871.
Maj Genl O.O Howard

Sir-
I am really breaking down-
physically, under the effort to
keep three students at the Uni-
versity, by teaching day & even-
ing upon inadequate pay.

My obligations here, I shall
meet by the help of the Lord, if
I live, but I find it exceeding-
ly difficult, in fact cannot
meet all my class recitations,
(as I must be out at night- school
in all weather); cannot meet in
reasonable time, all the expenses in-
cidental to such a position where
three are to be provided for ^respectably & where
for the single item of gas, I pay $48. per

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

annum.; room rent $10. per month (one
hundred per cent advance from last
year &c… Now I am not complain-
ing, but I am only offering these
items with board, tuition in Law &
another department, fuel, clothing, ^ books &c,
by contrast with the womens' salary
for mens’ work at the day school;
& reduced pay at evening school,
& with which alone I cannot meet
properly these charges.

More than all, I cannot
from this steady treadmill round
of duties & the pressure upon mind
as well as body, have an extra
hour for reading, other than the
bare text for recitation; consequent-
ly I feel at a disadvantage with
my fellow students; &, as premon-
itory simptoms of erysipelas in the
head have already warned me,
that I must change my hours for
work, or the kind of work I have thought

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

to respectfully petition, that I may have
writing for three hours of the day,
instead of continuing the labors at
the evening school; I would then,
including day-school, have but nine
hours work during the day- could
be present at all Law exercises, &
besides, having at least three hours
for reading, could meet much
more readily my obligations at the
financial department & keep my
children in a manner better suited
to their stations as pupils.

I do not ask Sir, to have
place that should be occupied by
others, but I beg respectfully to remind
you that while I do not ask for scholarships
for them, I would like to have work,
that I would not feel that I was not
giving any return for advantages &
and work commensurate with that given
students who do not furnish so many
pupils to the school as I do now;

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

and as I hope to continue to do
if I should be permitted to
leave the University to engage
in duties in the South.

Very respectfully
Yours
Mary A.S. Cary

Cite as: Mary A.S. Cary to O.O. Howard, 1871 March 3, ALS, Oliver Otis Howard Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to Oliver Otis Howard, February 23, 1872

Chamberlain provides reference for a young man, presumably with regards to Howard University.

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

Bowdoin College.
Brunswick, Me. Feb 23d 1872
My dear General;
         I have taken pains
to get at the case you put me
and find that the gentleman you
inquire about might not be satis-
factory on the score of religious
character & belief, & that he has
not a facility in dealing with men.
In his profession he seems to be
highly respected. I am glad to be
able to do you this service; for I
know how important it is to have the
right men in your Institution
Yours with high esteem,
J.L. Chamberlain
Genl. Howard.

Cite as: J.L. Chamberlain to O.O. Howard, 1872 February 23, ALS, Oliver Otis Howard Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.

Sojourner Truth to Oliver Otis Howard, December 23, [1873]

Truth writes to Howard about racial persecution and her recent travels.

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

Friend Howard        Battle Creek, Michigan Dec 23d [1873]
  I have heard so much of you being in trouble and i thought
i would write to you to get the true information of those
things it troubles me  I know those who want to walk in
the right way like Jesus did must suffer persecution  i pray
to God that you may live to overcome the persecutors i
don’t know how it is but what i hear people saying for
you and against you  But i speak in behalf of you
knowing what you have done in behalf of my poor
race.  I know the envy of some people.  like Sauls envy
against Daniel but never-the-less it shall fall.  As i
understood it they want to hold you responsible for all
the robbers that was in the bureau for i seen things taken
belonging to the bureau taken and they went away to of
to California a great many things i have seen a there
what they have gathered up for their self  I have often said that
there would be an inquire made when i seen money go
so flush  I am glad the bureau did not pay m[e] a hundred
dollars a month as they did many others   I neve[r? ...?]ed cent
from the bureau except what you and Captai[n ?...]
[?]     had nothing but my ration while the [?...]
dollars a month.  I feel thankful for what y[?...]
i feel sorry for you  I know you want to do [?...] thing
what is Just  I only got this by hear say and you know
some people say things not as they ar are there for i want
to know the paticulars  Ever since i seen you i have travelled
through Rhode Island Massachusetts.  New York Ohio Michigan Wisconsin
Illinois Iowa Missouri Kansas lecturing on my petition and my petition
is to get a home for the old colered people emancipated by the war

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

i will relate it to you when i come down to Washington
I have lectured on my petition 3 ^ years ever since left Washington
for to get a home for the old colered people that have
been living on the goverment ever since the war.  The
last time i was there they was feeding them on dry bread
600 hundred loaves to one ward  it would be so much better
for them to have a place where they could earn their own
bread and have qaukers [i.e., Quakers] to see to it as they did to the Indians
and it will be like the promised Land to them.  for the old
folks i have met lots of them in my travels distressed
creatures and i want to know if you occupy the same
position that you did when i was there 3 years ago  the Lord
has directed me to do this work and i want to come down
there to carry it in effect i will send you one my petition
please answer as soon as possible so i will not be looking that
way my love to you and family      Believe me ever your
my gr[an?]dson wrote this age 12 years   lineFriend Sojouner Truth
no[?...]llie Boyd I wonet wont                          Battle Creek
[?...] there or if I could stop                                                     [M]ichigan
[?...] on [day?] or [to?] so i can have a [talk?] with [?...]
[?...]e down there after the holidays  write to me
witho[ut fa?]iling

Cite as: Sojourner Truth to O.O. Howard, 1873 December 23, ALS, Oliver Otis Howard Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.

Charles B. Purvis to Oliver Otis Howard, July 29, 1874

Purvis, one of the first African-American physicians trained in a college setting, writes to Howard thanking him for his help.

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

1874
Washington D.C. July 29’
Gen. O.O. Howard.
My dear Friend,
 In a few days you will
leave the city, as I may not
see you again I feel that
I out to write you this
letter, I want to thank
you for your kindness
to me, what little I
possess in reputation &c.
I am largely obligated to
you, while I had good
family connections & name,

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

you opened up for me
the road through which
I have been able to travel
up to where I am, for the
opportunities thus made
for me I return to you
my heartiest thanks. I
trust time will so far
set all things right that
we may again have you
among us to guide our
Institution out of the trough
of the Sea in which it
is now rolling & tumbling
into the position where
she can stand & ride

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

triumphantly the bellows
of hate that will constantly
raise & swell before it. Until
that time comes we shall
accomplish but little. Our
first mate may possibly
do well, but our bank wants
a captain whose head is
clear, who possesses an
unbiased soul, free from
selfishness, who is willing
to lend his best energies
towards making the charge
a success, whose thoughts
are not upon himself,
but upon the thing that

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

that he is to lift up
to be looked upon with
pride by his countrymen.
Trusting you may live
to receive the apology of those
who in the exercise of
their brief authority sought
to place you in a faulse
position before the country.

I remain yrs truly,
C.B. Purvis

Cite as: C.B. Purvis to O.O. Howard, 1874 July 29, ALS, Oliver Otis Howard Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.

Booker T. Washington to Oliver Otis Howard, January 10, 1882

Washington asks Howard to become a trustee of a new school.

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

Tuskegee State Normal School,
For the Education of Colored Teachers,
B.T. Washington, Principal
Tuskegee, Ala., Jan. 10 1882

Gen O. O. Howard,
West Point N.Y.
Dear Sir:-
You
will doubtless be surprised
on receiving this letter.
I am a graduate of Hampton
Inst. of which you
were one of the founders.
Was appointed Prin. of
this school about seven
months ago. We want
to establish our school
on the Hampton plan.
We have already bought
and paid for a farm

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

of 100 acres. We have
done this independent
of state aid. The
students begin the
cultivation of the farm
 this season. Within the
last few weeks I have
 rec’d enough money from
the North with which
to make the start on
the farm. We expect
to have up new buildings
by the next school
year.

Knowing that you
have always been an
active friend to the
colored people I ask
write to ask you
if you will not

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

become one of the
trustees of this school.
We expect to have
in all 9 trustees
including the 3 State
Commissioners who control
the state appropriations.
Most of the other trustees
are to be selected from
the North.

Our school has the
confidence of Gen. Armstrong
and you can refer to
him for any fact concerning
it.

The only excuse

letter
enlarge Click to enlarge image…

I have to offer for
my boldness in writing
you, is that I believe
that you are the one
to do us good and have
written you accordingly.

Yours Sincerely
B.T. Washington.

Cite as: B.T. Washington to O.O. Howard, 1882 January 10, ALS, Oliver Otis Howard Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421 · scaref@bowdoin.edu · (207) 725-3288