Frederick Douglass

Courtesy of American Antiquarian Society

A former slave who taught himself to read, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) first spoke in public in Nantucket. His second speech was in Millbury and he began a long friendship with Abby Kelly Foster. The August 27 and September 10,1841 reports in The Liberator can be found at the American Antiquarian Society.

In the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (page 224 of 1881 version) he wrote of the work he and the abolitionists did in Rhode Island in 1841.

“Foster and Pillsbury were like the rest of us, young, strong, and at their best in this contest. The splendid vehemence of the one, and the weird and terrible denunciations of the other, never failed to stir up mobocratic wrath wherever they spoke. Foster especially, was effective in this line. His theory was that he must make converts or mobs. If neither came he charged it either to his want of skill or his unfaithfulness. I was much with Mr. Foster during the tour in Rhode Island, and though at times he seemed to me extravagant and needlessly offensive in his manner of presenting his ideas, yet take him for all in all, he was one of the most impressive advocates the cause of the American slave ever had. No white man ever made the black man's cause more completely his own. Abby Kelley, since Abby Kelley Foster, was perhaps the most successful of any of us. Her youth and simple Quaker beauty, combined with her wonderful earnestness, her large knowledge and great logical power, bore down all opposition in the end, wherever she spoke, though she was before pelted with foul eggs, and no less foul words from the noisy mobs which attended us.”

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