New York State Library | Virtual Exhibits

The Frederick Douglass Letters, 1855-1857

photo of Frederick Douglas

These six letters were written by Frederick Douglass, former slave and prominent black anti-slavery activist and orator, to Miss Hannah Fuller, organizer of the Skaneateles Ladies Anti-Slavery Society.

Written between 1855-1857, the letters show the close working relationships that Douglass forged with white women leaders of the anti-slavery movement. It is clear from the letters that Douglass was an ardent proponent of women's rights and recognized the contributions women made to the anti-slavery movement. He also shared a warm personal friendship with Miss Fuller and her family.

Four of the letters discuss arrangements for a speaking engagement in Rochester, New York for the anti-slavery activist, William Wells Brown. Like Douglass, Brown was born a slave. After escaping in 1834, Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and became a prominent abolitionist speaker and author. These letters show that, though working for the same cause, Douglass and Brown were also rivals for prominence within the movement.

These letters provide valuable insight into anti-slavery activities in upstate New York in the years just before the Civil War.

The Frederick Douglass letters are in the collection of the New York State Library.

Letter 1 | Letter 2 | Letter 3 | Letter 4 | Letter 5 | Letter 6

The letters are also available in our Digital Collections, in PDF.

letter to Hannah Fuller

My dear Friend Hannah Fuller,

I shall leave Rochester on Monday the 15th at 8 A.M. I shall take my daughter Rosetta with me. It will be a treat for her and company for you. You should be in Rochester on Sunday to be ready to start on Monday in good time--Come and spend the Sunday quietly at our house. I have not yet quite recovered from my ague and fever attack though my health is improving—My best regards to your Dear Mother.

--Yours with respect and high esteem  F. Douglass,
Rochester Oct. 5, 1855

Letter 1 | Letter 2 | Letter 3 | Letter 4 | Letter 5 | Letter 6