John Brown Today

Letters and Friends: A Zoom Conversation with Margaret Washington!

March 27, 2021 Louis DeCaro Jr. Season 2 Episode 6
John Brown Today
Letters and Friends: A Zoom Conversation with Margaret Washington!
Show Notes Chapter Markers

In the first installment of a feature called "Letters and Friends," Lou meets (via zoom) with the wonderful scholar and author, Margaret Washington of Cornell University, author of a number of important works, especially Sojourner Truth's America (2009).   The conversation, built around a letter by John Brown to his wife, Mary, in January 1858 (transcribed in abbreviated form below because of space restrictions), reflects upon Brown, Douglass, as well as some interesting insights on Sojourner Truth. Listeners will enjoy getting to know a little about Margaret, her insights into the antebellum era abolitionist movement, and her thoughtful commentary on the John Brown letter. Please Note: Unfortunately, the internet was not smooth during the recording, so there are some unavoidable moments when the sound is challenged.

Read the entire transcript here.
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Rochester N Y, 30,th Jany, 1858
My Dear Wife & Children every one

 I am (praised be God) once more in [New] York State. Whether I shall be permitted to visit you or not this Winter or Spring I cannot now say; but it is some relief of mind to feel that I am again so near you Possibly; if I cannot go to see you; that I may be able to devise some way for some one, or more of you to meet meet me some -where. The anxiety I feel to see my Wife; & children once more; I am unable to describe. I want exceedingly to see my big Baby; & “Mums Baby”: & to see how that little company of Sheep look about this time. . . .But courage Courage Courage the great work of my life  ( the unseen Hand that “girded me; & who has indeed holden my right hand; may hold it still though I have not known Him”; at all as I ought) . . .O my Daughter Ruth could any plan be devised whereby you could let Henry go “to School” (as you expressed it in your letter to him while in Kansas;) I would rather now have him “for another term”; than to have a Hundred average scholars. I have a particular & very important; but not dangerous place for him to fill; in the “school”; & I know of no man living; so well adapted to fill it. I am quite confident some way can be devised; so that you; & your children could be with him; & be quite happy even; & safe but “God forbid” me to flatter you into trouble. I did not do it before. . . . I want to hear from you all if possible before I leave this neighborhood. Do not noise it about; that I am in these parts; & direct to N Hawkins; Care of Fredk Douglas Esqr Rochester NY. I want to hear how you all are supplied with Winter clothing, Boots, &c. God bless you all

Your Affectionate Husband & Father 

[postscript in the hand of Frederick Douglass:] My dear Friends:

Your brave husband and father is now my guest-and has been since Thursday of this week. Gladly indeed we hailed him, and joyfully we entertain him. It does not seem safe-or desirable for him to come to you just now-though he could most gladly do so. I shall retain him here as long as he desires to remain and would be glad for yo you to meet him here.I remember with pleasure the pleasant moments spent under your roof-and take know no small satisfaction in the thought of your Friendship. I shall be truly glad to see either of you or both of you at my house-at any time during Capt Brown’s stay-

Fred. Douglass-

Prologue: "There Was Nothing to Hold On To"
Margaret Washington Introduction
Letter Introduced
Margaret's story
The Marker turned Gravestone
Frederick Douglass Remarries in 1886
Frederick Douglass, Prophet?
Douglass on the $20 Bill?
Pardon John Brown? No!
Sojourner and the "Cold Water Army"
New work alert: Black & White Women's Activism
John Brown's Letter Discussion
The Nadir
Slavery in retrospect
Many white students don't want to feel guilty about slavery
Where we are today.