A letter from Frederick Douglass to John Brown from 1861.

Princeton University Library (PUL) has acquired another letter written by abolitionist, author, and statesman Frederick Douglass. Written in 1861 and currently housed in PUL Special Collections, the acquisition features Douglass contemplating the onset of the Civil War.

“This is a pretty great acquisition for a couple reasons,” said Alexis Antracoli, Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections, Technical Services. “One is the time the letter was written – shortly after the beginning of the Civil War. It talks about Douglass’s friendship with John Brown. Douglass had even clipped out and included some writing from a letter he had received from Brown and placed it at the end of his letter.”

This letter is also notable for where it sits in relation to others in the collection. PUL has three other letters by Douglass, one from later in his life in which he again reflects on John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry raid, and another in which he also muses about the beginning of the Civil War. The third was written after Reconstruction and reflects on the migration of African Americans to Kansas in 1879.

“We also have a letter from John Brown to Frederick Douglass from 1858, which is before Harper’s Ferry and the Civil War,” said Antracoli, “creating something of a constellation of items that are in conversation with each other.”

Click here for additional information.