An extraordinary letter from John Brown

John Brown

Gentle Readers, I usually take a one day blogging hiatus this time of year. Without particularly meaning to, I’ve taken longer this year. Don’t worry; it’s all for pleasant reasons. I’m about ready to begin again, but the week only has two blogging days left and it seems like a waste to get back going with the narrative for those and then stop for a weekend before restarting. Instead, let me share with you a letter that came to me courtesy of Louis Ruchames’ A John Brown Reader, which I did not have on hand when last I mentioned it.

Akron, Ohio, 30th Sept 1854

Dear Children

After being hard pressed to go with my family to Kansas as more likely to benefit the colored people on the whole than to return with them to North Elba; I have consented to ask for your advice & feeling in the matter; & also to ask you to learn from Mr. Epps & all the colored people (so far as you can) how they would wish, & advise me to act in the case, all things considered. As I volunteered in their service; (or the service of the colored people); they have a right to vote, as to the course I take. I have just written Gerrit Smith, Fredk Douglass, & Dr. McCune Smith, for their advice. We have a new daughter now Five days old. Mother & child are both doing well to appearance. Other friends well so far as I know. John & Wealthy are still with us. Will you write as soon as you can? Have not received your reply to my other questions.

Your Affectionate Father

John Brown

Few white men of his age would acknowledge a general debt to black Americans, let alone give them a say in such a momentous decisions as moving across the country. Brown asked the people he made the commitment to personally up in North Elba, and also Frederick Douglass and James McCune Smith, the latter the first black American to earn a medical degree.

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