Status: Complete


William White, were always dear to me for their nice feeling at this point. I
have known James Monroe to pull his coat about him and crawl upon the cot-
ton bales between decks and pass the night with me, without a murmur.
Wendell Phillips would never go into a first-class car while I was forced into
what was called the "Jim Crow" car. True men they were, who could accept
welcome at no man's table where I was refused. I speak of these gentlemen,
not as singular or exceptional cases, but as representatives of a large class of
the early workers for the abolition of slavery. As a general rule there was little
difficulty in obtaining suitable places in New England after 1840, where I
could plead the cause of my people. The abolitionists had passed the Red Sea
of mobs, and had conquered the right to a respectful hearing. I, however,
found several towns in which the people closed their doors and refused to
entertain the subject. Notable among these were Hartford, Conn., and Grafton,
Mass. In the former place Messrs. Garrison, Hudson, Foster, Abby Kelley, and
myself determined to hold our meetings under the open sky, which we did in
a little court under the eaves of the "sanctuary" ministered unto by the Rev.
Dr. Hawes, with much satisfaction to ourselves, and I think with advantage to
our cause. In Grafton I was alone, and there was neither house, hall, church,
nor market-place in which I could speak to the people, but determined to
I went to the hotel and borrowed a dinner bell with which in hand I
passed through the principal streets, ringing the bell and crying out, "Notice!
Frederick Douglass, recently a slave, will lecture on American Slavery, on
Grafton Common, this evening at 7 o'clock. Those who would like to hear of
the workings of slavery by one of the slaves are respectfully invited to attend."
This notice brought out a large audience, after which the largest church in
town was open to me. Only in one instance was I compelled to pursue this
course thereafter, and that was in Manchester, N.H., and my labors there were
followed by similar results. When people found that I would be heard, they
saw it was the part of wisdom to open the way for me.

My treatment in the use of public conveyances about these times was
extremely rough, especially on the "Eastern Railroad, from Boston to
Portland." On that road, as on many others, there was a mean, dirty, and
uncomfortable car set apart for colored travelers, called the "Jim Crow" car.
Regarding this as the fruit of slaveholding prejudice, and being determined to
fight the spirit of slavery wherever I might find it, I resolved to avoid this car.
though it sometimes required some courage to do so. The colored people
generally accepted the situation, and complained of me as making matters
worse rather than better by refusing to submit to this proscription. I, however.
persisted, and sometimes was soundly beaten by conductor and brakeman. On

Notes and Questions

Nobody has written a note for this page yet

Please sign in to write a note for this page