As part of its celebration for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University has been sharing some amazing items from its collections on its blog. The latest caught my eye because it has a connection to Boston.
This 1862 letter represents my personal favorite document in the exhibition - humble, yet poignant words from John Oliver, an African American carpenter who sought to assist refugee slaves crossing Confederate lines in any way he could. Oliver was teaching school and studying for the ministry in Boston when he heard William Roscoe Davis, one of the first "contrabands" to seek refuge at Fort Monroe, Virginia, speak about the education of freemen at Fort Monroe. After a brief stay at Fort Monroe, Oliver started work in Newport News, Virginia, where he established one school with seventy students and another with forty, in addition to an evening school with over one hundred students.
It's a bit surprising how little we have relating specifically to the Emancipation Proclamation, given how vocal many Congregationalists were during the Abolition movement, but we do have quite a bit from the period directly preceding it.