Black History month and the importance of letters

February 7, 2013 in Journal

In 1926, Dr. Carter Woodson launched Negro History Week in the second week of February. He chose that week because it contained the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

As we enter the second week of February, I want to introduce you to the collection of Slave letters at Duke University. One of the myriad ways in which slaves were controlled was by prohibiting them from learning to read and write. When a family member was sold away, they had to rely on finding a literate person willing to write for them.

“You must not expect [me] to write to you Often as it is some trouble to get a person to write for Me” –Hannah Valentine

The recipient then had to find someone to read that letter aloud to them. Husbands to wives, mothers to children, these letters, which were the only way to connect, were not private. They were infrequent and often dangerous.

Take a moment to go read through some of these letters.

 

2 responses to Black History month and the importance of letters

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  2. I was in a production of “A Woman Called Truth”, the story of Sojourner Truth. It was so powerful to bring those stories to life on stage. I’m glad you shared these!

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