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Frederick Douglass Collection

Identifier: MS202

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Frederick Douglass collection fills one box and contains four folders with 11 original documents and 6 copies. The collection spans the years 1845 – 1900. Included are Douglass’ bill of sale, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and additional copies of correspondence transcribed and scanned from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

The legal document section is arranged chronologically and contains Douglass’ bill of sale, detailing the transfer of his ownership from Thomas Auld to his brother Hugh Auld in 1845. The typed transcript accompanies the bill of sale.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically and contains documents dated from 1846 to 1897. This section includes records sent to Hugh Auld, Douglass’ last enslaver, concerning the purchase of Douglass’ freedom, and correspondence from Douglass to Hugh and Benjamin Auld This section also includes letters from Douglass’ second wife, Helen Douglass; Quaker abolitionist, Anna Richardson; and newspaper publisher, J.C. Shaffer.

The newspaper clippings section is arranged chronologically and contains clippings from 1895 and 1900. The articles detail Frederick Douglass’ last travels to Europe in 1887 and 1888 and discuss his racial identity.

The copies of additional correspondence are arranged chronologically with any undated material placed at the back. The correspondence in this section includes letters between Anna Richardson and Hugh Auld concerning the purchase of Douglass’ freedom and a receipt issued by J. Meredith of Baltimore, related to the manumission of Douglass. Also included are letters between Douglass and his former enslaver Hugh Auld, and a letter between Douglass and Benjamin F. Auld, the son of Hugh Auld. Some of the copies in this section are duplicates and appear in other sections of the collection in different forms. Each scan and transcript in this section comes from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.


  • 1845 - 1900

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.


1 Boxes

Language of Materials



Frederick Douglass (c. 1817-1895) was an abolitionist, orator, and writer. In 1838, Douglass escaped from his Maryland enslaver, and over time became one of the most celebrated abolitionists and social reformers of the 19th century. This collection of 11 original documents and 6 copies contains Frederick Douglass’ bill of sale, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and additional copies of correspondence.


The legal documents, correspondence, newspaper clippings and photocopies of additional correspondence are organized chronologically. In the instance where materials are undated then those documents are placed at the back of the folder.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

J.C. Shaffer, a Northwestern University patron, donated these materials to the university library. J.C. Shaffer's brother, W.H. Shaffer, purchased “certain papers” of Douglass from Benjamin Auld, son of Douglass’ enslaver, for $125 in 1896 (see Folder 2, Item 5). The bill of sale (Folder 1) and two letters from Frederick Douglass to the Aulds (Folder 2, Items 3-4) are referenced in an 1895 Indianapolis Journal article as being owned by Benjamin Auld and are also referenced in the letter from Auld to J.C. Shaffer (Folder 2, Item 6), along with the letters from Anna Richardson and Walter Lowrie (Folder 2, Items 1-2). It is unclear which items W.H. or J.C. Shaffer purchased directly from the Aulds.

Processing Information

This collection was reassessed in October of 2021. Originally part of the "African American Documents Collection," the items relating to Douglass were separated into a new collection, and the remainder titled "Slavery, Enslaved Persons, and Free Blacks in the Americas Collection" (MS101). The materials in the folders were rearranged chronologically and the container list was updated to best reflect the collection’s holdings. Also, the description language for this collection was updated to reflect proper terminology to describe enslaved persons. The original finding aid is available upon request.

The following sources were consulted, among others, to advise the updated description:

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Resources

P. Gabrielle Foreman, et al. “Writing about Slavery/Teaching About Slavery: This Might Help” community-sourced document, Accessed October 19, 2021, 9:37 a.m.,

Yale University Library’s Reparative Archival Description Task Force

Guide to the Frederick Douglass Collection
Marquis Taylor
October 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US