Frederick Douglass' Experiences in Illinois and Wisconsin
From the Douglass' Monthly, April, 1859, pp. 448-450
"We, have, during the last seven weeks, visited Battle Creek, a fine flourishing young city in Michigan, where we went with a most heavy and cordial reception, by Abolitionists of all schools, Garrisonians, as well as others--Chicago the home of Artemas Carter, L. C. Paine Freer, John Jones, H. O. Wagner, and other long tired men-men who may always be relied upon to stand by the cause of God's poor in every emergency-men who stood by James H. Collins, now gone to his rest, in those days when he stood against the whole combined force of slavery; but we must not stop here to name the men.--Waukegan, Elgin, Belvidere, Rockford, Janesville, Freeport, Beloit, Princeton (the home of Owen Lovejoy, brother to the noble Martyr), Dixon, Mendota, Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington, Ottawa, and Morris--in towns of Illinois and Wisconsin--Jackson, Marshall, Albion, Ann Arbor and Detroit in Michigan, were all visited; and during our tour, we made nearly fifty speeches, a part of the time speaking twice a day, besides talking much of the time in rail cars and elsewhere.
We come home somewhat fatigued, but much more gratified by what we have met with, seen, and heard during our journey. Those who came to hear us, were confessedly the most valuable and intelligent of the people in each community visited, just the class before whom it is of importance to get the claims of our people. And no matter what might be the subject of our discourses, whether before lyceums or elsewhere, slavery was really the uppermost in the minds of our hearers. Our own connection with slavery and identity with the oppressed, makes any good thing we are, under God, able to do, or say, tell in favor of the cause of our whole race. Every town we visit, every audience we address, seem to regard us as the medium of an acquaintance with our enslaved people; and we have cause to rejoice when we see, as we have often seen during this and other tours through the country, a better feeling toward the colored man, a higher estimate of his qualities, and a deeper respect for his rights, as the results of our labors.
Our readers have already learned that we met with one incident of a slightly unpleasant character while at the American House at Janesville. The landlord a rampant Democrat, wishing to signalize his devotion to the Dred Scott decision and to slavery generally by making an example of us, and for that purpose caused a table to be set at the extreme end of the dinning room, with two hall doors and a street door opened directly upon it, where all loafers of the bar room could come and feast their ill natured curiosity upon us, and indulge a morbid feeling of pleasure at our isolation. The table was covered with a dirty and ragged tablecloth, and the whole appearance of the Breakfast preparations made to resemble "Negro fare" on a slave plantation as nearly as it conveniently could. We, with our friends H. Ford Douglass and John Jones, who accompanied us, seeing that the whole thing was a premeditated attempt to degrade and insult us, paid our bill, and went to another hotel where we were treated with the same consideration extended to other travelers. We made no noise, put on no airs, nor showed any marked sense of dissatisfaction, but simply told the landlord that we would pay our bill and leave, as we did not choose to gratify the feeling of prejudice and contempt which he had essayed to make us serve. We regret this miserable affair has got into the appears at all, for it is every way exceptional, it being the only case of the kind we met with during our whole journey, the rule being the other way; but since of comment, we are the facts as they really are. We have been represented as imposing ourselves upon those who did not want us, forcing ourselves among white people, simply because when traveling we do not wish to be stowed away in a separate car from all other travelers, and when at hotels opened to the public, do not like to be set aside as a moral leper, unfit in the presence of other men."
Article courtesy Kevin Dier-Zimmel.