The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

44.
William Wells Brown to Frederick Douglass 10 September 1851

Black visitors to Victorian Britain were frequently awed by their Old World surroundings, as in the case of William Wells Brown's visit to the ancient university town of Oxford. While a lecturer there, his walks about the halls of the famous colleges inspired reflection on education. Brown discussed his thoughts in a 10 September letter to Frederick Douglass. He regretted that few blacks could "find a place" in institutions of higher learning. Like many antebellum blacks, Brown believed in education as a means to overcome the barriers that American racism raised against black achievement. He was particularly convinced of the value of self-education and the discipline it demanded. Farrison, William Wells Brown, 198-99, 245.

OXFORD, [ England]
Sept[ember] 10, 1851

DEAR DOUGLASS:

I have just finished a short visit to the far famed city of Oxford, which has not unaptly been styled, the city of palaces.

Aside from being one of the principal seats of learning in the world, it is distinguished alike for its religious, and political changes in times past. At one time it was the seat of popery: at another, the uncompromising enemy of Rome. Here the tyrant, Richard the Third, held his court, and when James the First, and his son Charles the First1 found their capital too hot to hold them, they removed to their loyal city of Oxford.

The writings of the great Republicans were here committed to the flames. At one time popery sent protestants to the stake and [faggot]: at another, a papist King found no favor with the people. A noble monument now stands where Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer proclaimed their sentiments and faith and sealed it with their blood. And now we read upon the town treasurer's book--three loads of wood, one load of faggots, one post, two chains and staples, to burn Ridley and Latimer, £1 5s 2p. 2

Such is the information one gets by looking over the record of books written three centuries ago.

It was a beautiful day on which I arrived at Oxford and instead of remaining in my hotel I sallied forth to take a survey of the beauties of the city. I strolled into Christ Church Meadows, and there spent the evening in viewing the numerous halls of learning. Much surrounds that splendid promenade.

And fine old buildings they are: centuries have rolled over many of

-302-

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