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Historical Document
Letter to William Basset

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In December, 1837, Sarah Mapps Douglass, daughter of a prominent free black Philadelphia family, wrote to Quaker abolitionist William Basset of Lynn, Massachusetts. Encouraged by her friend Sarah Grimké, Douglass shared her painful childhood experiences of racial discrimination among the Quakers of Philadelphia and New York.

With their mother, Grace Bustill Douglass, the Douglass children attended Philadelphia's Arch Street Meeting of the Society of Friends, as Quakers are formally known. While Mrs. Douglass was a lifelong adherent to Quaker principles, she never attempted to join the Meeting because she was dissuaded by "a Friend who said do not apply, you will only have your feelings wounded."

Douglass described how "even when a child my soul was made sad with hearing five or six times during the course of one meeting this language of remonstrance addressed to those who were willing to sit by us."

The facts which Douglass conveyed to Basset were later incorporated into a document by Elizabeth Pease, sister of Joseph Pease, an abolitionist and the first Quaker member of the British Parliament. It was called Society of Friends in the United States: Their Views of the Anti-Slavery Question, and Treatment of the People of Colour.

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The Douglass family

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