“I Am a Man”
Martin Henry Freeman (Middlebury College, 1849) and the Problems of Race, Manhood, and Colonization
Let us send them back to their native land, and let us send with them the treasures of science and of art and the richer treasures of the gospel to be diffused through their instrumentality among their wretched fellow-countrymen. Then Africa herself will bless us. She will love us as her friends and … will invoke heavenly mercies on us as her benefactors.
REVEREND DANIEL DANA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
On October 15, 1863, at the forty-fourth anniversary meeting of the Vermont Auxiliary Colonization Society “assembled in the brick church” in Montpelier, Vermont, Middlebury College president Benjamin Labaree (1840–66) introduced Martin Freeman, an African American alumnus of Middlebury College (class of 1849), a native of Rutland, Vermont, and the former president of Avery College (1856–63), to “a large and intelligent audience,” which received him warmly. Freeman, one reporter wrote, “surpassed the expectations of all who heard him” as he spoke on the topic “the best way to elevate the African race.” Speaking in “an elevated and beautiful style,” Freeman used “facts, plain and palpable,” to explain that “while living here [in the United States] with the ruling race of Anglo Saxons his manhood was crushed out and he had no hope for it. But in an African nationality he saw a bright future for his people.” Freeman insisted that the colonization of free blacks in Liberia was the best solution for both the white and the black races. Many in the church listened with rapt attention, finding Freeman’s presentation “earnest, sincere, profound and scholarly.” The reporter added that any who heard him that evening would long “remember him as a man of power and culture,” for surely among “the many sons of Middlebury College, none will shine a brighter lustre upon her than Martin Freeman.” Members of the audience were so moved by his and Labaree’s addresses that they took up a collection totaling over $108 (supplemented by some jewelry), $100 of which they gave directly to Freeman, who accepted the gift with a “few feeling remarks.”1
An undated image of Martin Freeman, Middlebury College alumnus, class of 1849. Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College Library.
Freeman’s reputation for making what many white Vermonters considered powerful, eloquent, and sensible speeches on “the Negro race” preceded him. A week later, on October 23, Mary Ann Swift, the daughter of a prominent judge in Middlebury, wrote in her journal, “Prof. Freeman, a colored student who graduated at Midd Coll. delivers an address tonight on the African race. he [sic] advocates their colonization in Liberia. Prof. F. has recently been appointed Professor of Nat. Philosophy and mathematics in Liberia College.”2 Freeman did not disappoint. In the lecture hall of the town’s Congregational Church, “filled to its utmost capacity,” he sketched a “perfectly drawn” picture of “the Condition and prospects of the Free Africans in America” to show that “it is morally impossible for the ‘manhood’ of the African race to be developed under all the discouraging circumstances that must rest upon them in a mixed society.” “Every intelligent mind” in the audience, a reporter wrote, must “adopt his conclusions”: that “colonization and a pure African nationality” were “the only hope of his race.” It is not clear if the audience at the Congregational Church took up a collection, but one reporter remarked that those who remembered Freeman from his days as a student at Middlebury would follow his “future career with interest, and have a special regard for the Liberia College to which he is called as Professor.”3
An image of Liberia College from Edward Wilmot Blyden, Liberia’s Offerings: Being Addresses, Sermons, etc. (New York: John A. Gray, 1862). Courtesy of John Shaw Pierson Civil War Collection, Rare Book Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
Freeman’s visits to Montpelier and Middlebury were part of a fund-raising tour he undertook throughout New Hampshire and Vermont in 1863—a tour to raise funds for his own salary of $800 per year as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Liberia College in Monrovia, Liberia. His position at Liberia College was contingent on the success of his fund-raising, the consequence of the depleted coffers of the Massachusetts Colonization Society, the overseers of Liberia College, as a result of the Civil War. Freeman was not happy about this circumstance, but he agreed nevertheless to undertake the tour out of desperation to leave the United States. “If Africa needs the product of my brain,” he once conveyed to a Vermont colonizationist, “well. If not, she shall have the labor of my hands.”4 A few months prior to his leaving for Liberia with his family in September 1864—the bleakest, bloodiest year of the Civil War, when many northerners lost patience and hope—Freeman affirmed his commitment to Liberia to a reporter who asked him why he was accepting a teaching position at Liberia College. “Because I am fully persuaded,” Freeman replied, “that emigration to Liberia is the quickest, the surest, the best … the only way by which the Negro of the U.S. can rise to the full status of manhood… . I am a man, and by consequence … it is not only my privilege but my duty to endeavor to secure for myself and my children all the rights, privileges and immunities that pertain to humanity.”5
In many respects, Freeman’s words are surprising and unusual. The majority of African Americans had always opposed colonization, the privately funded, publicly supported program designed to transport free blacks to Liberia, first voicing their opposition less than a year after the founding of the American Colonization Society in December 1816 by a collection of white religious leaders, politicians, educators, and self-described antislavery advocates. Since that time, thousands of free blacks had rallied in cities and large towns, from Richmond to Boston, to protest this “wicked and fraudulent” scheme and its “hateful motive, diabolical in principle, and murderous in design.”6 Moreover, by October 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect for nearly a year. Lincoln, an uneasy colonizationist, was even willing to concede citizenship to “especially intelligent” black men like Freeman. Furthermore, several Republicans in Congress and many abolitionists and social reformers had already begun to propose ways to reconstruct the southern states and to consider means by which black freedmen and freedwomen might be incorporated into the Republic.7 Martin R. Delany and Henry Highland Garnet, both staunch black nationalists throughout the 1850s and early 1860s, now recruited black troops for the Union army, believing that black participation in the war would lift black people “from social degradation to the plane of common equality with all other varieties of men” in the United States. The Great War was a fight over freedom versus slavery. “Better even die free, than to live slaves,” Frederick Douglass urged his brethren, for “liberty won by white men would lose half its lustre.”8
Nevertheless, Freeman remained adamant that social change would never materialize in the United States. The decade of the 1850s was a bleak time for African Americans; several pieces of congressional legislation, including the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850, and “popular sovereignty,” linked to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision on Dred Scott in 1857, produced deleterious effects on the lives of both the enslaved and the free black populations. The prospects for black opportunity grew so dim at this point that Freeman and a small but vocal segment of the African American intelligentsia, including Delany, Garnet, William Wells Brown, and others, insisted that fully fledged African American citizenship in the United States was utterly unattainable and that black Americans should seriously consider emigration. Even Douglass, who viewed Lincoln’s election in 1860 as perhaps signaling “the death of the modern Abolition movement,” as the president-elect showed “complete loyalty to slavery in the slave States,” supported migration to Haiti in the weeks following the 1860 election.9 As one historian of colonization has implied, slavery was so deeply entrenched in the American psyche and racism was so persistent that abolition was no guarantee of freedom.10 After all, myriad examples of freed blacks in the North and the South and even in the nation’s capital, snared by the “reverse underground railroad” and sold illegally into bondage between the 1830s and the 1850s, reminded free blacks of the precariousness of their status.11 Freeman, a member of the black educated elite and the first African American college president, held such little faith in the American concept of equality that he was willing to forsake all that he had achieved and begin anew in a foreign land that very few African Americans wished to visit.
Perhaps even more puzzling than Freeman’s remarks is why white Vermonters, living in a state that outlawed adult slavery in its 1777 and 1791 constitutions and had the smallest black population per capita of any state in the Union, supported so vehemently “the colonization enterprise.”12 The simple answer is that white supporters of colonization in both the North and the South viewed the scheme as an antislavery project. Colonization not only offered a solution to the pernicious problem of slavery by relocating emancipated slaves to Liberia with their and their former owners’ consent but also served as a grand, providential plan for solving the race dilemma in America. Many whites who saw themselves as well-meaning, benevolent reformers argued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century that it should be clear by the complexion and circumstances of African Americans that “this [the United States] is not their country, nor their home.” Free blacks, they insisted myopically, would never be able to enjoy the “privileges from which the laws and structure of society must forever prohibit them,” for they constituted “a population for the most part idle and useless, and too often vicious and mischievous.”13 An additional benefit of colonization, its proponents maintained, was to fulfill God’s plan of using “coloured missionaries” to save Africa, to bring to Africans “the proposition of civilization and Christianity.”14 Thus, by one simple means, colonization could perfect American society by cleansing it racially and uplift and save the “infidels” in faraway Africa through black Protestant churches and American institutions.
Throughout the second quarter of the nineteenth century, most white northern and southern Americans who opposed slavery and the international slave trade used their institutions—most notably colleges and universities, white Protestant churches, and state legislatures—to promote colonization. This essay examines the role played by one institution of higher learning, Middlebury College, in fostering the project of colonization. Middlebury planted the seeds of colonization in Martin Freeman, a restless, studious, and prickly young black Vermonter. Although it would take nearly fifteen years of living in Pittsburgh for those seeds to fully germinate, Freeman’s Middlebury education prepared the soil to receive those seeds. As the third student of color at Middlebury in its first forty-five years, Freeman endured persistent reminders, some subtle, others overt, that his future lay in Liberia. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Freeman’s black nationalist thought reached full bloom, and he was ready to make the leap to Liberia. Perhaps during his recruiting trip to Avery College in 1862, Alexander Crummell, professor of intellectual and moral philosophy, English language and literature, logic, rhetoric, and history at Liberia College, convinced Freeman that a Union victory in the bloody Civil War was no guarantee of manhood for African Americans.
Writers, intellectuals, and activists have weighed in on colonization, pro and con, almost since the founding of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in December 1816. While many nineteenth-century supporters of colonization viewed the ACS’s program as a benevolent antislavery plan—one that did not promote abolition outright but that provided a safety valve for uneasy slave owners and enemies of slavery—critics of the ACS voiced doubts about its benevolence. In his 1853 collection of “facts and opinions” on colonization, for example, Giles Stebbins characterized colonization as a scheme premised on “hatred to the free negro” and “friendship to the slaveholder,” designed to “screen American slavery, as a system, from all imputation of moral guilt” by “holding up the free negroes as most pernicious and dangerous nuisances.”15 In other words, colonization was a scheme intended not to end slavery but to rid the nation of an unwanted race of free people of color, an interpretation affirmed one hundred years later by P. J. Staudenraus in his seminal modern study of the American Colonization Society.16
In recent years, scholars have reexamined Liberian colonization through multiple lenses, including that of Atlantic World studies, as well as those of slavery, race, class, religion, and gender, to arrive at various useful interpretations. For some scholars, Liberia stood as an American version of the Exodus story, in which black Americans were delivered from slavery to freedom in an imagined national homeland. For others, Liberia offered the means by which black Americans could construct a common political and cultural identity based on the commonly shared experiences of slavery and racism. For still others, Liberia carried gendered meanings in that it embodied white American women’s ideals of a domestic utopia by reflecting “white evangelical, educational, and domestic values.”17
This essay embraces the venerable perspective of colonization as an anti-black rather than merely an antislavery movement. Additionally, it shares the conclusions of those studies that view Liberia in the trope of the Exodus story: biblical language gave meaning to Liberia for many African Americans and white Americans. However, this essay also emphasizes a particular gendered aspect of Liberia with class implications. It shares with Marie Tyler-McGraw the conclusion that for professional men like Martin Freeman who were confined by their race to “narrow, restricted lives,” Liberia represented a utopia where educated free black men could exercise the rights and privileges of citizenship, framed as “full manhood,” and enjoy the quotidian aspects of life as good republican fathers and husbands living in dignity.18 For white Vermonters, as well as for Martin Freeman, Liberia stood as a project for restoring black manhood and dignity—a lesson Freeman learned first at Middlebury College.
The historiography on the academy and colonization is emergent. The recent study by Craig Steven Wilder on race and slavery and the academy devotes a chapter to colonization. He astutely notes that the American Colonization Society “was born on campus.” Its founder, Robert Finley, conceived of the plan to send free blacks to Africa in 1816 while teaching near Princeton University (then the College of New Jersey) and serving on the college’s board of trustees. His scheme, he reasoned, would provide a “three-fold benefit” to the United States: (1) the nation would be purged of an undesirable population, (2) the black émigrés could help “civilize” and Christianize “heathenish” Africa, and (3) “our blacks themselves would be put in a better situation.” Wilder identifies correctly the plan as springing from dual impulses: first, “the evangelical urge to solve the moral problem of slavery,” and second, “the political and social rejection of a multiracial society.”19 Most American college and university presidents, trustees, faculty, and students in the early nineteenth century, including those at Middlebury College, shared these sentiments and endorsed colonization.20
Russell Irvine’s study of black higher education during the pre–Civil War era argues that most American college and university presidents and trustees at this time viewed their jobs as preserving a cohesive white republic. Blacks, regarded by many as uneducable, should be trained up in black institutions like the Ashmun Institute, the precursor to Lincoln University.21 Of course, there were exceptions, as many of these same white colleges enrolled a black man now and then whom they regarded as exceptionally intelligent and well suited to undertake the rigors of their courses of study. For Middlebury, that promising student was black Vermonter Martin Freeman, whom the college enrolled in 1845 after much pressure from the community to put into practice what it preached: abhorring slavery and endorsing Liberia as a place where black men could realize their manhood.
The few scholars who have written about Freeman, a complex and enigmatic figure, have correctly characterized him as a “black nationalist” and have submitted that he embraced his nationalistic views while teaching at Avery College near Pittsburgh. There he developed close personal and professional ties with a number of black nationalists and intellectuals, most notably Martin R. Delany. Delany mentions his friend Freeman in his landmark 1852 publication, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, identifying him as “a young … gentleman of talents,” a “‘Junior Professor,’ in Allegheny Institute [Avery College]” who is “doing much good in his position.”22 Delany appointed Freeman special foreign secretary of the Niger Valley Exploring Party, Delany’s organization created to explore the feasibility of establishing an alternative homeland to Liberia in West Africa. Moreover, Freeman, following Delany’s urgent recommendation to all African Americans, bought land in Canada as a potential safe haven for himself and his family.23
From the 1850s onward, Freeman remained firm in his belief that black people would be better off almost anywhere on the planet than in the United States. For him, Liberia was a republican utopia. Yet he would find that his imagined utopia—translated etymologically as “no place” but homophonically as “good place”—was far from good and perfect and Christian and republican. Nevertheless, with all its known problems, flaws, and challenges, including its high mortality rate, factionalism, color prejudice, and few modern comforts, Liberia remained Freeman’s imagined Eden, a lesson he first learned at Middlebury.
Middlebury College and Its Early Struggles
Middlebury College was founded in 1800 in Middlebury, Vermont, a small town in the south-central Champlain Valley, tucked between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Like many small New England villages, Middlebury founded a college to prepare and educate its local and neighboring young men—all white—in the ways of the republican world so that they might “know their own rights, and the means of protecting them from violation.” “Ignorance,” the founding corporation declared, “[was] the bane of Republican government.” To meet its responsibility of preserving the Republic, Middlebury pledged to educate its men “in the rudiments of Literature, and in the principles of Morality and Religion.”24 Jeremiah Atwater, a strict Congregational Calvinist and the college’s first president, summarized the purpose of a college education as continuing to teach the restraint of passions, lessons “begun in the family” and carried on by schools, through which system they sowed “the seeds of knowledge and virtue … in the youthful mind.” A young college man, according to Atwater, was to be “constantly learning new lessons of moral instruction” and “trained to virtue and order by perpetual and salutary restraints.”25 As a result of this inculcation, most early Middlebury graduates became either lawyers or ministers. The nonsectarian college affiliated itself with the local Congregational church—local members of the church strongly supported the school, and early presidents of the college preached there—although the church neither funded nor founded the college. Nevertheless, because of its close ties to the church, Middlebury was thought to be a proper, sober-minded, moral institution—not like the state’s other institution to the north, the publicly financed University of Vermont, considered by many Vermonters to be too religiously liberal.26
Middlebury College’s reputation and popularity grew so rapidly over the next thirty-five years that its enrollment ballooned from 27 in 1801–2 to 168 in 1836–37. Yet the college limped along financially during this time, teetering on bankruptcy and fending off repeated overtures to affiliate with the University of Vermont. It suffered through two rocky, albeit short-lived, affiliations with two Vermont medical schools: the Vermont Medical Institution to the south in Castleton and the Vermont Medical College to the east in Woodstock. Middlebury’s curriculum remained classically oriented—Greek, Latin, and mathematics anchored the curriculum—with a limited number of courses added in the 1820s and 1830s in English, modern languages, and the sciences to compete with UVM and Amherst College as they reformed their curricula. Perhaps the thick atmosphere of morality and piety that infused learning at Middlebury College kept the college going. This was particularly true during peaks of religious enthusiasm, of which there were no fewer than ten between 1805 and 1835. None were more profound, more costly, nor more divisive and decisive for the college than the revival of 1835, when Jedidiah Burchard, a fiery, enthusiastic, theatrical evangelical, rolled into town.27
Antebellum Middlebury College. Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College Library.
Burchard, a white-hot preacher in the mold of Charles Grandison Finney, the ardent and formidable evangelical minister of western New York during the Second Great Awakening, stormed through Vermont with his wife, also an evangelical, in 1835–36. The president of Middlebury College, Joshua Bates, and Thomas Merrill, the minister at the Congregational church, not only invited the Burchards to Middlebury but also literally stood by them as the minister preached in nearby towns. James Marsh, the president of UVM, criticized Bates for supporting Burchard, cautioning that Burchard undermined the authority of the
established clergy in regard to those very questions which it is their business and duty to settle, and teaches the people to judge and decide for themselves what they are wholly unqualified to determine. When this is done, it has precisely the same effect in the church, which the prevailing radicalism of the day has in politics. It puffs up the ignorant and inexperienced with a vain confidence in their own understanding of their own fancied experience in spiritual things, and leads them to undervalue, perhaps to censure and deride, those to whom they ought to look up with humility and reverence.28
Marsh and the clergy who opposed Burchard considered him coarse, uncouth, and haughty, a crude outsider to whom pious Vermonters should not listen. As a consequence, because of Bates’s affiliation with Burchard, Middlebury College’s prestige plummeted, as most Vermonters now branded the college as radical and irregular. The University of Vermont’s star now rose as Vermonters put their faith and trust in what they deemed to be a more sober, ordered, and sensible institution.29 Suspicion over outside interlopers branded as radicals would color the local reception of non-Vermont speakers, most notably abolitionists, in the coming decades.
The college suffered for its perceived close relationship with Burchard. By 1838–39 the college had lost its president and virtually all of its faculty through dismissal or resignation (and one death). Its freshman enrollment plunged from thirty-seven in 1836 to nineteen in 1838. By the mid-1840s Middlebury College had almost shut its doors.30
Colonization versus Antislavery at the Town’s College
The era of religious revivalism sparked anxiety about the self and society, awakening many Americans to the need for social reform. Perfectibility defined the goal of the religious movement known as the Second Great Awakening and gave rise to a number of reform movements, including temperance, Sabbatarianism, prison reform, and immediate abolitionism.31 “Immediatism” called for the emancipation of the enslaved without delay and without compensation to slave owners and demanded full incorporation of freedmen and freedwomen into the body politic as citizens. People like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass symbolized this school of thought. Immediatists rejected colonizationism and its claim that whites and blacks could never peacefully coexist as equal citizens of the United States.
At Middlebury, support for the American Colonization Society remained strong. Middlebury College presidents, faculty, and students numbered among Liberia’s most visible supporters. In 1819, Vermont was the first state in the union to found an auxiliary society; Reverend Benjamin Labaree, the fourth president of Middlebury College, served as vice president and president. In 1822, Jehudi Ashmun, who attended Middlebury College from 1813 to 1816 but took his degree at the University of Vermont, journeyed to Liberia on the West African coast. The ACS had that year created the colony by forcibly purchasing land just south of Sierra Leone from a local chief for about $300 in trade goods. Ashmun served as agent for the society and helped repel insurrections led by native Liberians who sought to rid their country of Americans.32 So great was Middlebury’s support of colonization that the August commencement in 1826 became a rally for the Vermont Colonization Society (VCS). The commencement speaker, Francis Scott Key, the renowned author of the poem that became the U.S. national anthem, was a founding member of the Acs and in 1826 served the society as an agent. In his commencement address, Key “demonstrated the practicability of removing the evil of slavery from the United States,” safely, efficiently, and noninjuriously to both blacks and whites, by relocating free blacks to the “prosperous” colony of Liberia in West Africa. He so enthralled the Middlebury crowd that several leading members of the VCS resolved that the state’s auxiliary was worthy of all Vermonters’ monetary support, especially that of their churches, which they identified as ideal venues for “raising money.”33
Most members of Middlebury College’s administration, faculty, and student body, as well as residents of the town, endorsed colonization, convinced that it was the best means by which to preserve the Republic. They embraced colonization as a middle ground between tolerating noxious slavery and supporting its troubling immediate, noncompensated termination because they feared that radical abolitionists would fracture the country. The debate over which antislavery project was most practicable—colonization or immediate abolition—simmered in the town and at the college in the decade before Martin Freeman arrived in 1845.
As early as the late 1820s, Vermont colonizationists began to debate how their vision differed from that of the national organization. Vermonters viewed their work as leading to the “ultimate obolition [sic] of Slavery; and the evangelization of Africa.” The parent organization focused primarily on removing from the nation free blacks, whether they were freeborn or newly emancipated. Within a few years, increasing numbers of colonizationists began to embrace abolitionism and thus joined antislavery societies. Eighty-six delegates from throughout the state of Vermont, including four from the town of Middlebury and two from the college, founded Vermont’s Anti-Slavery Society in Middlebury on April 30, 1834.34 They entered into a covenant not to fight for the displacement of free African Americans “from their native land to a foreign clime, as the price and condition of their freedom,” but to ensure that free blacks shall “receive the protection of law” and that “the power which is invested in every Slaveholder … shall instantly cease.”35
Vermont colonizationists forced Vermont abolitionists to address a number of questions about their relationship to slavery, including what business was southern slavery to Vermonters, and did abolitionists support racial amalgamation?36 The two sides confronted each other in Middlebury in July 1843, two years before Freeman matriculated at Middlebury College. That summer, Garrisonian abolitionists launched a one-hundred-city convention tour designed to arouse abolitionist sentiments in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Middlebury was their first stop, and Frederick Douglass, labeled by the press “a fugitive slave,” was the keynote speaker. Douglass characterized his reception in Middlebury as “intensely bitter and violent.” Few in attendance “professed any sympathy in opinion and feeling” with him or the other speakers. Middlebury College men had placarded the town with posters, calling Douglass “an escaped convict from the state prison.” Provoked by the show of resistance to their message, one abolitionist speaker denounced the Constitution, the Congress, and the Supreme Court, professing that the latter were “boobys” who constituted “a dishonest gang.” This speaker touched a raw nerve when he called “the church and the clergy of Vermont hypocrites,” as well as “the people of Vermont … hypocrites.”37
In response, one reporter, invoking the time when Burchard visited Middlebury, scolded the abolitionist outsiders. “We did not want itinerant lecturers,” he told his readers, “to convince us of the evils of slavery, which we have so long deplored, or to urge us forward to its abolition, by neglecting all the best pecuniary interests of the country, by destroying the present political parties, by prostrating the church, by reviling the clergy, by trampling upon the laws, by leveling the pillars of the constitution, and dissolving the Union… unless a free passage is immediately given to its progress.”38 Vermonters did not like outsiders—whether they were evangelicals or abolitionists—coming into their backyards and telling them what to think or what to question. They especially did not like outsiders criticizing their churches, the institution that 80 percent of Vermonters had come to love and trust deeply.39 Most were content with life in Vermont, but now they were made to feel uncomfortable as abolitionists called into question their moral fiber.
Middlebury College students were not immune to such debates and encounters. In the 1830s and 1840s members of the Philomathesian Society, an early debate club, met weekly to discuss important questions that arose from their studies as well as from matters of the world, including Congress’s patronage of the American Colonization Society, public support for antislavery societies, and the status and condition of free blacks versus that of newly arriving European immigrants.40 Middlebury students took both sides of the emancipation debate; some supported colonization, others supported immediate emancipation. Nearly all believed that slavery was an evil institution that must end but without sacrificing the cohesiveness of the country. Their debates constituted an intellectual exercise carried out safely in the sheltered halls of academe, tucked safely away in the foothills of the Green Mountains, securely isolated from the actual institution of slavery, and far enough removed socially and culturally from local African Americans whose opinion students need not ask.
Middlebury men did tend to travel after college, and those who ventured south sometimes expressed their views about race and slavery. One such graduate was Edward Merrill, class of 1845, the son of the prominent local Congregational minister, Thomas Merrill. During his travels through Georgia in 1846, Edward shared with a college friend, John W. Steward (class of 1846), his impressions of the slaves he encountered there, who he thought were “a first rate piece of property.” He told his friend John that it was
as right to hold slaves as it is to eat oysters. A slave is not a person; he is a “thing” in law. You cannot send one to the state prison here. For the first offense against the law of the land, he gets the “cat.” The next time he must look out for his neck. There is one to be hung here next month for stealing. You cannot teach them anything… . First white man then Indian then dog then nigger. The idea that they are not happy is all humbug. Slavery with them is second nature.41
It is difficult to know if other Middlebury men shared Edward’s feelings about the enslaved. But the fact that he felt he could voice such negative opinions about them so openly and casually suggests that at least one Middlebury man—John Steward, who would have been a student during Martin’s first year—understood, if not shared, his perspective.
Regardless, the debates between abolitionists and colonizationists throughout the Northeast led some antislavery proponents to question the sincerity of the rhetoric of some college presidents. Many abolitionists began to demand that colleges like Middlebury, Dartmouth, and Williams do more than pay mere lip service to emancipation. They should demonstrate their commitment to ending slavery by enrolling African American youths.
During the late spring of 1845, several abolitionists criticized Middlebury’s president, Benjamin Labaree, for not responding promptly to requests from black youths and their white minister in Philadelphia to admit several “poor pious young men of color.” To admit the young men, the critics claimed, would “have engraven her [Middlebury College] an imperishable name which ages to come if not the present age would have mentioned with honor.”42 Labaree did not respond promptly because he did not know what to say. He was forced to justify himself that summer.
Labaree informed the corporation (the board of trustees) that he, along with the presidents of Dartmouth, Williams, Amherst, and the University of Vermont, received in the spring a letter “purporting to be written by a young man of color, inquiring if he and three others of the same complexion, could be admitted to the College.” President Nathan Lord at Dartmouth agreed to accept those who might be qualified but added that “we should not choose to have a flood of blacks at the College.” The presidents of Williams, Amherst, and UVM all rejected or discouraged the young black men from attending their schools. Labaree, debating with himself what to do, first approached the faculty. They told him that they had “no authority to exclude young men of a suitable character and qualifications on account of complexion.” At the meeting of the corporation, Vermont governor William Slade, a board member, produced a letter of support from the boys’ Sunday school teacher, Reverend David Gardiner. Labaree told Slade and the corporation that there was nothing in the college’s by-laws prohibiting the enrollment of blacks, but enrolling four at once would “create the impression that this is the College for the resort of colored students.” The corporation deliberated and concluded that “Middlebury is not designed especially for the colored race” and that the corporation was “not inclined particularly to encourage negroes from all parts of the country to resort here for education; we are disposed to do our fair proportion in educating this class of citizens, and therefore, colored young men in VT and States adjacent, who would naturally fall to us, we will cheerfully receive.”43 The corporation did not explain what it meant by “not designed … for the colored race.” “Not ready” is probably the more appropriate language for Middlebury and the other elite schools of the Northeast, none of which felt it could afford to have its reputation darkened by admitting a few students of color.
Governor Slade saw a troublesome double standard in the college’s admissions policy. In a letter to the boys’ pastor, he worried that a “great and important principle would be compromitted [sic]”: Middlebury would accept “white young men from any and every quarter of the country; that we professed to feel a desire for the improvement of the colored race, and especially for the civilization and christianizing of Africa, and should, I thought, be guilty of great inconsistency, if we shut the doors of our College entirely to colored young men from other States. From which most, if not all, of the applications would be made, as we have very few colored people in our own State.”44 Slade was concerned that immediatists might notice Middlebury’s Janus-faced admissions policy.
Nevertheless, Middlebury lived up to its claim that its first task was to educate men from Vermont, regardless of color. Historically, this appears to be true; two local biracial men studied at Middlebury prior to Freeman—Alexander Twilight (class of 1823) of Corinth, Vermont, and William Haynes of Granville, New York, by way of Rutland, Vermont, who studied off and on at Middlebury in the late 1820s but did not receive a degree. Nevertheless, despite one local reporter’s joy that Middlebury College had until now avoided the reputation among the public “as the favorite resort of the colored race from all parts of the Union,” Middlebury would enroll its third student of color in August 1845.45
Reverend Mitchell, the pastor at the East Parish Congregational Church of East Rutland (1833–46) and a graduate of Yale (1818) and Union Theological Seminary (1821), was a strong supporter of the American Colonization Society, for which he became an agent after leaving his Rutland church.46 Mitchell found in Martin Freeman such an able and bright child that he took him under his wing in 1838, when Freeman was just twelve years old, to prepare him for college. Whether Mitchell believed at that time that Freeman would help advance the cause of colonization is unknowable. However, in 1845 he and Labaree colluded to enroll Freeman at Middlebury College for just that purpose.
Martin Freeman conveniently fit the bill of helping Middlebury fulfill its charge, articulated by the corporation in 1845, to educate bright, capable, local black youths. Freeman was born in Rutland, Vermont, in 1826. His grandfather Pearson Freeman relocated the family there from Connecticut in 1793. Pearson was born a slave in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1761 and served as a waiter in the American Revolution. This service led to his freedom at age twenty-seven and perhaps prompted him to take the surname Freeman. In Rutland the elder Freeman worked in a potash factory, a trade he acquired in Connecticut. Within a few years, he opened his own shop on North Main Street. In time, he also bought an acre of land in town and built a two-story house. It is not clear why Pearson relocated his family to Rutland. Perhaps the young state’s reputation as a free state brought him and other African Americans there. Or perhaps economic opportunities beckoned. Perhaps the young black clergyman, Lemuel Haynes, who had been preaching for five years at the white Congregational church in West Rutland, gave the region the appearance of tolerance and cordiality. Regardless of the reasons, the Freeman family insinuated itself into Rutland and earned the reputation as an honest, kind, friendly, hardworking, and devout family.47
The family’s reputation surely devolved to young Martin after the death of his reputed father, Pearson Toussaint, an accomplished musician, in 1830 at age thirty.48 Martin, a bright, precocious, and somewhat sensitive child, captured the attention of peers and adults. Perhaps because of his race—or because of his intellect—he was bullied by schoolmates, whom he reproved for inflicting “out-door teachings” on him so that he would never forget his place.49 Nevertheless, he developed at an early age a close, long-standing friendship with a young white girl, Charlotte Thrall, who in October 1850 married Frederick Chaffee. Martin and Charlotte corresponded as adults, exchanging good and sad news about their respective families and their lives, hers in Rutland, Vermont, his in Monrovia, Liberia. After Freeman moved to Liberia, Charlotte’s father kept him apprised of news back home by sending him regularly copies of the Rutland Herald, the town’s local newspaper.50
In 1845 Mitchell wrote a strong letter of recommendation for Freeman to Labaree. He believed that the young man of nineteen was now ready to matriculate into Middlebury College. Although Labaree and Mitchell tried to keep Freeman’s enrollment quiet, it seems to have caused a stir in the press, and even in the Labaree household. Dr. J. E. Rankin (class of 1848), the renowned philanthropist, future chaplain of the House of Representatives, and, toward the end of his life, president of Howard University (1889–1903), was reminded years later that when he arrived at President Labaree’s house to begin his sophomore year at Middlebury, he met Freeman and Reverend Mitchell. The two young men played together in the president’s backyard until dinner was ready, at which time “the precise and lady-like wife of the president was at a loss how to dispose of the black boy at the table—as society has always been since, unless he will be a waiter.” Rankin, who marked his introduction to Freeman as the start of his “chivalry for the Afro American race,” stepped forward to save everyone from embarrassment: he—Rankin—suggested that “the others should sit down first, and afterwards the two boys should eat by themselves—both becoming waiters.”51 Freeman’s “welcome” was a reminder that he was a special case, an experiment. One Middlebury resident who housed Freeman and perhaps Mitchell for a day or two, no doubt for the income, took umbrage at the press’s implications that he might be seen as a good friend of African Americans. The paper apologized defensively for the impression it may have created and thanked
Mr. Israel Stow for correcting us in stating a matter of fact in relation … to the colored student now in Middlebury College, by President Labaree. Upon particular enquiring of that gentleman, it turns out that this colored student when he first came to town was admitted into this family but a day or two. Afterwards at Commencement, when he presented himself for admission into the College, he was hospitably entertained for two days or more, and was furnished by President Labaree with a loan of money, and with books to enable him to pursue his studies for the next term. In some of our papers of the week alluded to by Mr. Stow, a few of the first impressions stated that there were two colored students in the College. We soon found we were mistaken, and corrected ourselves by altering the two to one. We can assure Mr. Stow that as to any intentional misrepresentation our conscience is clear, and that as a christian man he should repent of the uncharitableness towards us which his letter in the subject manifests.52
The paper felt it had done its duty to correct the record, offering a lukewarm apology to Stow and clarifying that only one black student had enrolled at Middlebury, not two, lest anyone think that Middlebury had now become the college of refuge for young men of color. The paper offered no apology to young Martin, nor did it demand one of Stow on his behalf.
As a college student, Freeman presented himself as very friendly but also as very serious and “very strict.” He proved himself to be “most constant in the class-room; he went to classes earlier and left later than any of the others” and was “much interested in the library.” One might speculate whether this eyewitness’s observation meant that Freeman was a very studious loner or if he placed himself apart from his classmates either by choice or by circumstance.53 One classmate and close friend, J. J. H. Gregory, recalled that Freeman was “almost the first negro to graduate from a New England college. He was a hard student, excellent scholar and fine man.” Gregory remembered how ironic it was that Middlebury had “two or three pronounced abolitionists in college” but that in 1848, as juniors marching in procession, “their courage was hardly equal to their convictions, for poor Freeman marched alone until I took his arm.” Gregory would remain Martin’s life-long friend, corresponding with him long after Middlebury and mailing him American newspapers when Freeman lived in Liberia.54
In addition to his financial sponsorship of Freeman (he loaned the young man money to help cover the $83 comprehensive fee), President Labaree sought to support the young man morally and spiritually as best he knew how. Labaree was a man of strong moral convictions who detested injustice. “Injustice and Oppression,” he once remarked, “must be ranked among our national sins.” He once called slavery “that dark spot upon our national character,” an “unsightly excrescence upon the body politic” whose end demanded “the calm, dispassionate and prayerful consideration of the wise and the good.” As a Christian minister, educator, and colonizationist, Labaree put great faith in the ability of good Christians to find solutions to life’s challenges with the help of God. He believed that “the blessings of civilization and christianity” could uplift and inspire all men, and could heal all “bleeding wounds.”55 As such, all Middlebury men, President Labaree believed, should expect to reap the full rights, privileges, and immunities of American citizenship—unless a man was African American. Labaree often said that black men possessed the necessary capacity to become good men, just not in the United States. Their “manhood,” Labaree liked to say, “is not extinguished, only degraded; and that by suitable measures and exertions it can be elevated and burnished.”56 Those “suitable measures and exertions,” Labaree contended, were religious, educational, and financial opportunities in Liberia. So firmly did he hold to this idea that almost twenty years after Freeman graduated from Middlebury College, after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution had become the law of the land, Labaree continued to insist that Liberia represented the most “natural and desirable home for the colored man.” There, men like Freeman, Labaree believed, could found and run their own republic, get a good living from the soil, engage in commerce, and do God’s work of spreading the gospel to non-Christian Africans.57
Although Labaree never lost faith in Freeman, he saw him initially as a timid, self-deprecating, insecure student who “distrust[ed] … his own abilities.” He neither liked nor trusted his white classmates, from whom he expected to receive insults at every turn, just as he had as a schoolboy in Rutland. Yet as far as Labaree knew, Freeman’s classmates never tormented him. Labaree watched Freeman grow and develop into an accomplished and confident young man who conducted himself “in all respects with great propriety, and secured the confidence and good will of his instructors and fellow students. His scholarship was excellent in all the departments of study, and his deportment uniformly that of christian gentlemen.”58 Indeed, the Middlebury faculty assured Freeman repeatedly that he belonged there, that he was admitted as a “student in full standing, and that so long as his deportment was correct and his progress in study satisfactory, the authorities of the College would regard him as entitled to all the rights and privileges that were allowed to other students.” Freeman did better than progress satisfactorily in his course of studies; he graduated as “one of the first scholars in his class.” Labaree recalled, perhaps a little too rosily, that Freeman’s classmates, “with a united voice, requested the faculty to give Freeman the honor of delivering the salutatory address in Latin,” an honor accorded at that time to the graduate most proficient in Latin oration, who also spoke first at commencement. No copy of his oration in Latin, “Nemo sibi vivat” (Let no one live for himself), exists. However, one eyewitness noted that Freeman, “a gentleman of sterling worth and unimpeachable integrity,” was in “every way worthy of distinguished regard.” The reporter took pride in “seeing at least one man of color rank himself among the alumni of Middlebury College.” However, Labaree seemed to betray some anxiety over the choice of the salutatorian, for he told a colonizationist audience almost two decades later that “lest the public might suppose that he [Freeman] was required to speak in Latin because he could not speak well in English, an oration in that language was also assigned him,” a highly unorthodox practice. His second oration, “Utility as a Standard of Morality,” was not likely a translation of his Latin oration but rather a separate oration altogether. Nevertheless, Freeman delivered both very well “to his credit, and to the satisfaction of his friends and instructors. This is probably the only instance in a New England College,” Labaree added, “in which a colored man has been honored with the appointment of salutation on commencement day.” The local newspaper reported that when some of Freeman’s classmates learned that Freeman had “carried off their laurels,” they grew shamefaced.59
Once Freeman graduated, he expected to reap the full rights, privileges, rewards, benefits, and immunities accorded Middlebury graduates, as promised by President Labaree. Some of his classmates would go on to study law and medicine and prepare for the ministry. Some even received offers to teach “winter school,” the school term that ran from November through April. However, no offers came Freeman’s way. Even “friends of the colored man were not disposed to place their children under his instruction.”60 Freeman could not even land a job as a private tutor in an immediatist abolitionist household. Over the next decade, Freeman would begin to shape his ideology around Labaree’s message of “suitable measures and exertions.”
In 1850, at age twenty-four, Freeman was offered the position of professor of math and science at the newly established black college, the Allegheny Institute and Mission Church, later renamed Avery College, located outside of Pittsburgh. He would remain at Avery for about a dozen years and would be named the school’s second president in 1856, thereby becoming the first black college president in the nation. In addition to his success at Avery College, Freeman experienced joy in his personal life as he mingled with Pittsburgh’s black elites. For example, in 1852, Freeman met Dr. David Peck, the first African American medical school graduate, who in all likelihood introduced him to his sister, Louisa Eleanor Peck, a graduate of Oberlin College. Their father, John Peck, a black abolitionist and an opponent of colonization, was one of the founders and trustees of Allegheny Institute and Mission Church. Martin and Eleanor married in September 1857. Eleanor gave birth to their first child, daughter Cora B., in 1860, and to their son, Edward P., in 1862. Life appeared good.61
However, despite his professional achievements and domestic accord, Freeman experienced growing unease over life in Pittsburgh. He found himself “caught between two worlds”: the world of the black masses in Pittsburgh, who were not only Methodists, of whose faith Freeman, a Congregationalist, did not approve, but who also appeared to be not as committed as he to the importance of education to racial uplift, for other matters such as work, income, and autonomy seemed more pressing to them; and the world of white Pittsburghers, whom Labaree called “men of low degree,” who openly insulted Freeman “in the streets [and] … in public conveyances, [who] degrade[d] him to the side table at hotels, and remind[ed] him that neither education nor moral excellence, neither civility of language nor courtesy of manner,” could protect him from racist affront.62 Freeman’s liminal life in Pittsburgh transformed his thinking about Liberia.
From Labaree’s perspective, Freeman, the Middlebury student, “for want of correct information, had become strongly prejudiced against the Colonization Society. He thought he saw in it a purpose to deprive the black man of his natural and national rights, and to expatriate him to a distant and desolate wilderness.” Freeman’s mentor believed that his pupil saw only “Anglo Saxon selfishness” in the Acs’s activities. Now Freeman, the professor and college president, living a life restricted by racism, was able to “examine candidly the character and claims of the Colonization Society” and could see that “the native home of his ancestors presented hopes and attractions that neither America nor any other land could furnish.”63
By the late 1850s Freeman shared Labaree’s view. In 1858, while an officer of the Niger Valley Exploring Party, a black-organized association founded to compete with the efforts of the American Colonization Society, Freeman wrote to Martin R. Delaney, “I am more and more convinced that Africa is the country to which all colored men who wish to attain the full state of manhood, and bring up their children to be men and not creeping things, should turn their steps.”64 He reiterated the same at the Vermont Auxiliary convention in 1863, where he left the audience with the indelible image of his manhood crushed out of him.65
In 1862 Alexander Crummell, a young black Episcopal priest and a humanities professor at Liberia College, visited the United States to recruit bright black students for the college. One of his stops was Pittsburgh, where he met with Freeman. The Acs reported that during his visits to the States, Crummell “exchanged thoughts” with African American leaders, met with black clergymen and congregations, and “exhibited to them Liberia as opening to men of color advantages and prospects to be sought in vain in any other country.” After his meeting with Freeman, Crummell recommended the young college president to the Massachusetts Colonization Society, the overseers of Liberia College, and the college’s trustees in Monrovia.66
In February 1863, when the prospect of teaching at Liberia College arose—not even a job offer, just the possibility of it—Freeman quit his job at Avery College. He would not sail for Liberia, however, until September 1864. The Civil War caused the delay by disrupting the flow of funds into the coffers of the Acs and the Massachusetts Colonization Society. Moreover, few free blacks wished to emigrate. In order for Freeman and his family to sail to Liberia, the Massachusetts Colonization Society imposed another condition in addition to his fund-raising for his salary: raising a “large company” of fellow expatriates to accompany him to Liberia to make the trip cost-effective. Freeman was now furious. He feared that his reputation would be ruined. He had resigned his situation at Avery College, and now he was about to lose his “reputation as an honest man among many of my friends in the East,” he declared, “who have generously given me money for an outfit supposing that I would go this fall.” He felt “blameworthy,” as he had “lost the respect of my own people who will not fail to proclaim that they knew that I did not mean to go, and say that my late New England tour was an ingenious device to raise a little extra funds.” Nevertheless, Freeman, although feeling manipulated, wanted to assure the MCS that his desire to go was not based on self-interest. “I am not one of those Negroes,” he wrote to Reverend Joseph Tracy, the secretary of the Massachusetts Colonization Society, “who are always aspiring to place themselves at the head of a crowd and act as leader.”67 He asserted that he hoped neither to get rich nor to achieve safety in security, the latter of which he could still enjoy at Avery College. In fact, he feared that Liberia might lead to his “premature suffering and death.” Nevertheless, he needed to go because he believed that Liberia would “secure for myself and my posterity, this greater good, Liberty and Equality.” He preferred to live in “a log hut,” performing “hard labor” and living in “poverty, with political, civil and social freedom and equality,” than live in the United States under “political, civil, and social slavery and degradation.”68
Freeman and his family arrived in Monrovia in the fall of 1864. For the next twenty-four years, Freeman taught math, algebra, geometry, chemistry, natural philosophy, Latin, and Greek. His day usually ran from 7:00 a.m. to midnight. Exhaustion and the difficult climate, as well as careless teaching—he may have viewed a solar eclipse through a telescope without the proper protective lens, which led to long-term eye problems—compromised his health, causing him to return periodically to the United States for extended stays for medical treatment. In 1867 Freeman’s family accompanied him on a nearly yearlong visit to Pittsburgh and other cities in search of medical care and teaching supplies. While the family was in Pittsburgh, Avery College offered to double his salary and provide a furnished house rent free. He declined the school’s offer.69
When Freeman returned to Liberia in late 1868, he returned alone. Louisa’s father, John, a harsh critic of colonization, begged Louisa not to return to Liberia. Moreover, Louisa was pregnant with their third child and too unwell to travel. Thus, she stayed behind in Pittsburgh to give birth and to care for her other two children, especially Cora, who was “very ill with Typhoid fever.” Sadly, Clarence, born in August 1868, died in July 1869. In grief, Louisa and her two surviving children returned to Liberia in 1870, but only after she received assurance that Martin had secured a life insurance policy on himself.70
In 1870, the Trustees of Donations and the Board of Trustees named Freeman president pro tempore due to the chronic absences of Edward Blyden, the president of Liberia College. Freeman loathed the extra burden of his new administrative duties, which included submitting annual reports of the Educational Department of Liberia College to the MCS, in which he summarized the college’s affairs and activities. He also had to make recommendations for hiring new faculty, propose faculty salaries, and oversee renovations and repairs to the physical plant. Over the next two decades, his administrative and teaching duties, as well as his recurring bouts of illness, wore down Freeman and forced him to ask to be replaced from time to time. Once in the late 1870s while receiving treatment in New York City for heart and kidney failure and perhaps be treated for a case of septicemia due to several tooth extractions, he was told that the society intended to replace him with a white president. Freeman replied, “I shall be glad if any man whether white, black, red, yellow, or even green is sent out to relieve me.”71 The new president, Reverend John B. Pinney, an agent for the New York Colonization Society, lasted only six months, from March through October 1878.
Ill health, personal disappointment, declining productivity, a family tragedy, and perhaps depression marked Freeman’s final years at Liberia College. The family tragedy involved the poisoning of his only daughter, Cora, shortly after her marriage to a controversial local Liberian. This event marked the nadir of his time served in his adopted country.72 In January 1889 the board of trustees of Liberia College officially appointed Martin Freeman president. Two months later, he was dead at age sixty-two. Louisa used the benefit from his life insurance policy to bury Martin in Monrovia. Following his death, his wife and son Edward returned to Pittsburgh. Little is known of Louisa’s and Edward’s lives after Liberia. The Records of the Allegheny Cemetery Association identify a “Louisa E. Freeman” as buried in Allegheny Cemetery in 1897. One historian believes that Edward exemplified Martin Freeman’s greatest fear for black men in the United States: for a brief time before his death in 1893, he worked as a janitor.73
Historians celebrate Martin Freeman as America’s first black college president. Yet how odd that this black native son of Rutland, Vermont, and graduate of Middlebury College should play an important, albeit unheralded, role in the colonization movement in the mid-nineteenth century. Activities at Middlebury College and in the town on the cusp of Freeman’s matriculation and during his stay suggest that the young man was constantly reminded that true equality in the United States was beyond the reach of even the brightest of young black men. The discussions at the college, in the town, and throughout the region over slavery; personal slights directed at Freeman; and subliminal messages of difference led Freeman to search for a place to belong after college. He found his ideological home in the colonization movement. However, his physical home in Liberia was less than ideal. He adopted a love-hate relationship with his “Dear Old Fatherland,” declaring publicly his love for this “land of the free, and land of my hope,” yet complaining privately about the “Negro hate” that existed in Liberia. He detested the unhealthful climate and denounced the irritating “rivalries and jealousies” that defined Liberian society.74 Nevertheless, Freeman remained steadfast in his belief that only in a black homeland abroad could black Americans realize their full manhood, that is, attain self-determination, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and dignity. Freeman insisted that he never aspired to be a black leader. Rather, as a member of the black elite, he merely hoped for a life of dignity in Liberia, where he could realize his “manhood,” defined as the full rights and privileges of black male citizenship, not found in the United States. Middlebury College exposed Freeman to this ideal, which he slowly embraced over time and strove mightily to realize in a black utopia of his making.
1. Middlebury Register, October 21, 1863, 2, Collection of Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, Vt. (hereafter CHSMVH); Vermont Record (Brandon, Vt.), October 23, 1863, 1, CHSMVH. Martin Freeman became the first black president of a college when he moved from the faculty to the office of the president at Avery College (1856–63), formerly Alleghany College, a short-lived, historically black college on the northern edge of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2. Middlebury Register, October 21, 1863, 2; Mary Ann Swift, Journal, vol. 8, October 23, 1863, Stewart Family Papers, CHSMVH.
3. Middlebury Register, October 28, 1863, 2, CHSMVH.
4. Russell W. Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman of Rutland: America’s First Black College Professor and Pioneering Black Social Activist,” Rutland Historical Society Quarterly 26, no. 3 (1996): 83; William Coppinger to Joseph Tracy, September 3, 1862, Papers of Martin Freeman, Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives (hereafter MC Archives), photocopy of original at Massachusetts Historical Society (hereafter MHS).
5. National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), September 23, 1864, Freeman Papers, photocopy of original at MHS.
6. Samuel E. Cornish and Theodore S. Wright, The Colonization Scheme Considered, in Its Rejection by the Colored People—in Its Tendency to Uphold Caste—in Its Unfitness for Christianizing and Civilizing the Aborigines of Africa, and for Putting a Stop to the African Slave Trade: In a Letter to the Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen and the Hon. Benjamin Butler (Newark, N.J.: Aaron Guest, 1840), 5, Samuel L. Southard Papers, Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University (hereafter cited as RBSC Princeton).
7. See Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 35–76; Bruce Dain, “‘The Power of Making Me Miserable’: Abraham Lincoln and Race,” in The Struggle for Equality: Essays on Sectional Conflict, the Civil War, and the Long Reconstruction, ed. Orville Vernon Burton, Jerald Podair, and Jennifer L. Weber (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011), 112; Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).
8. Frederick Douglass, “Men of Color, to Arms!,” Douglass’ Monthly (Rochester, N.Y.), March 1863; James M. McPherson, The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964), 204–5; McPherson, The Negro’s Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted during the War for the Union (New York: Vintage Books, 1965), 77–82; and C. Peter Ripley, ed., The Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. V: The United States, 1859–1865 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 261–62.
9. McPherson, Negro’s Civil War, 173, 177, 239; Glenn M. Linden, Voices from the Gathering Storm: The Coming of the American Civil War (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 2001), 198–200; Dain, “‘The Power,’” 103.
10. Eddie S. Glaude, Exodus! Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 5.
11. The best-known individual who represents the phenomenon of the “reverse underground railroad” is Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1841 and held in bondage in Louisiana for twelve years. During his enslavement, he met other free black men who had been unlawfully sold into bondage. See Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave (1853), ed. Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968), esp. 38, 41–42 for Robert and Arthur, two free black men caught in the reverse underground railroad. For a primary source referencing this crime, see Cornish and Wright, Colonization Scheme Considered, 20.
12. Middlebury Register, October 28, 1863, 2, CHSMVH.
13. Philip C. Hay, Our Duty to Our Coloured Population: A Sermon for the Benefit of the American Colonization Society, Delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, Newark; July 23, 1826 (Newark, N.J.: W. Tuttle & Co., 1826), 7, RBSC Princeton; Jared Sparks and David A. Borrenstein, Extracts from an Article in the North American Review for January, 1824: On the Subject of the American Colonization Society (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Press, for the New-Jersey Colonization Society, by D. A. Borrenstein, 1824), 6, RBSC Princeton.
14. Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the Vermont Colonization Society, Presented October 16, 1845 (Burlington, Vt.: Chauncey Goodrich, 1845) 15, RBSC Princeton; Hay, Our Duty, 13.
15. G. B. Stebbins, Facts and Opinions Touching the Real Origin, Character, and Influence of the American Colonization Society: Views of Wilberforce, Clarkson, and Others, and Opinion of the Free People of Color of the United States (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1853; repr., New York: Negro University Press, Greenwood Publishing, 1969), iii–vii.
16. P. J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 1816–1865 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961; repr., New York: Octagon Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980), vii–ix.
17. For more recent scholarship on colonization, see, for example, Glaude, Exodus; Claude A. Clegg III, The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Marie Tyler-McGraw, An African Republic: Black and White Virginians in the Making of Liberia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 5 (quote).
18. Tyler-McGraw, An African Republic, 6.
19. Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013), 247–48.
20. Russell W. Irvine, The African American Quest for Institutions of Higher Education Before the Civil War: The Forgotten Histories of the Ashmun Institute, Liberia College, and Avery College (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen press, 2010), 4–6.
21. Ibid., 3–12.
22. Martin Robison Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1852), 122. Delany mistakenly identifies Freeman’s alma mater as “Rutland College, in Vermont.”
23. Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 71–99; Irvine, African American Quest, 304, 354–55.
24. David Bain, College on the Hill: A Browser’s History for the Bicentennial, Middlebury College, 1800–2000 (Middlebury, Vt.: Middlebury College Press, 1999), 12.
25. David Stameshkin, The Town’s College: Middlebury College, 1800–1915 (Middlebury, Vt.: Middlebury College Press, 1985), 74.
26. Ibid., 72, 31–35, 90–91.
27. Ibid., 36–67, 77–80, 84, 299n41, 126–28; Irvine, African American Quest, 106, 70.
28. Stameshkin, Town’s College, 128.
29. Ibid., 128–30.
30. Ibid., 131–43.
31. William G. McLaughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607–1977 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 98–140.
32. Bain, College on the Hill, 28.
33. National Standard, August 22, 1826, 3 (microfilm), Ilsley Public Library, Middlebury, Vt. Vermont was one of fourteen states—nine northern, five southern—to organize auxiliary societies to the ACS at this time.
34. Middlebury Free Press, May 5, 1834, 2, and April 21, 1834, 1, CHSMVH.
35. Middlebury Free Press, May 26, 1834, 2, and May 12, 1834, 1, CHSMVH.
36. Middlebury Free Press, May 12, 1834, 1, and July 21, 1834, 3, CHSMVH.
37. Middlebury People’s Press, July 19, 1843, 2, CHSMVH.
39. Randolph Roth, “Can Faith Change the World? Religion and Society in Vermont’s Age of Reform,” Vermont History 69 (2001): 7.
40. “Philomathesian Society Journal, Division the First, Vol. 5, 1829–1846,” MC Archives.
41. Edward Merrill to John W. Steward, July 1846, CHSMVH.
42. Northern Galaxy, September 23, 1845, 2, Freeman Papers.
43. Ibid.; Northern Galaxy, October 7, 1845, 3, Freeman Papers.
44. Northern Galaxy, September 23, 1845, 2, and October 7, 1845, 3, Freeman Papers. George Boardman, Middlebury class of 1847, professor of rhetoric and English (1853–59), and a trustee (1868–93), while paying homage to Labaree during the centennial celebrations in 1900, called the whole affair of enrolling black youths at Middlebury in the 1840s “someone’s imagination.” See George N. Boardman, “Doctor George N. Boardman’s Speech,” in A Record of the Centennial Anniversary of Middlebury College (University Press, 1901), 259.
45. Northern Galaxy, September 23, 1845, 2, Freeman Papers. Ironically, the editors printed in this same issue, adjacent to the story detailing Labaree’s troubles, a story that began: “Nothing can be more intolerant, and we dare say unscriptural, than to withhold christian fellowship from a man on the sole ground of his being a slave holder.” Many Americans at this time shared this bifurcated sentiment. Middlebury College awarded Lemuel Haynes, William’s biracial father, an honorary degree in 1804 while he pastored at the West Rutland Congregational Church. Edgar J. Wiley, comp., Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and Others Who Have Received Degrees, 1800–1927 (Middlebury, Vt.: Middlebury College, 1928), 75, 101, 178, 713, MC Archives; Bain, College on the Hill, 56–57, 95.
46. History of Rutland County, 366–68.
47. “Biography of Freeman,” Rutland Herald, September 30, 1996; Marvel G. Swan and Donald P. Swan, comps., and Dawn D. Hance, ed., Early Families of Rutland, Vt. (Rutland, Vt.: Rutland Historical Society, 1990), 142–44; Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 71.
48. Sources disagree over the names of Freeman’s parents. Some say his parents’ names were Charles and Patience. Others offer that his father’s name was Pearson Toussaint Freeman, named perhaps after the Haitian revolutionary. See Early Families of Rutland, Vt., 142–144.
49. M. Freeman, “The Educational Wants of the Free Colored People,” Anglo-American Magazine, April 1859, Freeman Papers.
50. M. H. Freeman to Mrs. Charlotte Chaffee, August 22, 1883, Freeman Papers.
51. Middlebury Register, October 14, 1863, 2, CHSMVH; The Undergraduate (Middlebury College) 24, no. 1 (October 1898): 1, MC Archives; obituary, The Undergraduate 20, no. 7 (May 1895): 102, MC Archives. Rankin believed that this embarrassing moment took place in August 1844, but Freeman enrolled in August 1845. For Rankin’s standing as a sophomore in 1845-46, see The Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Middlebury College for the Academic Year 1844–1845, with the Course of Study (Troy, N.Y.: Press of Kneeland & Co., 1844) 8, which lists Rankin as a member of the freshman class.
52. Northern Galaxy, October 21, 1845, 3, Freeman Papers.
53. The Undergraduate 20, no. 7 (May 1895): 102, MC Archives.
54. James J. H. Gregory to President J. W. Thomas, October 27, 1908, Freeman Papers; Freeman to Chaffee, August 22, 1883.
55. M. H. [Freeman] to Rev. Joseph Tracy, October 23, 1863, Freeman Papers, photocopy of original at MHS; Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 72. Fourteen years after graduation, Freeman still had yet to fully repay Labaree. Rev. Benjamin Labaree, A Sermon on the Death of General Harrison, Delivered in Middlebury, Vermont, on the Day of the National Fast (Middlebury, Vt.: E. Maxham, 1841), MC Archives.
56. Address of Rev. Benjamin Labaree, D.D., Late President of Middlebury College, from “51st Annual Report of the American Colonization Society,” January 21, 1868, 37–42, MC Archives; Wilson A. Farnsworth, Personal Reminiscences, 1822–1844 (printed by their children, 1902, the golden wedding anniversary of Dr. and Mrs. Farnsworth), MC Archives.
57. Labaree address, January 21, 1868.
58. B. Labaree to Rev. F. Butler, September 15, 1863, Freeman Papers, photocopy of original at MHS.
59. Labaree address, January 21, 1868; Middlebury Register, October 14, 1863, 2, CHSMVH; National Era (East Poultney), July 30, 1849, Freeman Papers; Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 91; Middlebury Galaxy, July 31, 1849, 2, SCHSMVH. Many thanks to Jane Chaplin, professor of classics, Middlebury College, for help with the Latin translation.
60. Labaree address, January 21, 1868, 39.
61. Russell W. Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman of Rutland: America’s First Black College Professor and Pioneering Black Social Activist,” Rutland Historical Society Quarterly XXVI (no. 3) (1996): 79–81; “Departure of Emigrants,” The African Repository 1864, vol. 40 (no. 11) 314. Irvine cites the son’s name as “Edwin P.” while the African Repository identifies him as “John P.” The Records of the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association lists the son’s name as “Edward.”
62. Ibid.; Bernard Morris, “Avery College—Symbol Worth Preserving,” Carnegie Magazine (January 1969): 21–24; Saul Sack, History of Higher Education in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1963), 1:167–69; Wm Coppinger to Rev. Joseph Tracy, September 3, 1862, Papers of Martin Freeman, MC Archives, photocopy of original at MHS.
63. Larabee address, January 21, 1868, 39.
64. Letter cited in Rutland Herald, October 31, 1996, Freeman Papers.
65. Middlebury Register, October 21, 1863, 2, CHSMVH.
66. Forty-Sixth Annual Report of the American Colonization Society, with Proceedings of the Annual Meeting and of the Board of Directors (January 20, 1863), 6. The Trustees for Donations for Education in Liberia, a Boston-based philanthropic group whose members were also members of the Massachusetts Colonization Society, managed the fiscal and academic needs of Liberia College. Reverend Joseph Tracy, the secretary of the MCS between 1842 and his death in 1874, was the go-between between the two organizations.
67. Freeman to Tracy, November 7, 1863, Freeman Papers, photocopy of original at MHS.
68. In Auxiliary State Colonization Societies 39, no. 11 (1863), MC Archives; National Intelligencer, September 23, 1864, Freeman Papers.
69. M. H. Freeman to Rev. Sir [Tracy?], August 9, 1867, Freeman Papers; African Repository 40, no. 2 (February 1864): 37; Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 95.
70. M. H. Freeman to Rev. J. Tracy, October 17, 1867, Papers of Martin Freeman, MC Archives, photocopy of original at MHS; M. H. Freeman to Rev. J. Tracy, April 6, 1868, Papers of Martin Freeman, MC Archives, photocopy of original at MHS; Louisa E. Freeman to Rev. J. Tracy, May 25, 1869, Papers of Martin Freeman, MC Archives, photocopy of original at MHS; M. H. Freeman to Rev. J. Tracy, March 7, 1870, Papers of Martin Freeman, MC Archives, photocopy of original at MHS; Records of the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Assocation.
71. Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 95.
72. Freeman to Chaffee, August 2, 1880.
73. Irvine, “Martin H. Freeman,” 96; Records of the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association.
74. M. H. Freeman to Mr. Coppinger, Esq., July 14, 1863, Freeman Papers, photocopy of original at MHS; Martin H. Freeman to Rev. J. Tracy, January 30, 1864, Freeman Papers, photocopy of original at MHS; Freeman to Chaffee, August 2, 1880.