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New Light on Sarah Mapps Douglass and Her Reconciliation with Friends
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New Light on Sarah Mapps Douglass and Her Reconciliation with Friends Margaret Hope Bacon* Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806-1882) is well known as an AfricanAmerican Quaker ofthe nineteenth century, an educator, abolitionist, and close friend ofSarah and Angelina Grimké, anti-slavery sisters from North Carolina. Encouraged by the Grimkés, she was the first African-American to protestpublicly racial discrimination in the Religious Society ofFriends. Toward the end ofher life she destroyed her personal correspondence, and most of the scholarly writing about her and her protest has rested on her letters to and from the Grimké sisters, which were preserved.1 Recently, however, a substantial number of Sarah Douglass's letters came to light when the papers of two Philadelphia sisters, Rebecca White and Hannah White Richardson, were catalogued in the Josiah White Collection at the Quaker Collection, Haverford College. These letters, extending from 1 854 to Douglass's death in 1 882, shed light not only on her life over a span ofalmost thirty years, but also about her reconciliation with the Religious Society of Friends in this period. Because of current interest in racism in the Society of Friends, its seems important to publish these additional letters.2 Sarah Douglass's attachment to the Society ofFriends went back to her grandfather, Cyrus Bustill (1732-1806). A son of Samuel Bustill, a Burlington, New Jersey lawyer, and his female slave, Cyrus was bought by Thomas Prior, a baker and a Friend, who taught Cyrus the baking trade and, after sevenyears, freedhim. Bustill had attendedmeeting with Prior andhad come to dress and speak as a Friend. Having set up his own bakery in Burlington, he baked bread for the Revolutionary Army. After the war he moved to Philadelphia, establishing his bakery at 56 Arch Street between Second and Third Streets. Here he attended Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. Retiring from his business in 1 803, he built a house at Third and Green, and taught a school which was for a time supported by the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.3 Prior to the Revolutionary War, Cyrus Bustill married Elizabeth Morey, daughter of Richard Morey and of a Delaware Indian woman named Satterwait, who had been a maid in the household ofQuakerNicholas Wain before her marriage, and had also attended meeting with the Wain family. * Margaret Hope Bacon is a Philadelphia lecturer and author of twelve books of history and biography, many of them pertaining to the role of women in the Religious Society of Friends. She received an Honorary Doctorate in Human Letters from Swarthmore College, and was awarded two post graduate fellowships at Haverford College. She worked for twenty-two years for the American Friends Service Committee. New Light on Sarah Mapps Douglass29 The couple had eight children, ofwhom Grace Bustill (1782-1 842) mother ofSarah, was the fifth. Grace grew up as a Friend, attending meeting with herparents atthe oldNorthMeeting, atKey's Alley. Shebecame amilliner, conducting her business at 56 Arch Street. In 1803 she married Robert Douglass, a hairdresser, whose business was next door at 54 Arch Street. In addition to giving birth to six children, Grace operated a school, and was a founding member ofthe Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.4 Sarah Douglass in consequence grew up in an educated, middle class family. Most of her Bustill relatives attended Quaker meeting, used the Quaker language, and wore Quaker clothing. With her mother, Grace Douglass, Sarah herselfattended Quaker meeting, either at Arch Street, or North Meeting. While her children were young, Grace thought ofbecoming a member of the Society of Friends so that her children could enjoy a religiously guarded education, butwas warned in kindly fashionby aFriend not to apply, because she would only get her feelings hurt.5 Educatedbriefly at a school runby a Quaker, ArthurDonaldson, on Front Street from 1 809 to 1 8 13, and later at a school organized by her mother and sailmaker James Forren in 1819, Sarah Douglass herselfbecame a teacher in 1825. She taught at first at her mother's school, then in 1833 she went to New York to teach at the Free African School for Girls for several years. Returning to Philadelphia, she organized her own school for girls on 7th...