Frederick Douglass in Skaneateles

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) an escaped slave who became an author, orator and tireless worker for the abolition of slavery, visited Skaneateles on at least three occasions, in 1845, 1849 and 1856. He had a close relationship with James Canning Fuller, an ardent Quaker abolitionist whose home on Genesee Street was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and with Miss Hannah Fuller, organizer of the Skaneateles Ladies Anti-Slavery Society.

In April of 1849, after speaking at the Methodist church, Douglass wrote of the different receptions he received on his first and second visits:

“Skaneateles has greatly improved in tone, on the subject of Slavery, since I visited that town, four years ago. It had the appearance of a real slave-holding town, in which the black man could not enter, without being assailed by thoughtless boys, and brutal young men, who seemed to take delight in manifesting disrespect and contempt, for what in sheer rudeness they called a nigger.

“We passed through the village this time without meeting any of the usual marks of semi-barbarism that formerly distinguished that town. Much of this change was wrought by that fast, faithful and noble friend of the slave, now gone to his rest, James Canning Fuller, who in early anti-slavery times was several times mobbed on account of his abolition principles and practice… It was sad to be there without his presence to cheer and encourage me in the good work to which he was devoted, yet I was grateful to perceive that what he achieved lived after him.”

Of Douglass’ 1856 visit, William Lawrence White (who sent letters to the Skaneateles Democrat in 1910 and 1911) wrote, “In the Fremont and Dayton campaign of 1856, Frederick Douglass, engaged in stumping the State in the interest of the newly formed Republican party, made this house his three day’s stay in Skaneateles. Mr. Fuller’s daughter, Miss Hannah, a very handsome and attractive woman, caused considerable comment by walking through the business portion of the town arm and arm with the burly black man.”

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