Emigration and Imagination: Boston's Connection with Haiti


John Rock (1825-1866) Autograph letter, signed, to Wendell Phillips, September, 1859.

Rock was a black lawyer, dentist, and abolitionist who resided in Boston. In this letter he asks for the return of a history of Haiti that he had lent to his friend, the abolitionist orator Wendell Phillips. Throughout the 1850s he was actively engaged in the Boston abolitionist movement; some of his speeches were reprinted in The Liberator. Shortly after the passage of the 13th Amendment, Rock became the first African-American to be admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court. This letter is displayed with a striking cabinet card of Phillips.

Letter: bMS Am 1953 (1062) – Gift of Crawford Blagden, 1978. Photograph: bpfMS Am 1569.8 Box 17a - Gift of Eliot C. Clarke, 1968.