Boston's Crusade Against Slavery


Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) Manuscript letter (copy) to Samuel Gridley Howe, 9 August 1863.


Louis Agassiz, carte-de-visite.

Though many prominent Saturday Club members were abolitionists, Agassiz represented a strong opposition. He defined himself as antislavery, but regarded African Americans as innately inferior to whites and a blight on the nation. In this letter to fellow Club member Samuel Gridley Howe, he reveals his doubts about the viability of African Americans staying in the United States after their emancipation. Agassiz felt that the two races were "more widely different from one another then all the other races", and that mixing the two as equals would be "one of the most difficult problems upon the solution of which the welfare of our own race may in a measure depend." His ideology foreshadows many of the challenges that African Americans faced, and still face, to obtain equality in an emancipated country.

Letter: bMS Am 1419 (150) – Gift of George Agassiz and Maximilian Agassiz, 1942.

Photograph: Portrait file, A – No source, no date.