Middlebury College Houses a Vast Archive of Abolitionist Letters
Filed in African-American History on September 23, 2015
The Davis Library at Middlebury College in Vermont had received an archive of the Robinson family letters dating from 1757 to 1962. The archive, which includes more than 15,000 letters, is on extended loan from the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, while the college works to preserve the archive.
The archive contains the letters of four generations of the Robinson family. Rowland Thomas Robinson and Rachel Gilpin Robinson were devout Quakers who married in 1820. They were among the earliest abolitionists in the state of Vermont. They avoided any goods that were produced as a result of slave labor and sheltered escape slaves at their farm in Vermont. Some of the letters in the collection are correspondence the Robinsons had with slave owners in the South seeking to purchase the freedom of escaped slaves who were living on the Robinson family’s farm where they raised sheep and tendered to apple and pear orchards.
Will Nash, a professor of American studies at Middlebury College is using the archives in his course “Reading Slavery and Abolition.” He says that the archive brings “students closer to the anti-slavery struggle than most published texts do, because of their personal nature and their close geographic link to Middlebury.”