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The Choicest Spirits

Frederick Douglass

The Choicest Spirits

Comparing the ideas of Frederick Douglass with the larger NAEI community consensus

The Northampton Association of Education and Industry closed in 1846. Yet most members of the community continued their work as radical abolitionists.

This brings up some interesting questions:

  • How well did the actions of the Association reflect its ideals?
  • How did its beliefs and methods compare with other prominent abolitionists?


The Assignment

  1. Read Frederick Douglass’s Independence Day Speech at Rochester, New York. (1852).
  2. Compare the goals and methods of the Association with the argument Douglass makes.
  3. Would members of the Association have applauded his speech? Would they argue with Douglass?


Alternative Assignment

Write a newspaper article for the Northampton Gazette in 1900 taking a position on the legacy of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry:
1) Argue whether your think the Association succeeded or failed.
2) Justify your position by citing the primary sources listed below (at least three different documents).
3) Explain what each piece of evidence that you cite tells us and why it is important to your argument.



  1. What was life like for Free African-Americans before 1850 and after 1850?
  2. What happened in 1850 that changed the lives of free African-Americans in Northampton?
  3. Why did it happen?
  4. Who caused the change?
  5. Explain how this change at the national level affected African-Americans in Northampton and cite at least three primary sources


Write an article for the Northampton Gazette in 1900 comparing the silk industry in Florence with the cotton textiles industry in Lowell Massachusetts.

The following materials are spread throughout this site. The  exhibit home page is one good place to begin to explore them. Click on the “Sources” page in particular.

  • Articles from Northampton Gazette
  • Stetson Letters
  • Books
  • Northampton Association Records
  • Images

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