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COLLECTION Identifier: A/P9537

Papers of Rebecca Primus, 1854-1872


Letters to African American educator Rebecca Primus from family and friends regarding daily activities, health, and community events, and discussing local race relations and prejudice among whites.


  • 1854-1872


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. The papers created by Rebecca Primus are in the public domain. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2 folders

The collection contains letters addressed to Rebecca Primus primarily from her friends and family located in Connecticut, Maine, and Maryland. Letters discuss daily activities, health and sickness, community events, the lack of entertainment opportunities for people of color, and prejudice among whites toward people of color. Of note is a letter from her friend Eliza of Springfield, Connecticut, noting that Frederick Douglass would be giving a lecture following the Dred Scott decision. Also includes letters from Primus's eventual husband Charles Thomas who boarded with the family, an unattributed six-stanza poem, and a paycheck from Royal Oak school to Primus for 20 dollars.


Rebecca Primus, an African American educator and member of the Hartford Freedmen's Aid Society, was the eldest of four children in the free Black family of Holdridge and Mehitable "Hettie" Primus in Hartford, Connecticut. Her paternal grandfather was an enslaved African who won his freedom by fighting with the American army during the Revolutionary War. Primus traveled to Royal Oak, Maryland, toward the end of the Civil War to teach newly liberated Black people. A collection of her correspondence with friends was previously published in the book Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854-1868 by Farah Jasmine Griffin (1999).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2017-M110

The papers of Rebecca Primus were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Swann Galleries in March 2017.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Connecticut Historical Society; see Primus Family Papers, 1853-1924 (Ms 44012).

Processing Information

Processed: July 2017

By: Anne Englehart and Jehan Sinclair

Updated and additional description added: March 2023

By: Paula Aloisio

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Primus, Rebecca, 1836-1932. Papers of Rebecca Primus, 1854-1872: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Pforzheimer Fund for the Schlesinger Library and Class of 1957 Schlesinger Library Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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