Document 12A: Marianne Parker Dascomb to Reverend George Whipple, 19 September 1865, Ellen Lawson and Marlene D. Merrill Papers, Record Group 30/157, Box 1, Oberlin College Archives (Photocopies of Original Letters in American Missionary Association Records).

Introduction

       Like many Oberlin College women, especially African-American women, Louisa Alexander, who earned a degree from the Ladies Course in 1856, sought to teach among the freed people in the post-Civil War south. She contacted the American Missionary Association (A.M.A.), one of the major sources of teachers for the newly established schools, and an organization with close ties to Oberlin College. Alexander, whose mother had moved to Oberlin to supervise the education of Louisa and her two sisters, planned to go to Charleston, South Carolina, with fellow Oberlinian Amanda Thomas Wall, whose husband, Captain O.S.B. Wall, was serving in the post-war government in Charleston. In particular, the two intended to teach at the newly-founded Avery Institute, the first secondary school for African-American children in Charleston. Its director, Francis L. Cardozo, was a native of the city, born in 1837 to a white father and his slave. Educated in the North and abroad, Cardozo became an important political figure in Reconstruction South Carolina. The first letter provides a character reference for Louisa Alexander, while also underscoring the personal connections between Oberlinians and the executives of the American Missionary Association; the second letter communicates Louisa Alexander's eagerness to leave for Charleston (see Document 12B). The last letter, evidently written to Samuel Hunt, the A.M.A. Superintendent of Education, hints at misunderstandings over race, education, and the placement of A.M.A. teachers (see Document 12C).

 

Oberlin Sept. 19th/65

Rev. G. Whipple[A],

        Miss L. Alexander desires testimonials to you from me, I am happy in giving them, for in the many years I have known her as a pupil and a citizen of this place, I have never known any thing but good. Her deportment has always been correct, dignified, discreet, her spirit chastened, and docile and sweet free from the suspicion and sharpness that the oppressions of her people have been calculated to engender. She is a good scholar, has taught many terms, and with success, as I have supposed. She is not a member of the Church, but thinks she was converted about 5 years ago. Her mother is a member of the First Cong. Church in Oberlin. I think Miss A. would be a desirable addition to your corp of teachers among the Freedmen.

Yours truly,

[signed] M.P. Dascomb[B]

[continued in margin] Mrs. M.P. Dascomb Sept 19 65 Oberlin O testimonial for Mi/s L. Alexander [crossed out at bottom of page] Business apart, let me say that I do not like this kind of a life we in Oberlin are living not hearing from you and Mrs. Whipple at all, except official notices through the papers, or public meetings. Why can not Mrs. write us, if you, as I suppose, are too busy in your great life work: I wrote her soon after her sad letter containing the notice of dear Mary's death. Our dear Mary left us Sept 8th for Vassar Coll. on the Hudson, where she had an appointment as assistant teacher. The school opens tomorrow. Will not Mrs. W. write her? I hope the situation will be favorable for M.L. that she will be useful and happy. With much love to you all. M.P.D. Anne is recovering from a slight attack of fever.

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A. George Whipple (1805-1876) received a degree from the Theology Department at Oberlin in 1836 and later served as Principal of the Preparatory Department and as Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He left Oberlin in 1847 to become Corresponding Secretary of the American Missionary Association.
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B. Marianne Parker Dascomb (1810-79), Principal of the Oberlin's Female Department, 1835-36 and 1852-70, served on the Women's Board of Managers, 1836-79, and was married to James Dascomb, a practicing physician who also taught science at Oberlin.
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