GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS (February 24, 1824 – August 31, 1892) was born in Providence, Rhode Island and was a prolific writer, public speaker who spoke in favor of African-American equality and civil rights and was said to have been involved in the Underground Railroad. He married Anna Shaw at the Unitarian Church of the Redeemer in 1856. Curtis also advocated for the rights of Native Americans and women’s suffrage. The Underground Railroad was largely in use during his time and it is believed that the Curtises and Shaws were deeply involved. Curtis was targeted by Southern sympathizers and, during the riots of 1863, Anna and her three sisters left Staten Island temporarily for the safety of her grandparents’ home in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Slave ownership was massive in Rhode Island, dating back to the period before, during and long after the Revolutionary War. The abolitionist movement was widespread as well. To protect themselves, men and women who operated the Underground Railroad destroyed physical evidence of their work as they operated in defiance of the established order. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, abolitionists faced fines of $1,000 and six months in jail if caught harboring fugitives.
Offering a diminutive autograph note signed by Curtis, 4 x 5 ¼, on West New Brighton, Staten Island, New York stationary, May 26, 1875, to Mr. Gage, “With great pleasure, truly yours, George William Curtis,” apparently offering his autograph.
Some ghosting occurring from being previously placed in an album. Adhesive residue on verso from having been attached to a page. A corner chip to the left corner, affecting nothing. Very readable and a fine example of someone deeply involved in the abolitionist movement.
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