Abraham Lincoln letters feature in $8,000 George T Downing collection

September 16 will see the correspondence collection of abolitionist George T Downing sold, featuring letters from Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and other prominent civil rights activists.

Abraham Lincoln letter
The collection has a modest estimate given auction precedents

George T Downing was a successful businessman born to a prominent New York African-American family in 1819. While owning a restaurant that catered for some of most influential politicians and aristocrats of the day, his true legacy lies in his civil rights activism and compassion for human rights.  

Downing had involvement with the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by black slaves in the US to escape to the free states and Canada. Assisting in several slave rescues using the Railroad, Downing then moved on to his attempts to integrate the public schools of Newport, Providence and Bristol, Rhode Island.

He also helped form the Coloured National Labor Union in 1869, following the National Labor Union's refusal to compromise with black workers. He was also a fierce opposer to the American Colonisation Society's attempts to convince freed black slaves to migrate to Liberia.

The collection of 20 letters documents Downing's struggle for equal rights in civil war-era America and his unremitting advocacy of those values. With a letter and photograph of Abraham Lincoln dated 1862 as the highlight, his correspondence will sell with a $6,000-8,000 estimate on September 16.

Paul Fraser Collectibles considers this a modest estimate, given that a single Abraham Lincoln letter brought $11,000 to a US auction back in July.

Paul Fraser Collectibles is currently offering a truly unique Abraham Lincoln collectible - wallpaper taken from the bedroom of the only home he ever owned.  


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