Postally used envelope sent from the Baltimore Association for the Moral & Educational Improvement of the Colored People to an African-American woman who had established a school in Royal Oak, Maryland
Postally used envelope sent from the Baltimore Association for the Moral & Educational Improvement of the Colored People to an African-American woman who had established a school in Royal Oak, Maryland

Postally used envelope sent from the Baltimore Association for the Moral & Educational Improvement of the Colored People to an African-American woman who had established a school in Royal Oak, Maryland

Baltimore: 1868. Unbound. This envelope measures 5.5” x 3”. It bears a hand-stamped corner card from the “Baltimore Association for the Moral & Educational Improvement of the Colored People,” and is addressed to Miss Rebecca Primus at Royal Oak, Maryland. It is franked with 3-cent Washington stamp (Scott #65) that was cancelled with a ‘fancy’ geometric cork handstamp. The circular postmark reads, “Baltimore / Mar / 13” and docketing on the reverse, presumably in Primus’s hand, reads “Recd Mar 19th / 1868.” No letter. The envelope is in nice shape. Very good. Item #009109

Soon after a new Maryland state constitution was ratified in November of 1864, a group of philanthropic white men created the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People. The group provided funds and teachers to establish nine “colored” primary schools in African-American neighborhoods starting with one at the African Baptist Church at Calvert and Saratoga Streets which opened in January of 1865. In 1867, the schools were transferred to the city and became the foundation of Baltimore’s African-American school system, and by the summer of 1868, about 1,100 students were enrolled. Although, African-American leaders requested that city hire black teachers for these schools, the school board refused employ any until 1889. (See Bronson’s History of the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People, onlne.)

That makes this cover addressed to Rebecca Primus especially interesting as she was a free-born African-American woman who came from a well-to-do middle class family in Hartford, Connecticut. During Reconstruction, Primus was sent south by the Hartford Freemen’s Aid Society to teach newly freed slaves in Maryland and it is unclear whether the school she is said to have established in Royal Oak was part of the Baltimore Association’s network. The relationship between the Association and Primus is certainly worthy of further research.

Additionally, over the past 25 years, Primus and her relationship with a domestic African-American servant, Addie Brown, who had been employed by her parents, has become a matter of intense interest among both Black Studies and Gender Studies academics. In 1994, a large cache of letters between the two women was discovered that revealed a long-lasting and intense romantic relationship between them. Although romantic content, not necessarily evidencing homosexuality, was commonly found in correspondence between 19th century white women, this was the first and only record of similar feelings being expressed between women of color. Further, some contend that the letters’ content strongly suggests the relationship was erotic as well as romantic and that “naked bosom” contact between Primus and Brown was of special importance to both. For further information see Hansen’s "‘No Kisses Is Like Youres’: An Erotic Friendship between African-American Women During the Mid-Nineteenth Century" in Gender and History 7. 2 (1995): 153-182, and Griffin’s Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends.

A scarce and desirable philatelic record of a noteworthy free-born African-American woman who devoted much of her adult life to educating former slaves. Quite scarce. Small collections of correspondence sent to Primus are held at Harvard University and the Connecticut Historical Society. No similar material is currently for sale in the trade. Rare Book Hub auction results show that a 41-piece collection of correspondence sent to Primus was sold for $45,000 in 2017.

Price: $600.00

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