Autograph Letter Signed. 1 pg. To Hon. J.J.Morrell: “…As I expect to leave for Africa in the course of a week or two, I am anxious to learn if there is any probability of a sale being effected of the House and Lot previous to my departure…”
Written weeks before the start of the Civil War, this rare letter records the immigration of one of the first African-American Doctors in the United States to the new nation of Liberia, founded by freed American slaves on the west coast of Africa. Very rare. We could locate no Dunbar letter held by any American institution, nor any record of a Dunbar letter sold at auction in recent years.
Born free in New York in 1829, Dunbar was one of the first Black graduates of Bowdoin College, going on to attend Dartmouth Medical School. Very little is known about his practice in New York City in the 1850s, why he decided to leave the country for Africa, or why J.J.Morrell, apparently a Tammany Hall Democratic politician, was involved in the sale of his city property. But he subsequently appears in the history books because, the year before, when Dunbar, after first visiting Africa, returned to New York before ultimately settling in Liberia, famed African-American clergyman Alexander Crummell published a now-classic letter to Dunbar which sets forth, perhaps for the first time, the significant African heritage of Blacks in the United States. Crummell’s letter may have influenced Dunbar himself to return to Liberia, permanently, later that year, founding, before his death in Monrovia in 1878, one of the most distinguished “elite” families of the Liberian nation.