The September 8, 1848 issue of the North Star, an antislavery newspaper published in Rochester, New York by Frederick Douglass. The paper is printed with black text on yellowed newsprint. The masthead reads [THE NORTH STAR. / RIGHT IS OF NO SEX-TRUTH IS OF NO COLOR-GOD IS THE FATHER OF US ALL, AND ALL WE ARE BRETHREN. / ROCHESTER, N. Y., FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1848.] On the left side of the masthead is [FREDERICK DOUGLASS, / M. R. DELANY, / EDITORS / VOL. 1. NO. 37.] Printed on the right side of the masthead is [JOHN DICK, PUBLISHER / WHOLE NO.-37.]. The main text is organized into seven columns of small print. At the top of the column on the far left, above the publisher's notices and list of agents, is printed: [The object of the NORTH STAR will be to attack SLAVERY in all its forms and aspects; advocate UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION; exalt the standard of PUBLIC MORALITY; promote the moral and intellectual improvement of the COLORED PEOPLE; and hasten the day of FREEDOM to the THREE MILLIONS of our ENSLAVED FELLOW COUNTRYMEN.] This issue contains several anti-slavery essays and letters, including a letter from Douglass to his previous enslaver Thomas Auld, titled [To My Old Master], as well as a critique of the Liberian colonization movement, news of the rebellion in Ireland, poetry, notices of anti-slavery society meetings around the region, and general advertisements.
A direct descendent of Elizabeth Hemings, John Freeman Shorter grew up in Washington, D.C. as a free man. By the spring of 1863, he was living in Ohio when he left for Boston to enlist in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. A white officer once described Shorter as “tall, of muscular build, … hair light, complexion almost white, and blue eyes, whose lively expression brightened a face otherwise somewhat grave.” Shorter became one of only two other fully-commissioned black officers in the 55th Massachusetts—“Three as worthy men as ever carried a gun,” declared the chaplain of the 55th. All three of these officers were connected to Monticello. Shorter was the only direct descendent of the enslaved at Monticello; the other two were connected through marriage.
As the historian of the regiment wrote, Shorter had “every soldierly quality, from scrupulous neatness to unflinching bravery. He well merited the reputation of the best non-commissioned officer in the regiment. As such, he was selected for the first promotion from the ranks.” However, the army would not formally muster or recognize them as officers because of the color of their skin. Finally in the summer of 1865, when the fighting had ceased, the three men were officially commissioned as officers.
African American soldiers in the Massachusetts regiments were promised equal treatment, including equal pay. However, the men received half of the pay that their white counterparts received. Shorter became a leading force in the fight for equal pay. To protest this pay inequality, the soldiers went without pay for a year and a half. In July 1864, the men reached out to the president himself. By October, they finally received full pay. In a celebration at their camp on Folly Island, Shorter spoke on behalf of the regiment, saying that it was their primary responsibility as men to “prove our fitness for liberty and citizenship, in the new order of things now arising in this, our native land.”
Three weeks after this victory, the soldiers took up arms in the Battle of Honey Hill (South Carolina, November 1864). In this battle, Shorter was wounded in the leg, but he refused to stop fighting. As one soldier wrote, “Sergt. Shorter is wounded in the knee, yet will not go to the rear.” In August 1865, Shorter was honorably discharged, returning to Ohio to marry his fiancé. Sadly, Shorter succumbed to small pox, dying shortly before arriving home.
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
A handwritten diary encased in a red leather cover with "Diary / 1865" embossed in gold lettering at top center surrounded by an ornate wreath. The diary is inscribed on the front endpaper in both pencil and ink. The diary begins with several printed pages including a page outlining eclipses that occurred in 1865, a calendar, a table of stamp duties and rates of postage. The diary entries were done predominantly in pencil. The diary begins on January 1, 1865 with the last entry occurring on September 30, 1865. The diary ends with a memorandum section and an accounts paid section. Both of these sections were used by Lieutenant John Freeman Shorter. A back pocket in the back of the diary contains two loose sheets of paper. One of the pieces of paper is a promotion certification for a second lieutenant in the 55th Massachusetts volunteer regiment. The document is written in ink. It is dated April 19, 1865. Additional notes are written in pencil on the other side of the document. The second piece of paper has a list of people’s names, dollar amounts and dates written on both sides in both ink and pencil.
The May 26, 1848 issue of the North Star, Volume 1, Number 22. The newspaper is one large sheet of paper that has been folded in half to create a four page spread. Each page is divided into seven columns of black text. On the front page mast head, large black text states [The North Star.] In the row below, the text on the far left reads [FREDERICK DOUGLASS / MR. DELANY, / EDITORS]. In the center, the text of the newspapers slogan reads, [RIGHT IS OF NO SEX - TRUTH IS OF NO COLOR- GOD IS THE FATHER OF US ALL, AND ALL WE ARE BROTHREN] The text on the right of the heading states, [WILLIAM C. NELL, PUBLISHER / JOHN DICK, PRINTER]. The third row has the printed text, [VOL I. NO. 22. / ROCHESTER, N.Y., FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1848. / WHOLE NO. - 22.]. Included on the second page in the second panel is the speech of Lucretia Mott at the American Anti-Slavery Society.