Sarah Mapps Douglass

Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806-1882) was born free into an affluent African American family in Philadelphia. Her parents, Grace Bustill Douglass and Robert Douglass Sr., were both abolitionists. Sarah Douglass was an educator, activist, abolitionist, and artist. She was first educated by private tutors and attended an independent black school in Philadelphia established by her mother and James Forten in 1819.1 She later attended Pennsylvania Medical University, which was extremely rare for an African American woman during the period. Sarah married anti-slavery advocate and minister William Douglass in 1855.2

Douglass began teaching in the early 1820s in New York and later returned to Philadelphia where she taught at her mother's school. In the mid-1820s, Douglass started her own school for Black women in the city. She was a member of The Gilbert Lyceum, a Black intellectual society founded by her brother Robert. In September 1831, she also helped establish the Female Literary Association, an intellectual group for Black women, and served as the organization's secretary.3 She was one of eighteen founding members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society along with her mother Grace, Sarah McCrummell, and three of James Forten's daughters.4 The Convention was the first national interracial anti-slavery conference for women in American history. Sarah Douglass also worked closely with the Grimke Sisters to combat segregation and racial prejudice.5

Douglass frequently travelled to New York to give academic lectures and also left behind a considerable number of written works. She wrote articles for various newspapers including The Anglo-African and The National Anti-Slavery Standard.6 She was particularly well known for exposing Quaker racism. Multiple historians have written articles about Sarah Douglass including Marie Lindhorst and Margaret Hope Bacon. Despite Sarah Douglass's significance to Quaker history, her voice rarely appears in scholarship examining the Society of Friends.


Submitted on 23 May 2013 by Michael Dickinson, graduate student at the University of Delaware. Researched for English 634, Spring 2013, taught by Professor P. Gabrielle Foreman.

Edited by Jake Alspaugh, ENGL 641, Spring 2016. Taught by P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware.


1] Barnes, "American Nation Biography," Humanities and Social Sciences Online; Levy, "Sarah Mapps Douglass: Voice From the Gaps."

[2] [3] Marie Lindhorst, "Politics in a Box: Sarah Mapps Douglass and the Female Literary Association, 1831-1833,"Pennsylvania History, 65, no. 3 (1998), 263; Valerie D. Levy, "Sarah Mapps Douglass: Voice From the Gaps," University of Minnesota, 2005, Link; Phil Lapsansky, "Afro-Americana: Meet the Dickersons," In Library Company of Philadelphia: 1993 Annual Report (Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1994), 18-21.

[4] Yvette Alex-Assensoh, "Grace Bustill Douglass (1782-1842)," in Notable Black Women: Book 2, Jessie Carney Smith ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1996), 156.

[5] Levy, "Sarah Mapps Douglass: Voice From the Gaps."

[6]Paula C. Barnes, "American Nation Biography: Sarah Mapps Douglass," Humanities and Social Sciences Online, 2003, Link; "Sarah M. Douglass," Link

[6] Barnes, "American Nation Biography: Sarah Mapps Douglass."