Norman Dann, an author of many books about Oswego Public Library benefactor Gerrit Smith, will talk at the library at 6 p.m. Nov. 6.
Dann lives in Peterboro in Madison County on the Gerrit Smith Estate and is the author of “Practical Dreamer: Gerrit Smith & the Crusade for Social Reform” and “When We Get to Heaven: Runaway Slaves on the Road to Peterboro.”
His latest book is “Cousins of Reform: Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Gerrit Smith.”
Gerrit Smith was known worldwide as a compassionate, generous and empathetic man who tirelessly pursued a better world for all.
In 1853, Smith began the Oswego City Library with a letter to prominent Oswego citizens promising $25,000 for the building and collection. These men became the first board of trustees and opened our “castle on the hill” in the spring of 1857 where we still serve Oswego today.
According to the National Abolitionist Hall of Fame and Museum, “Much of Smith’s philanthropy concentrated on liberating slaves. He complemented individuals’ efforts to buy freedom. He purchased individuals and families directly from slaveholders. He sent agents into the south to negotiate financial terms for freedom.”
“Smith was criticized by some of his colleagues for giving funds directly to individual persons as opposed to donating larger sums to organizations and societies with missions.
“Smith gave money to the abolitionists for traveling expenses and publications. By the mid 1840s, Smith had contributed over fifty thousand dollars (equivalent to five million dollars in 2002) to the antislavery movement.”
First cousins Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Gerrit Smith radically changed the social landscape of America in the 1800s. Elizabeth spent her summers at Gerrit’s estate in Peterboro learning of social reforms and meeting the reformers.
Here she met her future husband, abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton, and here he proposed marriage. Discussions with her elder cousin Gerrit “about the nature of reform and the social and political implications of gender, sex, race, and religion helped each to refine their causes,” says GerritSmith.org.
Dann is professor emeritus Morrisville State College, a founder and member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, a Steward of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro, a member of the Madison County Historical Society and treasurer of the Peterboro Area Museum.