Sumner/Longfellow friendship examined at Houghton Library

2 min read

Park rangers Ryan McNabb, Rob Velella and Rick Jenkins recently presented “The Tender Heart and Brave: The Politics and Friendship of Charles Sumner and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow” in Houghton Library’s Edison and Newman Room. McNabb serves with the Boston African American National Historic Site; Velella and Jenkins with the Longfellow House.

“[At Longfellow House] we realized that Sumner was the most frequent visitor to the Longfellow House — and through their letters, speeches, journal entries, and Longfellow’s poetry, we were also able to prove Longfellow’s dedication to the abolitionist movement,” Velella said. The majority of the materials for the reading came from the Houghton collection.

“The purpose of ‘The Tender Heart and Brave’ is to show, rather than tell, that these two men had a close personal friendship and similar concerns about the social/political world of the period, using their own words to prove it,” Velella concluded. “The readings can be somewhat intense. We often expect people to cry.”

The reading at Houghton was in conjunction with a seminar McNabb co-taught at Harvard with Professor John Stauffer. The course’s culminating project is the Houghton exhibition, “Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery,” which is on display through Aug. 23.

“I am most grateful to Professor Stauffer for inviting his students to delve deeply into the library’s rich Civil War-era collections as part of their course work, and for establishing a partnership between the library and the National Park Service,” said Peter X. Accardo, coordinator of programs at Houghton.