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South Berwick Couple Donating Historic Letter Penned By Booker T. Washington To Tuskegee, Alabama

Courtesy photo

An antique collector from South Berwick who came upon a historic letter written by Booker T. Washington is giving the letter to the town’s sister city of Tuskegee, Alabama.

The letter, addressed to a friend of Maine writer Sarah Orne Jewett, sought a contribution for what is now Tuskegee University.

Linda Becker, whose husband was given the letter, said he thought it should be returned to Tuskegee.

“Being myself, a 74-year-old emotional woman, I think I burst into tears,” she said with a laugh. “And I said, ‘Oh, that’s such a beautiful idea.’ It really is.”

Becker says the connection between the two communities is an antidote to a year of social and racial unrest.

“This feels like a little light in the darkness, what we’re doing with our sister city. And so this letter was almost like, reinforcing that with a big, gold, magic marker. This is where South Berwick was able to help make Tuskegee University happen for black students,” she says.

Credit Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Booker T. Washington's letter, found in South Berwick.

The Beckers had the letter framed, along with a message: “With love from the people of South Berwick to the people of Tuskegee, Alabama.”

The return of the letter will be acknowledged Friday in an online gathering of residents in both communities. The ceremony comes on the date that marks the 207th anniversary of South Berwick’s incorporation as a town, and the 140th anniversary of the signing of legislation in Alabama creating what later became Tuskegee University.

Becker says one copy will be displayed in Butler Chapel in Tuskegee and the original stored at the Tuskegee Institute Historic Site.

Correction: Booker T. Washington's letter was not found at the home of Sarah Orne Jewett but was addressed to her.