My Hero: A Letter to Charles Sumner

November 2, 2021

Mount Auburn’s landscape is cherished as a place to console, to heal, and to inspire. A letter recently left at the grave of U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (1811-1874) speaks to this incredible power of place. We share this touching tribute to Senator Sumner below, with permission from its author.


Dear Senator Sumner,

My name is Isabelle, and you’re my hero. Right now it’s the year 2021. I learned about you through my history class, and I’ve never been the same. Before you, I wanted to go into law, but for all the wrong reasons. I thought all that mattered was making money, but I was wrong. Your life and career inspired me beyond any dreams of material success. You were so passionate about furthering the rights of African Americans that you were nearly fatally injured… how many people can say that? Your time as an abolitionist and subsequently a civil rights leader made me realize that I can put my oratory talents (much like your own) to a meaningful use in the America I’m living in. The truth is, things still aren’t great here in the 21st century: voting rights are still being restricted by the South, and hate crimes are still being committed against Black Americans. Still, the influence you had on civil rights has not gone unnoticed: your civil rights bill was passed then unfortunately repealed, but a similar version was passed in the 1960s. People have finally begun to think the way you did in your time, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure you get your recognition. I’m actually known for being your biggest fan by my friends and family, and I’ll tell your story to everyone I know. Historians have continued to write about you, and I will do everything I can to keep up your legacy as well. I’ve just started studying at Amherst College, where I hope to get a degree in American History along with Law. I’m pursuing this in your spirit; that of using my principle and power to uplift others. I am so grateful to have known you, even if it was over 100 years apart. I hope you are resting in peace with the knowledge that your dreams for your country are being fought for to this very day.

Sincerely,

Isabelle Anderson, 10/11/2021


Isabelle Anderson is a Freshman at Amherst College. Learning about the life and legacy of Senator Charles Sumner while a high school student in Virginia has inspired her choice of study in college and her professional aspirations. “In publicizing my letter, my biggest hope is to remind people, especially those of my generation, that history is so incredibly important to keep studying,” says Anderson. “Charles Sumner and his work are a critical part of our country’s history that I’m proud to be a part of keeping alive.”


U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (1811 – 1874) was one of the most influential leaders of the abolitionist movement. In 1856, he was nearly beaten to death by one of his southern colleagues after Sumner delivered a fiery anti-slavery speech in the Senate. The event contributed to the start of the Civil War. During the war, Sumner used his considerable skill as a diplomat to prevent France from siding with the Confederacy. After the war, Sumner tried to ensure equal rights for African Americans.  Charles Sumner is buried in Lot 2447 on Arethusa Path.


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