The papers of Esther W. Douglass contain outgoing correspondence and a bound volume containing her life reminiscences written for a family member. They detail her work as a teacher and missionary with the American Missionary Association from 1865 to 1895 in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The correspondence consists of nine letters and fragments of seven additional letters written by Douglass while in Oaks, North Carolina. Most are addressed to "Dear Friends" and were likely written to the American Missionary Association (AMA) office in New York; the bound volume (p. 56) mentions a monthly letter written by Doulgass that was sent to the New York office for circulation. The letters are typescripts or photostatic copies of letters. In the letters, Douglass describes her missionary and teaching efforts and the need for supplies for a "school house church" built by the AMA. She writes of the interest in education by local African Americans, but her difficulties in getting children to attend school when they are needed by their families to tend fields and livestock. Douglass's interest in temperance issues, Christmas celebrations and services, as well as brief mentions of services at various churches visited by her in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Melville, and Cedar Cliff are discussed in the letters, as well.
The bound volume housed with the letters contains Douglass's life reminiscences written for her grand-nephew, Henry Carter Adams II, circa 1909. The volume begins with her statement that she is fulfilling a promise to her brother to "write a sketch of my life." Douglass's memories center on her work with the American Missionary Association beginning with a position near Hampton, Viriginia, in 1865. By October of that year, she taught near Oquchee, Georgia, and describes the local landscape and plantations and their devastation following the Civil War, as well as her work among the Freedmen population. In early 1867, Douglass was sent to Daufuskie Island, off the coast of South Carolina, before working in Tennessee, near Union Hill and at Fisk University in Nashville. From 1871-1879, Douglass taught near McLeansville, North Carolina. During this time she describes the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in the area. In the Fall of 1880, she was sent to Liberty County, Georgia, where she was to be the missionary at three stations - Millers Station, Golding's Grove, and Cypress Slash. From 1885 to 1895, Doulgass taught near Oaks, North Carolina.
One additional item accompanies the papers. It is a four page article written by Douglass entitled "The Country Aspect of the Work" from an unknown source.