Press Release: Better World Books Donates Frederick Douglass First Edition to Enoch Pratt Free Library

Better World Books Makes Historic Donation of Frederick Douglass First Edition to Enoch Pratt Free Library

Mishawaka, IN, U.S.A—October 6, 2020—Better World Books, the world’s leading socially conscious online bookseller, gifted a priceless piece of iconic African American literature by donating a first edition pamphlet of the Frederick Douglass Oration Delivered at Corinthian Hall on July 5th, 1852, to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, forever preserving a quintessential piece of American oratorical history.  Almost 150 years ago, Douglass, the first African American to be nominated for president in the United States, spoke to an enraptured gathering of nearly six hundred people in Rochester, New York, delivering his insightful and indicting thoughts about slavery and racism in America.

In 2012, the irreplaceable first edition was provided to Better World Books through the Hartford Seminary, a non-denominational theological college in Connecticut. The famous oration is an original pamphlet print, provided in the first instance from the office of Douglass at the time of his pivotal speech in 1852, and rebound by Hartford Seminary.  Because of the historical import of the oration, and with few additional surviving copies, Better World Books sprang into action to not only preserve this lauded piece of American history, but more importantly, to secure a permanent home for the artifact that would allow its appreciation for many years to come.  The Enoch Pratt Free Library, fondly referred to as “The Pratt,” is home to The Eddie and Sylvia Brown African American Department that supports an already-impressive collection highlighting and preserving the history and culture of the African American community. The Douglass oration holds a notable significance for The Pratt, as Douglass was a Maryland native with a life-long dedication to learning and access to knowledge. “Once you learn to read,” as Douglass, who was born into slavery and taught himself to read, famously stated, “you will forever be free.”  The Pratt continues to embrace and support this profound sentiment and has Douglass’s perspicuous statement etched in stone adorning the library’s entryway.

Heidi Daniel, president and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, noted that “[Douglass] has a strong legacy here and is well studied and well researched. To be able to see this first edition up close and in person will be a benefit for our researchers from across the state.  This [Douglass] Oration will be right at home in our African American Department.”

Internet Archive, a mission-aligned, not-for-profit organization affiliated with long-time partner, Better World Books, upon learning of the gesture by Better World Books, immediately offered to digitize the invaluable Douglass oration, thereby preserving it for generations to come. Internet Archive has long been committed to digitizing books and library materials so they may be accessed by users all over the world. The text is now freely available online to all at

“At Better World Books, we believe in the power of knowledge,” said Dustin Holland, its president and CEO. Holland further stated: “Our library clients entrust us to maximize the value of each and every book we process.  Douglass’s famous speech deserves to be accessible and seen by everyone, so we were compelled to serve the greater good by bringing two great library institutions together to serve this purpose.”    

About Better World Books

Better World Books ( is a for-profit, socially conscious business and a global online bookseller that collects and sells new and used books online, matching each purchase with a book donation. Each sale generates funds for literacy and education initiatives in the U.S., the UK, and around the world. Since its launch in 2003, Better World Books has raised $31 million for libraries and literacy, donated over 29 million books, and reused or recycled more than 369 million books. The Douglass oration donation was made possible by the Better World Books General Literacy Fund that funds Better World Books donation initiatives. This fund, supported by global library clients, allows for libraries to support libraries and to increase their impact through their Better World Books partnership.   For more information about Better World Books, contact Michael Kappes, senior manager of customer experience and client services, at [email protected] or at (574) 334-5826.