Gerrit Smith Author To Visit Oswego Library

At 6 p.m. on November 6 The Oswego Public Library is excited for Norman Dann’s visit to the library!

Norman lives in Peterboro on the Gerrit Smith Estate and is the author of Practical Dreamer: Gerrit Smith & the Crusade for Social Reform and When We Get to Heaven: Runaway Slaves on the Road to Peterboro.

His latest book is Cousins of Reform: Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Gerrit Smith.

Gerrit Smith was known worldwide as a compassionate, generous, and empathetic man who tirelessly pursued a better world for all.

Much of Smith’s philanthropy concentrated on liberating slaves.

He complemented individuals’ efforts to buy freedom. He purchased individuals and families directly from slaveholders.

He sent agents into the south to negotiate financial terms for freedom.

“Smith was criticized by some of his colleagues for giving funds directly to individual persons as opposed to donating larger sums to organizations and societies with missions. Smith gave money to the abolitionists for traveling expenses and publications. By the mid 1840s, Smith had contributed over fifty thousand dollars (equivalent to five million dollars in 2002) to the antislavery movement.”  – from

In 1853 Gerrit began the Oswego City Library with a letter to prominent Oswego citizens promising $25,000 for the building and collection.

These men became the first board of trustees and opened our “castle on the hill” in the spring of 1857 where we still serve Oswego today.

“Gerrit Smith has at last found the biographer he deserves in Norm Dann. In Practical Dreamer, Dann has shaped years of monumental research into a deeply thoughtful and compelling story of one of the true titans of the antislavery movement. This book is destined to become a classic of abolitionist history,” Fergus M. Bordewich author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America.

First cousins Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Gerrit Smith radically changed the social landscape of America in the 1800s.

Elizabeth spent her summers at Gerrit’s estate in Peterboro learning of social reforms and meeting the reformers.

Here she met her future husband, abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton, and here he proposed marriage.

Discussions with her elder cousin Gerrit “about the nature of reform and the social and political implications of
gender, sex, race, and religion helped each to refine their causes,” according to

Dann, Ph.D., is professor emeritus Morrisville State College, a founder and member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the
National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, a steward of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro, a member of the Madison County Historical Society and treasurer of the Peterboro Area Museum.

In retirement, Norm has specialized in research and writing on the abolition movement, with several articles and book reviews for publication.

His first book, When We Get to Heaven: Runaway Slaves On the Road to Peterboro, was published in 2008. Norm has dedicated his retirement to sharing the story of local history regarding abolition.

He is a member of the Peterboro-based Smithfield Community Association and helps manage the group’s annual
fund-raiser, Civil War Weekend. He is a founding member of the National Abolition Hall of Fame & Museum and serves on its Cabinet of Freedom.

The Oswego Public Library is located at 120 E. Second St.