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Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with Phyllis McCormack.

"The year is drawing to an end. I feel anxious for the future, my Friend. Today as I watched the leaves fall, little by little, Cook's words sounded in my ears. "If I stay here I'll never know I'm free.""

Phillis Frederick (c. 1852 – 1930), also known as Patsy, was a former slave on the Davis Hall Plantation in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, Patsy was freed. She remained on the plantation for nearly a year afterwards. Patsy secretly learned to read and write, and eventually found out that her passion was teaching.


Early life[]

Patsy was born around 1852 or 1853.[2] She was brought to the Davis Hall Plantation as an infant and had no knowledge of her parents. Patsy was nursed back to health by Cook. From around three or four years old, Patsy was the companion of Mister Davis's niece and nephew, Annie and Charles. Through games and attending the childrens' lessons, Patsy learned how to read and write. Annie and Charles were unaware of her learning as they always thought of her as a "dunce."

Post-Civil War[]

In April 1865, before leaving the plantation, Annie and Charles gave Patsy a diary as a joke. She was overjoyed to have a place to write her thoughts but fearful that she would be found out. Days later, soldiers from the Freedmen's Bureau arrived, forcing Mister Davis to pay his now freed workers. However, Missus later mentioned that Patsy was considered a bound servant. In the following weeks, several people left the plantation. Cook's leaving particularly resonated with Patsy, who had always thought she was mean but then saw her in a different light. As the others left, Patsy began getting different tasks in the house, such as being the laundress.

Patsy gradually became close to Ruth Johnson and her son Luke. She eventually divulged to Ruth that she was able to read and write. Patsy began teaching Ruth and Luke the alphabet as well as the other children after church on Sundays. In late July, the expected teacher was unable to come. It was determined that Patsy would be their teacher instead. Meanwhile, she began helping at the Union League meetings by reading the newspaper whenever Reverend McNeal could not make it. Patsy helped more regularly after the Reverend was attacked and went home to Baltimore.

In early September, Ruth's husband returned and she and Luke left with him. Not long after, Mister Davis passed away from illness. Patsy's friend Mister Joe later began working on the plantation as the cook. He often helped her get away so she could go teach. When Joe gave her a book that December, Patsy picked her name from it. She called herself Phillis Frederick, after Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass. In the new year, many of field hands decided to leave after Missus Davis did not hold up her end of their contract. Patsy decided to ask Solomon and Violet if she could go with them.

Later life[]

Phillis became a part of Solomon's and Violet's family. They and several other families earned wages on a farm near Davis Hall and started a land association, each family put money into a savings account in order to purchase land. In 1868, they had earned enough money and were finally allowed to purchase land in Abbeville County, South Carolina. They formed their own village christened Libertyville. Solomon donated an acre of land for a chapel which also served as a schoolhouse. In 1871, twenty-five more black families joined the village.

In 1866, Phillis began attending the school that Mister Joe's daughter started with the African Civilization Society. She recognized Phillis's abilities and she was sent to a private black school in Charleston. After graduating in 1871, she returned to her family in Libertyville. She taught there, while continuing her education during the summers. Phillis married Douglass in 1878. They had no children. Phillis had a successful career and lived a long, happy life, before passing in 1930.

Personality and traits[]

Due to her stutter, Patsy was considered a "dunce" and treated as inferior by others. Though she was often frustrated by this treatment, Patsy was often able to use it to her advantage. For example, she played dumb one time when she was caught with a book. Patsy was actually extremely clever, having secretly learned how to read and write. She was frustrated at times with people talking for her or not being able to express herself. After discovering her passion for teaching, Patsy gained confidence and started stuttering less. Also, one of her legs was shorter than the other, which sometimes slowed her down but mostly did not get her down too much.

Family tree[]

Patsy's Family Tree
Phillis Frederick
Other children


  • Solomon and Violet unofficially adopted Patsy into their family.

Behind the scenes[]



See also[]

Dear America characters
Main characters

Remember "Mem" Whipple | Deliverance Trembley | Lozette Moreau | Catharine Logan | Prudence Emerson
Abigail Stewart | Lucinda Lawrence | María Rosalia de Milagros | Hattie Campbell | Mary Driscoll
Florence "Florrie" Mack Ryder | Susanna Fairchild | Clotee Henley | Amelia Martin | Emma Simpson
Sarah Nita | Phillis "Patsy" Frederick | Libby West | Priscilla "Pringle" Rose | Mary "Polly" Rodgers
Nannie Little Rose | Angeline Reddy | Sarah Jane Price | Teresa Viscardi | Anetka Kaminska
Zipporah Feldman | Minette "Minnie" Bonner | Angela Denoto | Margaret Ann Brady | Kathleen Bowen
Simone Spencer | Lydia Pierce | Nell "Nellie Lee" Love | Bess Brennan | Minerva "Minnie" Swift | Grace Edwards
Julie Weiss | Madeline Beck | Amber Billows | Piper Davis | Dawn "Dawnie Rae" Johnson | Molly Flaherty

Supporting characters

Antoinetta Viscardi | Leon Nasevich | Daniel Pierce | Erma Jean Love | Patrick Flaherty

Lists of characters by book

A Journey to the New World | I Walk in Dread | Look to the Hills | Standing in the Light
Love Thy Neighbor | The Winter of Red Snow | Cannons at Dawn | A Line in the Sand
Valley of the Moon | Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | All the Stars in the Sky
Seeds of Hope | A Picture of Freedom | A Light in the Storm | When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Great Railroad Race
Down the Rabbit Hole | Land of the Buffalo Bones | My Heart Is on the Ground | Behind the Masks
My Face to the Wind | West to a Land of Plenty | A Coal Miner's Bride | Dreams in the Golden Country
A City Tossed and Broken | Hear My Sorrow | Voyage on the Great Titanic | A Time for Courage
When Christmas Comes Again | Like the Willow Tree | Color Me Dark | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Christmas After All | Survival in the Storm | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
My Secret War | Early Sunday Morning | The Fences Between Us | With the Might of Angels
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?