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Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and journalist, was born a slave and spent the early years of his life in bondage in the Mohawk Valley near Albany, New York. His master was probably a member of Albany's wealthy Van Rensselaer family. He ran away from slavery in 1819 and, although his master circulated handbills and sent slave catchers as far as Canada to recover him, he eluded recapture. Eight years later he became legally free when slavery was finally abolished in New York State. In 1837 he visited and reconciled with his master, prompting the antislavery press to label him “a modern Onesimus,” a biblical reference to Philemon 10:16.

While residing in Princeton New Jersey in the early 1830s Van Rensselaer became attracted to the emerging antislavery movement He settled in New York City by mid decade married joined an independent black church and established a restaurant that ...