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Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Ottilie Assing was the eldest daughter of David and Rosa Maria (Varnhagen) Assing. Her mother was an energetic teacher with a flair for singing and storytelling; her father was a well-known doctor who penned poetry and was prone to depression. David, born with the surname of Assur, was raised as an Orthodox Jew but associated with Christians. He and Rosa, who was not Jewish, raised Ottilie and her younger sister, Ludmilla, as "freethinking atheists, as true daughters of the Enlightenment, who saw themselves as members of a universal human race of thought and reason." They saw education as a "secular form of individual salvation."

Assing's life was not always easy; she witnessed savage anti-Jewish riots, and by the age of twenty-three she had lost both parents. In 1842 she and her sister moved from their hometown to live with an uncle Ludmilla adapted ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Englishpoet who lent his pen to the anti‐slavery cause. Cowper was a supporter of international commerce, which he saw, idealistically, as the means by which mankind could share in God's bounty. In his poem Charity (1782), trade is described as ‘the golden girdle of the globe’, and Cowper writes of the ‘genial intercourse’ between nations effected by 18th‐century mercantile activity. The slave trader, however, betrays the principle of mutuality underpinning international commerce and brings shame to a Christian nation such as Great Britain (‘Canst thou, and honour'd with a Christian name | Buy what is woman‐born, and feel no shame?’). Religion apart, the slave trader also betrays the spirit of the age, its growing championing of liberty. To Cowper, the existence of slavery calls into question the very nature of humanity:

Then what is man? And what man, seeing this

And having human feelings does not blush ...

Article

Wylene J. Rholetter

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a family that traced its ancestry to the first Lowell to arrive in Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. The son of Dr. Charles Lowell, who served as the pastor of West Church in Boston for fifty-six years, and Harriet Spence, who gave her son a love of poetry and tales, Lowell would prove to be the most versatile of the Fireside Poets, the group of Massachusetts poets so-named because the popularity of their poems made them standard hearth-side reading in homes across the country. (In addition to Lowell, the group included William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier.)

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Harvard, Lowell briefly considered the ministry and business before entering Harvard's Dane Law School, where he received his degree in 1840 More significant to his ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born in Recife, Brazil, into an aristocratic and politically active family, Joaquim Nabuco spent the first eight years of his life on his family's large Sugar plantation in the northeastern province of Pernambuco. He later moved with his parents to Rio de Janeiro, then attended the prestigious law academies of São Paulo and Recife. At the former he met Antônio De Castro Alves, “the Poet of the Slaves,” and the abolitionist Rui Barbosa. Between 1873 and 1876 he made several trips to Europe and the United States, where he learned about abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, in the process strengthening his belief in abolition.

Nabuco opposed slavery for moral reasons At the age of eight he became aware of the cruelties of slavery when a slave from a nearby plantation approached him and begged to be purchased by Nabuco s family explaining that his ...

Article

Gregory Eiselein

Born into a Boston abolitionist family, William C. Nell attended an African American grammar school and graduated from an interracial school. As a student, he earned the right to an academic prize but, because of his race, was denied the award. The experience led him at an early age into battles against race discrimination and segregation in public schools. After studying law, Nell dedicated himself to antislavery work, lecturing, organizing meetings, and assisting fugitive slaves. He helped establish in 1842 the Freedom Association, an organization of African Americans who provided escaped slaves with protection, food, clothing, and shelter. Inspired by white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Nell joined the Liberator in the early 1840s. He managed the paper's Negro Employment Office and wrote articles, while continuing to lecture and organize antislavery meetings. Like Garrison, he consistently opposed separate African American antislavery conventions and organizations. In 1847 Nell moved ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

William Cooper Nell was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Guion Nell, a tailor, and Louisa (maiden name unknown). His father, a prominent figure in the small but influential African American community in Boston's West End during the 1820s, was a next-door neighbor and close associate of the controversial black abolitionist David Walker. Nell studied at the all-black Smith School, which met in the basement of Boston's African Meeting House. Although he was an excellent student, in 1829 he was denied honors given to outstanding pupils by the local school board because of his race. This and similar humiliations prompted him to dedicate his life to eliminating racial barriers. To better accomplish that task, Nell read law in the office of local abolitionist William I. Bowditch in the early 1830s Although he never practiced his legal skills and knowledge proved valuable in the antislavery ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Guion Nell, a tailor, and Louisa (maiden name unknown). His father, a prominent figure in the small but influential African American community in Boston's West End during the 1820s, was a next-door neighbor and close associate of the controversial black abolitionist David Walker. Nell studied at the all-black Smith School, which met in the basement of Boston's African Meeting House. Although he was an excellent student, in 1829 he was denied honors given to outstanding pupils by the local school board because of his race. This and similar humiliations prompted him to dedicate his life to eliminating racial barriers. To better accomplish that task, Nell read law in the office of the local abolitionist William I. Bowditch in the early 1830s Although he never practiced his legal skills and knowledge proved valuable in the ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

William Cooper Nell was born at 64 Kendall Street, Beacon Hill, Boston, the son of William Guion Nell, a ship's steward, and his wife, Louisa. The young Nell was a precocious student at Boston's African School, the first separate grammar school in America, but was barred because of his race from receiving the customary civic awards upon graduation. His counterparts from white schools received medals; Nell was given a copy of The Life of Benjamin Franklin. Later he campaigned for years to integrate Boston's schools, finally achieving success in 1855.

Living in a neighborhood that featured innumerable black abolitionists, including the fiery advocate of violent resistance David Walker, Nell soon became an antislavery activist himself. First associating himself with the radical white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Nell attended public talks and in 1833 while still a teenager made a speech that was published in ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

José Antonio Saco received what was a typical education for Catholic boys in early-nineteenth-century Cuba. He first studied in a small schoolhouse next to his home and later transferred to a Catholic school in Santiago de Cuba. Saco continued higher-level education in modern philosophy at the San Carlos seminar in Havana. Under the tutelage of Father Félix Varela y Morales, one of the most influential professors and prominent intellectuals of his time, Saco studied with a group of young men who were to become representatives of the urban bourgeoisie that promoted the independence of Cuba from Spain. In his autobiography Saco claims that these early years with Varela, who provided guidance and friendship and whom Saco considered the “most virtuous man” he ever met, were definitive in the formation of his thinking and ideology.

In 1821 Varela asked Saco to take over his seminar in ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Banker, economist, close friend of William Wilberforce, and campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade. Owing to his background in financial matters, Thornton was able to be of great help to Wilberforce in terms of managing the monetary aspects of their anti‐slavery campaigns besides providing practical business advice. He was one of the founders of the Clapham Sect, a group of men under the influence of Wilberforce who were devoted to evangelical Christianity and believed that, through their faith in Jesus Christ, they would fight for moral, social, and political justice. The Sect was formed by Wilberforce and Thornton after their proposal for the abolition of the slave trade was rejected in 1789. It was Thornton's idea to create a Christian commune within which those dedicated to religious and political matters could live, exchange, and activate their ideas. In 1792 he purchased Battersea ...