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Easton, Hosea  

Donald Yacovone

minister, author, and abolitionist, was born in North Bridgewater (later Brockton), Massachusetts, to James, a successful businessman, and Sarah Dunbar Easton. Easton'sTreatise on the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States (1837) was the nation's first systematic study of racism and stands with David Walker's Appeal (1829) as among the most important writings by African Americans during the early nineteenth century. The seven children of the Easton family blended African, American Indian, and white ancestry. Thus, the concept of “race,” as whites began to redefine it in the early nineteenth century, possessed little meaning to the Eastons. Indeed, one of Hosea Easton's brothers married into North Bridgewater's most distinguished white family.

James Easton had been a much respected businessman in the greater Boston area and a Revolutionary War veteran and viewed ...


Forten, James  

Julie Winch

businessman and social reformer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Forten, a freeborn sailmaker, and Margaret (maiden name unknown). James's parents enrolled him in the African School of abolitionist Anthony Benezet. When James was seven, his father died. Margaret Forten struggled to keep her son in school, but he was eventually forced to leave at age nine and work full time to help support the family. His family remained in Philadelphia throughout the American Revolution, and Forten later recalled being in the crowd outside the Pennsylvania State House when the Declaration of Independence was read to the people for the first time.

In 1781, while serving on a privateer, Forten was captured by the British and spent seven months on the infamous prison ship Jersey in New York harbor.

After a voyage to England in 1784 as a merchant seaman Forten returned ...


Saunders, Prince  

Graham Russell Hodges

author and colonizationist, was born in either Lebanon, Connecticut, or Thetford, Vermont, the son of Cuff Saunders and Phyllis Saunders (maiden name unknown). Although the exact date of Prince Saunders's birth remains unknown, he was baptized on 25 July 1784 in Lebanon and received his early schooling in Thetford. He taught at a black school in Colchester, Connecticut, and later studied at Moor's Charity School at Dartmouth College in 1807 and 1808. President John Wheelock of Dartmouth recommended Saunders as instructor at Boston's African School in late 1808. By 1811 Saunders was secretary of the African Masonic Society and had founded the Belles Lettres Society, a literary group. He also taught at the African Baptist Church in Boston, founded by Thomas Paul. He was engaged to a daughter of emigrationist and sea Captain Paul Cuffe Although the engagement ended for unknown reasons his acquaintance with ...


Wright, Theodore Sedgwick  

David E. Swift

black Presbyterian minister and reformer, was born in New Jersey and brought up in Schenectady, New York, the son of R. P. G. Wright, an early opponent of the American Colonization Society's program of returning American blacks to Africa. His mother's name is unknown. He was named after a distinguished Massachusetts jurist, Theodore Sedgwick, whose defense of a slave woman against her master's claim of ownership had effectively abolished slavery in that state.

Wright received a good education in spite of rejection by a number of colleges to which he applied. After several years at New York's African Free School, he was admitted into Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey in 1825 at the age of twenty-eight. Well treated there by both fellow students and faculty, he graduated in 1828 thus becoming the first African American to complete a theological seminary program That same year Wright ...