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Martha I. Pallante

Born to Lyman and Roxana Foote Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut, Henry Ward Beecher was a member of one of the nation's most visible reform-minded families, and he would come to be acknowledged as one of nineteenth-century America's finest orators.

The ninth of ten children, who included the author Harriet Beecher Stowe and the educator Catherine Beecher, Henry grew up questioning the faith his father passionately espoused. Hoping to inspire his son, Lyman Beecher sent him to the Mount Pleasant Classical Academy in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1827. There Henry committed to becoming a minister. He attended Amherst College (1830–1834) and Lane Theological Seminary in Ohio (1834–1837). After serving as a the pastor for two Congregational churches in Indiana, at Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis, he was called to the pulpit of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York, in 1847.

By the time Beecher returned to ...


Clifton H. Johnson

clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Jehiel C. Beman, a clergyman. Nothing is known of his mother. He grew up and received a basic education in Middletown, Connecticut, where his father was pastor of the African church. A Wesleyan University student, L. P. Dole, volunteered to tutor Beman after the university refused his application for admission because he was an African American. Dole and Beman suffered ridicule and harassment from other students, and an anonymous threat of bodily harm from “Twelve of Us” caused Beman to give up the effort after six months. He went to Hartford, where he taught school for four years, and around 1836 he briefly attended the Oneida Institute in New York.

Beman was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1839. At about this time he married a woman whose name is not known. In 1841 ...


W. Caleb McDaniel

shoemaker, clergyman, and abolitionist, was born in Chatham, Connecticut, to Sarah Gerry and Cesar Beman, a manumitted slave and Revolutionary War veteran who may have chosen his surname to indicate his freedom to “be a man.” By 1809 Jehiel had moved to Colchester, Connecticut, and married Fanny Condol, with whom he fathered seven children, including the noted abolitionist Amos G. Beman. Jehiel worked in Colchester as a shoemaker and Methodist exhorter until 1830, when he moved to Middletown, Connecticut, to pastor the city's Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church. On 11 August of that same year Jehiel's first wife died, and he married Nancy Scott on 17 October. In 1832 he left Cross Street after being appointed an itinerant missionary by the annual AMEZ conference, but he remained in Middletown as a preacher, shoemaker, and reformer until 1838 at ...


Maurice Jackson

Anthony Benezet was born to Huguenot parents in Saint-Quentin, Picardy, France. His father, Jean-Etienne Benezet, and his mother, Judith, had at least thirteen children, but more than half died at birth. The Protestant Huguenots had experienced a period of relative religious freedom lasting from the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes under Henry IV in 1598 until the revocation of the edict by Louis XIV in 1685, which led to renewed persecution by Catholics. JeanEtienne Benezet belonged to a Protestant group known as the Inspirés de la Vaunage, which descended from the Camisards, who had violently resisted religious persecution in the Cévennes Mountains of southern France. The Benezet family fled France for the Netherlands in 1715, then went to England, and finally settled in Philadelphia in 1731.

In 1735 Anthony Benezet was naturalized as a British subject, and on 13 May 1736 he married Joyce Marriott ...


Will Gravely

African Methodist Episcopal minister and bishop, was born of mixed parentage in Charleston, South Carolina, where he spent his early and middle years. Apparently self-educated, he worked as a boot maker and shoe repairman; he married Maria (maiden name unknown), with whom he had six children. Associated with the city's community of free people of color, Brown earned a reputation for assisting slaves in purchasing their freedom and for teaching and advising both free and enslaved African Americans in the region.

Soon after his religious conversion and his joining of the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church, Brown was licensed to preach. In that role he had greater access to the slave population as well as to groups of free African Americans. As the number of blacks grew, both generally and within the African church in Charleston, Brown emerged as their leader. As a result of an 1816 dispute over a ...


Albert J. Von Frank

fugitive slave, born in Stafford County, Virginia, was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother, whose name is not recorded, served as cook for John and Catherine Suttle of Stafford Court House. His father, third husband of Anthony's mother and another of the Suttle slaves, quarried sandstone for the construction of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. Financial reversals following the death of John Suttle impelled Catherine to move the family to Aquia Creek and to sell off a number of slaves, including five of Anthony's siblings. When Catherine died, her son Charles Francis Suttle, by then a dry-goods merchant in Falmouth, mortgaged the remaining slaves and began hiring them out. For two years, 1847–1848, Anthony worked for William Brent, a Falmouth grocer and close friend of Suttle's. In 1849 refusing a third year with Brent and threatening to escape unless his refusal was honored he was ...


Alonford James Robinson

The debate over slavery in America was already filled with acrimony and violence when Anthony Burns, a black fugitive slave, was arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, for violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Just four years after the controversial law was passed, the Burns case, as it is known, sparked outrage among abolitionists throughout New England.

After being arrested in May 1854 Burns was placed in leg irons, as authorities prepared to return him to servitude in Richmond, Virginia. His arrest, however, galvanized New England abolitionists already opposed to the Fugitive Slave Act. Two days after Burns was imprisoned, abolitionists stormed the courthouse in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the former slave forcibly, and a deputy was killed.

Fearing more violence federal officials sent armed military troops to defend the courthouse while Burns was ordered returned to his owner in Virginia When the day came to send ...


Henry B. Lovejoy

Free black creole of the Lucumí nation, and leader of the famous Mutual Aid Society of the Lucumí Nation of Santa Bárbara, remembered among modern-day practitioners of Cuban Santería as Ṣàngó tẹ̀ dún.

Little documentation exists for Maria Francisca Camejo, and from birth she could have been enslaved or free. The name “Camejo” was common throughout Spain’s empire, and to this day remains popular in the tobacco-growing region of the Piñar del Rio region in western Cuba. Since the eighteenth century, if not earlier, this family engaged in tobacco production for the royal monopoly based at the factory in Havana. By the 1790s a branch of this family residing and trading tobacco in the capital city likely owned María Francisca as a domestic slave. Camejo identified as Lucumí, but baptism records from the early nineteenth century indicate she identified as a “black creole” (morena criolla Like so many ...


Linda M. Carter

escaped slave and minister, was born in Greenville County, Kentucky. Until Campbell was in his thirties, he worked for various masters in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee respectively. When Campbell was approximately eighteen years old, he married a slave named Matilda. In 1837 the Campbells joined a church and were baptized. Less than two years later, Campbell began preaching. By the late 1840s, Campbell was a widower, and he was determined to not endure slavery any longer; thus he fled to Canada, where he was reunited with Washington Campbell, one of his six siblings. The brothers were partners in several Canadian business ventures.

After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Campbell became an agent for Henry Bibb's Voice of the Fugitive which was the first black newspaper in Canada Campbell was also a delegate to the Fugitive Convention of Canada and on behalf of the ...


Russell Duncan

abolitionist and Georgia politician, was born free in Middlebrook, New Jersey, the son of John Campbell, a blacksmith, and an unknown mother. From 1817 to 1830 he attended an otherwise all-white Episcopal school in Babylon, New York, where he trained to be a missionary to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Rebelling against his training and calling himself “a moral reformer and temperance lecturer,” Campbell moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, converted to Methodism, joined an abolition society, and began to preach against slavery, colonization, alcohol, and prostitution. He joined Frederick Douglass on speaking tours and participated in the Colored Convention Movement, a new nationwide organization that aimed at racial uplift and black voting rights.

From 1832 to 1845 Campbell lived and worked in New York City as a steward at the Howard Hotel Later for an undetermined period he worked at the Adams House ...


Charles Rosenberg

minister, active in the Underground Railroad, reputed to have founded ten churches, including the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, was born in 1833 on a plantation in New Kent County, Virginia. By the laws of that state, he was the property of the Ferrell family. His name was variously spelled Dungee, Dungy, Dunjy, and Dunjee. His children adopted the Dunjee spelling.

Five Ferrell heirs moved to Alabama, and sold the family's Virginia plantation in 1842 to former president John Tyler, who renamed it “Sherwood Forest.” Dungee was hired out to Virginia governor John Munford Gregory, and in later years spoke well of him. However, when the Ferrells—who had sold off many slaves, and had a reputation for severity—sent word that they wanted him sent to Alabama, Dungee escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad in February 1860 arriving first in Hamilton Ontario then traveling via Toronto ...


Christopher M. Rabb

evangelical abolitionist, educator, minister, and “conductor” in the Underground Railroad, was born in Rahway, New Jersey.

A towering figure in nineteenth-century black civil rights circles on the East Coast and beyond, Amos Noë Freeman's words and deeds as a civic leader for nearly seventy years were rivaled only by the exemplary company he kept. His closest colleagues in the abolitionist movement included Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Theodore Dwight Weld, Henry Ward Beecher, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, Theodore Sedgwick Wright, Simeon Jocelyn, Archibald Grimké, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and former Oneida Institute classmates Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, Amos G. Beman, and J. W. C. Pennington.

Little is known about Freeman s parentage or childhood including whether he was ever enslaved or indentured having been born in a state where the gradual abolition ...


Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and Episcopal minister, was born near Shoemakertown, New Jersey. Nothing else is known about his family background. Eloquent, forceful, and determined, Gardner earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues and congregants. The great black nationalist Martin R. Delany considered him a man of “might and talent” who compelled whites to “recognize and respect” African Americans (Christian Recorder, 29 Apr. 1880). Theodore Dwight Weld, a celebrated antislavery lecturer, considered Gardner one of the country's leading black orators, and in 1837 Gardner became the first African American to address an annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

He began his ministerial career in 1809 as an itinerant Methodist preacher visiting churches throughout the Chesapeake region The experience led him to condemn the institution of slavery and the colonization movement which aimed at the expatriation of free blacks to Africa His criticism of Methodist slaveholders especially ...


Henry Highland Garnet was born a slave on a plantation in Kent County, Maryland, where his grandfather, a former chieftain in Africa, was a leader of the slave community. In 1824 Garnet's father escaped, bringing the rest of his family with him to New York City. While the father became an active leader of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Garnet was enrolled in the African Free School. He spent several years afterward as a sailor and a farmer's apprentice before returning to school, this time under the tutelage of abolitionists Theodore S. Wright and Peter Williams, who ran the Canal Street School for African Americans.

After graduation from the Canal Street School, Garnet and several other young blacks, including abolitionist and nationalist Alexander Crummell enrolled in a newly established academy in New Canaan New Hampshire Only weeks after the school opened however angry white ...


Milton C. Sernett

Garnet, Henry Highland (23 December 1815–13 February 1882), clergyman and abolitionist, was born in New Market, Kent County, Maryland, the son of George and Henrietta (later called Elizabeth), slaves. Henry escaped with his parents and seven siblings to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1824, assisted by the Quaker Thomas Garrett, a key figure in the Underground Railroad. After a brief stay in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the Garnets settled in New York City, where Henry received a grammar school education at the African Free School.

In 1828 Henry worked as a cabin boy on a ship making two voyages to Cuba The next year he returned from working as a cook and steward on board a schooner sailing from New York City to Washington D C to find that his family had been broken up by slave hunters His sister was tried as a fugitive but his parents had ...


Gregory Eiselein

An antislavery radical, Henry Highland Garnet is best known for “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America” (1843), a speech delivered in Buffalo at the National Convention of Colored Citizens. In the “Address” and later texts, he advocated active resistance to slavery, urging slaves to take freedom for themselves. Deeply influenced by David Walker's Appeal (1829), Garnet argued that slaves had a moral obligation to resist slavery, using violence when necessary.

Garnet's thinking emerged from an activist-nationalist tradition within African American culture passed on to him by his family. In 1815, he was born into an enslaved family living on a Maryland plantation. His father, the son of a Mandingo leader, took enormous pride in his family's heritage. When Garnet was nine, they escaped to New York City. In 1829 while he was at sea serving as a cabin boy ...


Nathan L. Grant

Henry Highland Garnet was born to the slaves George and Henrietta (later called Elizabeth), near New Market, in Kent County, Maryland. Upon the family's escape to freedom in Delaware in 1824, George renamed himself and the entire family; Henry's previous name is unknown. “Garnet” was possibly derived from Thomas Garrett, the famous Quaker abolitionist, who helped them escape.

At an early age Henry showed the fire and zeal that would characterize his political activity later in life. As a child in New York, where the family moved late in 1825, he daily carried a knife on his way to African Free School No. 1, which he began attending in 1826. Upon returning to New York from Washington, D.C., as a ship's cook in 1829 he learned that his family had been forced to flee slave catchers Garnet obtained a large knife intending to pursue ...


Diane L. Barnes

William Goodell was born in Coventry, New York, to the Connecticut natives Frederick Goodell and Rhoda Guernsey. A childhood illness left Goodell bedridden for several years but also sparked a lifelong interest in learning. Although his meager circumstances precluded the attainment of formal education beyond common school, he developed an interest in writing and embarked on a career as an author and journalist. Goodell's editing work was closely tied to the reform agendas of his day: in 1827 he began to edit a general reform weekly from Providence, Rhode Island, and over his career was associated with such periodicals as the Genius of Temperance, the Emancipator, the Friend of Man, the Christian Investigator, the American Jubilee, the Radical Abolitionist, and the National Principia. By 1830 Goodell had returned to New York and for the remainder of his career as an editor ...


Kate Clifford Larson

preacher, farmer, and Underground Railroad agent, was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Although details of his early life and parents are unknown, he probably spent his childhood and young adulthood laboring for white masters in Caroline and Dorchester counties, eventually settling near the town of East New Market with his owner, Henry Nichols. Of mixed race background, possibly American Indian and African descent, Green was eventually manumitted in 1832 by a provision in Nichols's will that required Green be sold for a term of five years and then set free. Green, however, purchased his own freedom within the year.

Green married an enslaved woman named Catherine, also known as Kitty and they had two children who survived to adulthood Though Kitty and their children were owned by a different man it appears that they were allowed to live with Green in ...


Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...