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Aaron  

Laura Murphy

a former Virginia slave who became an antislavery lecturer, used no last name. Almost nothing is known about him outside of the record contained in his episodic, forty-eight page memoir. He did not provide any information about his parents other than that “hard work and hard usage … killed them.” (Light and Truth 6 He recorded that he had lived in Maryland and Kentucky but that for most of his time as a slave he lived in Virginia owned by a master with seven other slaves three of whom were female Aaron s owner proved especially cruel preferring to personally punish his slaves rather than send them out for a whipping During the summer he forced his three female slaves to work all day and then spend the entire night cooling him and his family with fans while they slept Aaron was forbidden to go to church although ...

Article

Since Methodism first emerged in colonial America, it has consistently attracted African American adherents. According to religious scholar Alfred J. Raboteau, “the direct appeal, dramatic preaching, and plain doctrine of the Methodists, their conscious identification with the ‘simpler sort,’ and especially their antislavery beliefs” drew blacks to the church. Indeed, African Americans had been members of New York City's John Street Methodist Church since its founding in 1768. By 1793 black membership increased to 40 percent of John Street's congregation.

Still, African Americans within the John Street Church—and within American Methodism in general—were treated as second-class citizens. They were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews, and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion table. Frustrated by such treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams, and William Miller, founded the African Chapel in 1796 The chapel was later ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mount Vernell Allen Jr., a principal in the Detroit public school system, and Barbara Jean Allen, a defense contract administrator for the federal government. She began studying classical piano at age seven but was also exposed to jazz at an early age. She met the trumpeter Marcus Belgrave when he was an artist-in-residence at her high school, Cass Technical; she studied jazz piano with him, and he became an important mentor, appearing on several of her later recordings. Allen also studied at the Jazz Development Workshop, a community-based organization.

After graduating from high school, Allen attended Howard University, where she was captivated by the music of Thelonious Monk and studied with John Malachi. In 1979 she earned a BA in Jazz Studies and taught briefly at Howard before moving to New York City where she ...

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Caroline M. Brown

aviation mechanic and pilot, was born in Quitman, Wood County, Texas, the youngest of three children; both of his parents were teachers. Allen's father died when Thomas was three months old. His mother, Polly, continued to teach school and to run the family farm.

Allen became interested in flying in 1918, when an airplane made a forced landing in a pasture. The pilots paid the two young Allen brothers to guard the plane overnight so that its fabric and glue would not be eaten by cows. From this experience, Thomas Allen decided to become either an aviator or a mechanic.

In 1919 when Allen was twelve the family moved to Oklahoma City where his mother resumed teaching school Allen often bicycled to a nearby airfield In his teens he persuaded the field owner to take a $100 saxophone as partial trade for flying lessons He worked off the ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

The long and illustrious history of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church dates back to the eighteenth century. The founder Richard Allen, a former slave who had been able to purchase his freedom and was an ordained Methodist minister, was assigned to Saint George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where he was allowed to preach to blacks. When in November 1787 several black church members, including Absalom Jones, were pulled from their knees while praying, all the black worshippers left Saint George's to form a church of their own. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Philadelphia in 1793 and opened in July 1794. In 1816 Richard Allen united black Methodist congregations from the greater Philadelphia area founding the African Methodist Episcopal Church he was elected the first bishop during the new church s first General Conference The Book of Discipline Articles of Religion ...

Article

Kerima M. Lewis

When Methodism arrived in New York State in 1766, it welcomed blacks into its Christian fellowship. As the Methodist Church expanded it became increasingly discriminatory toward African Americans. After years of ill treatment, in 1796 the 155 black members of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City formed a separate church. Although incorporated in 1821 under the name African Methodist Episcopal Church in America, the church was never affiliated with the denomination of the same name organized in 1816 by Richard Allen in Philadelphia. Zion was the name of the New York denomination's first chapel, built in 1801. The AME Zion Church adhered to the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church and adopted an episcopal form of government.

The AME Zion denomination grew as churches were added in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Their affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal Church ended when James Varick ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

A devout and charitable Unitarian minister, George Bradburn worked tirelessly within the antislavery movement. While his name is virtually unknown in historical discourse, one has only to search the works of Frederick Douglass and other notable abolitionists to find evidence of Bradburn's defense of those socially and politically wronged. Douglass commented on “his keen wit and his hearty hatred for all manner of baseness” in the 30 October 1851 issue of the Frederick Douglass' Paper. In eulogizing his lifelong friend, Lysander Spooner, the author of the Unconstitutionality of Slavery, wrote, “Of the strong men of the anti-slavery cause, in its days of trial—of those in whose ability, fidelity, and courage most reliance was placed—George Bradburn was one of the select few.”

As a youngster, Bradburn's character was greatly influenced by his mother's stoical and religious doctrine. Born in Attleboro, Massachusetts he was raised by Sarah Leach ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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

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 ...

Article

Frederick Douglass visited England as part of two trips to the United Kingdom, speaking against slavery and encouraging abolitionism for eighteen months from 1845 to 1847 and for six months from 1859 to 1860. On both occasions Douglass benefited from being outside the United States. The first visit coincided with the publication of his Narrative, which revealed details of his life that would have enabled the Auld family to find and re-enslave the runaway. The second visit was made shortly after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, when Douglass was implicated as an accomplice in planning the raid and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Douglass landed in Liverpool on 28 August 1845 with James Buffum, an abolitionist from Lynn, Massachusetts; because of racial prejudice, they had been consigned to steerage class on the steamer Cambria Acting as a lecturing agent for the Massachusetts ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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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 ...