Abolition

Maria Stewart

Maria StewartMaria W. Stewart (Maria Miller) (1803 – February 6, 1880) was an African-American journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. Although her career was brief it was very striking. Maria W. Stewart started off her career as a domestic servant. She later became an activist.

She was the first American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, whites and black. She was also the first African- American woman to lecture about women’s rights, make a public anti-slavery speech and the first African-American woman to make public lectures. Stewart has had two pamphlets published in the Liberator, including “Religion and Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build”. In this pamphlet she advocated abolition and black autonomy. Her second pamphlet was more religious-based. Continue reading

Freedmen’s Bureau

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of March 3, 1865. The Bureau supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine.

The Bureau also assumed custody of confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, border states, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory. The bureau records were created or maintained by bureau headquarters, the assistant commissioners and the state superintendents of education and included personnel records and a variety of standard reports concerning bureau programs and conditions in the states.

Martin R. Delany

Martin R. Delany

b. May 6, 1812, Charles Town, Va., U.S.–d. Jan. 24, 1885, Xenia, Ohio), U.S. black Abolitionist, physician, and editor in the pre-Civil War period; his espousal of black nationalism and racial pride anticipated expressions of such views a century later.

In search of quality education for their children, the Delanys moved to Pennsylvania when Martin was a child. At 19, while studying nights at a Negro church, he worked days in Pittsburgh. Embarking on a course of militant opposition to slavery, he became involved in several racial improvement groups. Under the tutelage of two sympathetic physicians he achieved competence as a doctor’s assistant as well as in dental care, working in this capacity in the South and Southwest (1839).  Continue reading

David Walker

(b. Sept. 28, 1785, Wilmington, N.C., U.S.–d. June 28, 1830, Boston, Mass.), black American Abolitionist whose pamphlet Appeal . . . to the Colored Citizens of the World . . . (1829), urging slaves to fight for their freedom, was one of the most radical documents of the antislavery movement.

Born of a slave father and a free mother, Walker grew up free, obtained an education, and traveled throughout the country. Settling in Boston, he became involved in the Abolitionist movement (see abolitionism) and was a frequent contributor to Freedom’s Journal, an anti-slavery weekly. Sometime in the 1820s he opened a secondhand clothing store on the Boston waterfront. Through this business he could purchase clothes taken from sailors in barter for drink, and then resell them to seamen about to embark. In the copious pockets of these garments, he concealed copies of his Appeal, which he reasoned would reach Southern ports and pass through the hands of other used-clothes dealers who would know what to do with them. He also used sympathetic black seamen to distribute pamphlets directly.

When the smuggled pamphlets began to appear in the South, the states reacted with legislation prohibiting circulation of Abolitionist literature and forbidding slaves to learn to read and write. Warned that his life was in danger, Walker refused to flee to Canada. His body was found soon afterward near his shop, and many believed he had been poisoned.

His Appeal for a slave revolt, widely reprinted after his death, was accepted by a small minority of Abolitionists, but most antislavery leaders and free blacks rejected his call for violence at the time.

His only son, Edwin G. Walker, was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1866.

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano
aka Gustavus Vassa

Captured far from the African coast when he was a boy of 11, Olaudah Equiano was sold into slavery, later acquired his freedom, and, in 1789, wrote his widely-read autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.

The youngest son of a village leader, Equiano was born among the Ibo people in the kingdom of Benin, along the Niger River. He was “the greatest favourite with [his] mother.” His family expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a chief, an elder, a judge. Slavery was an intregal part of the Ibo culture, as it was with many other African peoples. His family owned slaves, but there was also a continual threat of being abducted, of becoming someone else’s slave. This is what happened, one day, while Equiano and his sister were at home alone.  Continue reading

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