Anderson Ruffin Abbott (First Black Canadian M.D.)

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Anderson Ruffin Abbott was free born to Wilson Ruffin Abbott and Ellen Toyer, in Toronto, Canada on the 7th of April 1837. Two years before Anderson’s birth, the Abbott’s moved to Mobile, Alabama and opened a general grocery store, but left Alabama and abandoned their store in 1834, after receiving a warning that their store was to be pillaged. They settled briefly in New York, until racial tensions forced them to relocate to Upper Toronto, Canada in 1835. Wilson Abbott began to purchase real estate in and around Toronto. He owned 48 properties by 1871. The Abbott’s became very wealthy and prominent black family in Toronto . Wilson Abbott also became active in politics.

Anderson’s family wealth allowed him access to the best education. He attended both private and public schools including William King’s school in the black settlement of Buxton, near Chatham. He was an honor student at Toronto Academy, he later moved to Oberlin, Ohio and attended Oberlin College in the United states. Anderson Returned to Toronto, Canada, in 1857 he graduated from the Toronto School of Medicine at the age twenty. After graduating he studied for four years under Alexander Thomas Augusta, a black U.S. -born doctor who was then working in Toronto. In 1861, at the age twenty-four, Anderson received his license to practice medicine from the Medical Board of Upper Canada, becoming the first black Canadian-born doctor.

In February of 1863, during the United States Civil War, Dr. Abbott applied for a commission as an assistant surgeon in the Union Army but his offer was evidently not accepted. That April he reapplied as a “Medical Cadet” in the newly-formed U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), and was finally accepted as a civilian surgeon under contract. He served in several hospital’s in Washington, D.C. from June 1863 to August 1865, one being the Contraband Hospital which became Freedmen’s Hospital and later became part of Howard

In 1863 he petitioned United States 16th President Abraham Lincoln and on September 2, 1863 Dr. Abbott joined the United States Army as an assistant Surgeon, he was assigned to administer a hospital in Arlington, Virginia. Dr. Abbott was one of thirteen black surgeons to serve in the Civil War that fostered a friendly relationship with Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Abbott was on of several doctors in attendance when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. Following Lincoln assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln the widow of the President, later presented Dr. Abbott with the plaid shawl that Lincoln had worn to his 1861 inauguration in appreciation for his attempt to save the President’s life.

In 1866 Dr. Abbott resigned from service at the Arlington hospital in Virginia and returned to Toronto, Canada. The following year he attended primary medical classes at the University of Toronto. While he did not graduate, in 1871 he opened his own medical practice and on August 9, 1871, he married Mary Ann Casey, the 18-year-old daughter of a successful black barber. The couple moved to Chatham, Ontario where he resumed his medical practice and the couple eventually had three daughters and two sons.


Dr.  Abbott like his father became prominent in Chatham. He was appointed coroner of Kent County in 1874 and by 1878 he was the president of both the Chatham Medical Society and the Chatham Literary and Debating Society. Dr. Abbott fought against racially segregated schools in Canada.

Dr.  Abbott returned to the United States in 1894 where he accepted a position as surgeon-in-chief at provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the first black owned hospital in the United States. He became the hospital’s medical superintendent in 1896, but resigned the following year. He again returned to Canada and resumed his private practice in Toronto.

At the turn of the century he became embroiled in the debate between W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington over social change. Siding with Du Bois, Dr. Abbott believed that Black access to higher education was essential and should not be compromised. Believing that blacks would be culturally assimilated, Dr. Abbott wrote:

“It is just as natural for two races living together on the same soil to blend as it is for the waters of two river tributaries to mingle.” With Canada’s black population on the decline, he thought this was especially true in his own country and wrote “by the process of absorption and expatriation the color line will eventually fade out in Canada.”

Abbott died in 1913, at the age of 76, in the Toronto home of his son-in-law Frederick Langdon Hubbard. He is buried in the Toronto Necropolis.







Caroline Still Anderson (one of the First Black Female Physician in United States)


Caroline Virginia Still was born in Philadelphia, on November 1, 1848, the first of four children to Letitia or Lucy and William Still. Shortly after Caroline’s birth, William led the Philadelphia branch of the Underground Railroad. He was described as second to Harriet Tubman in the Underground Railroad Operation. The education and spiritual development of his children was of great significance to William. Although he was self-educated, he made every attempt to inform his children about the advantages of a good education and to make them aware of the privilege they could enjoy by having access to schooling. William ran a stove store and held a lucrative coal industry position allowing him to afford a good education for his children. William encouraged his children to pursue their education seriously.

As a child, Caroline attended Mrs. Henry Gordon’s Private Schoolbpa010x0011, called The Friends’ Raspberry Alley School, and Institute for Coloured Youth (now Cheney State College). At the age sixteen, Caroline moved to Oberlin, Ohio and attended Oberlin College where she was the only black student in her class. She graduated and earned her degree from Oberlin College’s Literary Course in 1868, at the age 19, the youngest student in her graduating class. Caroline was elected the first black president of the Ladies’ Literary Society of Oberlin.

Caroline moved back to Philadelphia, and on December 28, 1869 at the age 21 Caroline married a former Alabama slave, a man she met while attending school in Oberlin, Edward A. Wiley. Together they had two children Letitia and William Wiley.

After five years of marriage Caroline’s husband passed away in 1875. two years after Wiley’s death Caroline decided to become a medical doctor. In 1875, Caroline enrolled at the Howard University College of Medicine for one term. She transferred to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1876, where she earned her “Doctor of Medicine degree” in the spring of 1878. while in school, she worked as a drawing and speech teacher to pay her way.

After graduating Dr. Wiley sent in a application of internship at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children. Her initial application was rejected because of her race, she was appointed only after visiting the city and meeting with the board in person; awed by her talent and knowledge, they threw out their earlier decision, and appointed Dr. Wiley to the internship by a unanimous vote. In 1879, after her internship ended Dr. Wiley moved back to Philadelphia, she became one of the state’s first black female doctor. William got to see all his hard work not go to waste.


In 1880 Dr. Wiley remarried to a Doctor of Divinity, founder of Philadelphia’s Berean Presbyterian Church and minister Matthew Anderson. Together the couple had five children, three survived adulthood, Helen, Maude, and Margaret Anderson. After remarrying Dr. Caroline Anderson opened a dispensary in her husband’s church as well as founding a private medical practice. By 1889, Dr. Anderson had revived her career as an educator, teaching hygiene, physiology, and public speaking, while continuing her medical practice. That same year, Dr. Anderson and her husband founded a vocational and liberal arts school called the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School. Dr. Anderson became the assistant principal of the school. She also practice medicine at Quaker Institution of Philadelphia.

Dr. Anderson career came to an end when she suffered a paralytic stroke in 1914. Five years later Dr. Anderson passed away at her home on June 1 or 2, 1919 in Philadelphia, from complication from the stroke she had years earlier, she was 71 years old.

German Coast Revolt of 1811


The German Coast Uprising of 1811 was a revolt of black slaves rebelling against their white masters in Louisiana. A group of enslaved Africans met on January 6, 1811 and they began to plan the a revolt. The chief was a mulatto slave Charles Deslondes.

Deslondes was a field laborer on the Deslondes plantation where he was born. At the time of the revolt, he was about 31 years old. The night of January 8. it began to rain, but the rebels struck to their plans. 15 slaves marched to the Andry’s plantation. They overwhelmed Gilbert Andry and his son. They attempted to kill Gilbert but end up killing his son and sparring Gilbert. Armed with canes knives, horses, clubs, and a few guns, the rebels began the march down river towards New Orleans. They marched to a drum while some carried flags. The only eyewitness testimony claim “they were formed clan-like similar to their tribal of Africa.”


The rebels marched from plantation to Plantation along the East Bank of the Mississippi River, while groups of slaves would join the rebels from every plantation. The rebels went from 15 to about 300 within hours. Many of the plantation were empty due to word spread of the revolt. Whites fled to New Orleans before the revolt started only a few stayed.

They march to James Brown plantation, when a slave named Kook joined the revolt. He was one of the most active participants and key figures of the revolt. At the next plantation down, Kook attacked and killed François Trepagnier with an axe. Trepagnier was the second and last person killed in the rebellion. They burned five plantations houses, only three burned completely. The rebels made it to Meuillion plantation, the largest and wealthiest plantation on the German Coast. They tried to set it on fire, but a slave named Bazile fought the fire and saved the house.

The rebels had traveled between 14 and 22 miles, a march that probably took them seven to ten hours. Whites that did not flee to New Orleans, crossed the river and alerted the militia.

The Fifth Militia Regiment, under Major Charles Perret, began chasing the rebels at around 9 a.m. on January 9, with only 21 men. When he discovered that the rebels, camped on the farm of Jacques Fortier, numbered about 200, he returned to Judge St. Martin’s house to report what he saw. The militia gathered more men and planned to attack the rebels. Early the next day Major Perret, with only 60 men, reached the plantation of Jacques Fortier, but the rebels had left hours before. Within 25 miles of the plantation the Militia spotted the and attack the rebels.


Governor William C. C. Claiborne had dispatched an second company to put down the rebellion. The majority of rebels were either captured or escaped into the swamps, leaving a much smaller group of rebels to face the militia. Deslondes was one of the first to leave the battlefield. He was caught two days later; he was tried and executed on Andry’s plantation. Before the end, he and his compatriots freed about 25 miles of territory.

The rebels leaders, on horseback, made the fastest escape and fled into the swamps chased by the Militia. The captured prisoners (numbering three times their captors) were taken to the Destrehan plantation. The “Army,” under command of General Hampton did not arrive on the scene until January 11. ninety-five slaves were killed or tried and executed because of this revolt. Fifty-six of those slaves captured on the January 10 and involved in the revolt were returned to their masters. thirty more slaves were captured, but they had been forced to join the revolt by Charles Deslondes and his men and were also returned to their masters.


At least three slaves were killed by the rebels for not wanting to participate in the revolt. Following the required 40-day waiting period, seven slaves were freed after the revolt as a result of their actions to prevent it.






Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves


The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 was a comprehensive attempt to close the slave trade. By passing laws in March, Congress gave all slaves traders nine months to close down their operations in the United States.

On December 2, 1806, President Thomas Jefferson in his annual message to Congress, denounced the “violations of human rights” attending the international slave trade and called for its criminalization. He said:

“I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violation of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long be eager to proscribe.”

The House of Senate agreed on a bill, and it was approved on March 2, 1807, called

“An Act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight”.

President Thomas Jefferson signed the bill into the law on March 2, 1807. Many believed the act would end slavery in the South, but they were mistaken. While Congress did not have the power to end the international slave trade, they did have the power to regulate it.

The ten sections of the 1807 act were designed to eliminate all American participation in the trade. Section 1 set the tone. After January 1, 1808, it would “not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such [person] … as a slave, to be held to service or labour.” The act provided an enormous penalty — up to $20,000 — for anyone building a ship for the trade or fitting out an existing ship to be used in the trade.

Penalties for participating in the trade varied. American citizens were subject to fines of up to $10,000 and jail terms of no less than five years and no more than ten years. Ships of any nation found in American ports or hovering off the American coast with Africans on them could be seized and forfeited, with the captain facing a $10,000 fine and up to four years in prison. Any American who purchased an illegally imported slave would lose that slave and be fined $8,000 for every one purchased. The law allowed the United States Navy to interdict ships involved in the illegal trade. It also required ships legally transporting slaves from one part of the nation to another (the domestic slave trade remained legal until 1865) to register their passengers with port authorities before commencing their voyage.


The law certainly had teeth to it. Fines under the statute were enormous, and the potential jail time was surely enough to discourage most slave smugglers. Moreover, for the Jefferson administration, which never much liked federal power, this act constituted a huge grant of power to the national government. Had Congress provided sufficient funding to enforce the law, it would surely have closed the trade. Funding would, however, be problematic until the Civil War.

There was one other problem with the 1808 law: the fate of the illegally introduced slaves. Logically, they should have been either freed in the United States or sent back to Africa. After all, one of the goals of the law was to end the importation of new slaves from Africa. But given the views of President Jefferson, and many of the leaders of his party, either option was impossible. Jefferson was deeply hostile to the presence of free blacks. In a letter to Edward Coles, shortly after he left office, he referred to them as “pests” in society. Thus, his administration had no interest in freeing Africans who were illegally introduced into the nation. Nor was the deeply parsimonious Jefferson likely to support spending any money on returning them to their homelands. They may have been illegally seized and illegally brought to America, but that did not mean they should be free.

Reflecting Jefferson’s ideology of states’ rights, his hatred of free blacks, and his refusal to spend money unless absolutely necessary, the law provided that slaves illegally found in the United States would be treated according to the law of the state in which they were found — or brought to. In practice, this meant they would become slaves in the United States, and that the states would profit by selling them.

Under the law the United States would make money from the sale of confiscated ships and the large fines imposed on anyone involved in the trade. People informing on those who violated the law, as well as the crews of naval ships that seized traders, would also share in the proceeds from the sale of the seized ships. Southern states would get money from the sale of illegally imported slaves, and southerners would have access to more slaves.

In sum, the act of 1807 provided heavy penalties — great disincentives — for slave traders, but ignored the slaves themselves. They were treated like merchandise to be transferred from the smuggler to some owner who could get a clear title to them. The 1807 act sought to end the trade, but did nothing to undermine the legitimacy holding men and women in bondage.




Gabriel Prosser (Leader of an Unsuccessful Slave Revolt)


Gabriel Prosser was born into slavery in 1775, at the Brookfield, a tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Virginia. Prosser had two brothers, Solomon and Martin. Prosser family where owned by Thomas Prosser. Prosser was a trained blacksmith, which gave him access to life beyond the plantation. At the time of the insurrection Prosser was twenty-four years old, literate, dark skinned, six feet two inches tall, had two front teeth missing, and two or three scars on his head.

Prosser plan the revolt during the spring and summer of 1800. With the help of his two brothers and other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond, Virginia by killing all of the whites, and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch. Prosser planned to spare the French, the Methodists, the Quakers, and the poor. Months prior to the insurrection Prosser recruited hundreds of supporters and organized them into military units. On the night August 30, 1800 Prosser intend to lead slaves into Richmond, but the rebellion was postponed because of rain. However, earlier in the day two slaves who wanted to protect their master betrayed the plot to their owner, Mosby Sheppard. Sheppard warned Virginia’s Governor, James Monroe, who called in the state militia. Realizing their plan had been discovered, Prosser and many of his followers dispersed into the county side. About 35 rebels were captured and executed, but Prosser escape to Norfolk, Virginia. The Government put a $300 reward on his head. Prosser was spotted and betrayed by other slaves, who wanted to claim the reward, but the slave that betrayed Prosser did not received the full reward.

Prosser was returned to Richmond and tried for his role in the unsuccessful insurrection. The courts questioned Prosser, but he did not submit. Prosser along with his two brothers and 23 other slaves, was found guilty on October 6, 1800 and executed by hanging the next day.

In reaction, Virginia and other states legislature passed restrictions on slaves as well free blacks, prohibiting the education, assembly, and hiring out of slaves, to restrict their chances to learn and to plan similar rebellions.

1793 Plague in Philadelphia


With a population of approximately 55,000 in 1793, Philadelphia was America’s largest city, its capital and its busiest port. Philadelphia was the home to United States founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton. It was also the site of the most fearsome epidemic to strike the young nation.

In the spring of 1793, French colonial refugees, some with slaves, arrived from Cap François, Saint-Dominque. When 2,000 immigrants were fleeing the slave revolution in the North of the Island. They crowded the port of Philadelphia, where the first yellow fever epidemic in 30 years began in the city August. It was likely the ships carried the yellow fever and mosquitoes. It is transmitted from mosquito bites. The mosquitoes easily breed in small amounts of standing water.

The first two people to died of yellow fever in early August in Philadelphia were both recent immigrants, on from Ireland and the other from Saint-Domingue. After two weeks and an increasing number of fever cases, Dr. Benjamin Rush (a doctor’s apprentice during the city’s 1762 yellow fever epidemic and one of the signer’s of the Declaration of Independence), saw the pattern; he recognized that yellow fever had returned. Dr. Rush alerted his colleagues and the government that the city faced an epidemic of “highly contagious, as well as mortal… bilious remitting yellow fever.” Adding to the alarm was that, unlike with most fevers, the principal victims were not the very young or very old. Many of the early death cases were teenagers and heads of families in the dockside areas.


Believing that the refugees from Saint-Dominque were carrying the disease, the city imposed a 2-3 week quarantine on immigrants and their goods. Dr. Rush blamed “some damaged coffee” for causing the fevers. Some neighboring towns had patrols on the roads to prevent entry by refugees. The major ports of Baltimore and New York prevented refugees from entering and quarantined them and goods from Philadelphia for weeks. The death of Dr. Hutchinson from yellow fever on September 7th, started a panic throughout the city of Philadelphia and people began to flee. Between August 1 and September 7, 456 people died in the city. On September 8, 42 deaths were reported. An estimated 20,000 people left the city through September, including United States President George Washington and his cabinet. The worst 7-day period was between October 7-13, when 711 deaths were reported. The daily death toll remained above 30 until October 26.

As the rich fled, the poor was left behind. The guardians of the poor took over Bush Hill, a 150-acre estate outside the city, who owner William Hamilton was in England for an extended stay. Vice President John Adams had recently rented the main house, so yellow fever patients could be placed in the outbuildings. Young nurses from the city were hired to treat the ill. Like all hospitals at the time, the Pennsylvania Hospital did not admit patients with infectious diseases.

Dr. John Lining’s observation in the 1742 yellow fever epidemic in Charleston, South Carolina, that African slaves appeared to be affected at rates lower than whites; he thought Africans had a natural immunity. Dr. Rush suggested that the city’s people of color had immunity and solicited them “offer your services to attend the sick and help those known in distress.” Despite Dr. Lining and Dr. Rush’s theory, most of the city’s people of color were not immune to the virus was wrong. Many of the African slaves in Charleston in 1742 could have gained immunity before having been transported from Africa, by having been exposed to yellow fever in a mild case. People who survived one attack gained immunity. In the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, blacks died at the same rate as whites.

In late October, after temperatures cooled and the mosquitoes was died off, a newspaper reported that “the malignant fever has very considerably abated. “Stores began to reopen October 25, many families returned, and the wharves were “once more enlivened” as a London-based ship arrived with goods. The Mayor’s Committee advised people outside the city to wait another week or 10 days before returning. It published directions for cleaning houses which had been closed up, recommending that they be aired for several days with all windows and doors open. “Burning of nitre will correct the corrupt air which they may contain. Quick lime should be thrown into the privies and the chambers whitewashed.” On the 31st, a white flag was hoisted over Bush Hill with the legend, “No More Sick Persons Here.”

Fever Phila 1793

But, after some warm days, fever cases recurred. The white flag had to be struck. Finally on November 13, stagecoaches resumed service to the north and south. A merchant reported that the streets were “in an uproar and rendered the wharves impossible by reason of the vast quantities of wine, sugar, rum, coffee, cotton & c. The porters are quite savvy and demand extravagantly for anything they do. “On November 14, the Mayor’s Committee recommended purifying houses, clothing and bedding, but said that anyone could come to the city “without danger from the late prevailing disorder.”

An Official register of deaths listed 4044 people as dying between August 1 and November 9, 1793, making the epidemic in the city of Philadelphia one of the most severe in United States’ history.

History of Yellow Fever


Yellow Fever, known historically as Yellow Jack, Yellow Plague, or Bronze John, is an acute viral disease. The origins of Yellow Fever most likely contracted in Africa, with the transmissions of the disease from non-human primates to humans. The virus is thought to have originated in East or Central Africa and spread from there to West Africa. As it was endemic in Africa, the natives had developed some immunity to it. The Yellow Fever Virus is caused by the bite of infected female mosquitoes. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes from monkeys to humans, when humans are visiting or working in the jungle.

Symptoms includes fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains (particularly in the back), and headaches. Symptoms typically improves within five days. In some cases within days of improving, the fever comes back, abdominal pain occurs, bleeding from the mouth and eyes which cause vomit containing blood, and liver damage begins causing yellow skin. The disease may be difficult to tell apart from other illnesses, especially in the early stages.

Yellow Fever is common in tropical and subtropical areas of South America and Africa. The virus, were probably transferred to North and South America with the importation of slaves from Africa, part of the Columbian Exchanged following European exploration and colonization.

The first definitive outbreak of Yellow Fever in the New World was in 1647 on the island of Barbados. An outbreak was recorded by Spanish colonist in 1648 in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the indigenous Mayan people called the illness xekik (“blood vomit”). In 1685, Brazil suffered its first epidemic, in Recife. The first mention of the disease by name “Yellow Fever” occurred in 1744.

Although yellow fever is most prevalent in tropical-like climates, the northern United States were not exempted from the virus. The first outbreak in English-speaking North America occurred in New York in 1688. English colonist in Philadelphia and the French in the Mississippi River Valley recorded major outbreaks in 1669, as well as those occurring later in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The southern city of New Orleans was plagued with major epidemics during the 19th century, most notably in 1833 and 1853. At least 25 major outbreaks took place in the Americas during the 18th and 19th centuries, including particularly serious ones in Cartagena in 1741, Cuba in 1762 and 1900, Santo Domingo in 1803, and Memphis in 1878.

A serious one afflicted Philadelphia in 1793. The yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the United States, resulted in the deaths of several thousand people, more than 9% of the population. The national government fled the city, including President George Washington. Additional yellow fever epidemics struck Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York in the 18th and 19th centuries, and traveled along steamboat routes from New Orleans. They caused some 100,000–150,000 deaths in total.




Bill Richmond (African International Boxer)


Bill Richmond a.k.a. “The Black Terror” was an slave, born in Cuckhold, Staten Island, New York (now Richmond town), on August 5, 1763.

When the British troops held New York, during the Revolutionary war,14 year old Richmond Served with General Earl Percy, Duke of Northumberland. After the war General Percy returned to England he took young Richmond with him.

Richmond taught himself to fight. The first glimpse at his talent was with an white soldier named Docky Moore, who insulted Richmond, and was promptly challenge to fight. Although Moore was considerably bigger than him, Richmond thrashed the soldier. Richmond had similar success against other soldiers who abused him racially and physically.

After moving to England, Bill_RichmondRichmond found a way to put his fist to good use. He became an prize fighter, and a very famous one. It was said that Richmond had excellent footwork and quick hands, which enabled him to avoid the big punches and outwork bigger fighters (the bod and weave technique). By 1805, he had two victories. Richmond beat a Jewish boxer called Yossoup and a boxer named Jack Holmes also known as “Tough Tom“. Richmond ended up losing a later fight against an Englishman named Tom Cribb. After his lost to Cribb, Richmond didn’t fight in public for three years, he began intensive training. Then when he felt he was ready he face and beat Jack Carter.

Richmond lost to George Maddox, but return and fought Maddox in an match in 1807 and won. After his fight with Maddox, Richmond married and took his winnings and brought an pub, called the “Horse and Dolphin” in Leicester Square London. Richmond also opened a boxing academy, where he trained many fighters, one was Thomas Molineaux, a freed African American slave who came to England to pursue boxing.

Richmond died at his home in London on December 29, 1829, at the age 66. he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.

Absalom Jones(First African American Priest)


Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex County, Delaware in 1746. In 1762 at the age sixteen, his owner sold his mother and siblings to a neighboring plantation, but kept Absalom and moved him to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Absalom became a merchant.

In Philadelphia Absalom taught himself how to read and write, and he began to save pennies that were given to him by visitors at his master’s home, to buy himself some books.

Absalom married a slave woman named Mary King on January 4, 1770. Absalom read an law stating ” that all children born in this country shall be bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.” By 1777 Absalom purchase his wife freedom so that their children would be free.

He wrote asking for his freedom, but was initially denied. In 1784 Absalom saved enough money and eventually purchase his owner freedom.

Absalom was an active member at the interracial congregation of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He served as the lay preacher for the black members of the congregation. In November of 1786, during a Sunday service the usher of the church, told the black members they could not join the white members of the congregation in seating and kneeling on the first floor and instead they had to be segregated. The usher then attempted to remove all blacks, including Absalom, from the main floor of the church to the balcony. After completing their prayer, Absalom and the church’s black members got up and walked out as a group.

On April 12, 1787,Absalom, along with another free African American man named Richard Allen subsequently founded the Free African Society (FAS). Members of this organization met regularly and paid dues which helped benefit those in need and to help newly freed slaves. The Free African Society played a big part in give care for the sick and dying of Philadelphia when the Yellow Fever Epidemic swept that city in 1793.

As 1791 began, Rev. Jones started holding religious services at Free African Society (FAS), which the following year Out of the Free African Society grew, The African Church, was organized on July 7, 1791, in Philadelphia. Absalom wanted to establish a black congregation independent of white control, while remaining part of the Episcopal Church. After a successful petition, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first black church in Philadelphia, opened its doors on July 17, 1794. Absalom was ordained as a deacon in 1795 and as a priest in 1804, and became the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church.

A month after St. Thomas church opened, the Founders and Trustees published “The Causes and Motives for Establishing St. Thomas’s African Church of Philadelphia,” clearly stating their intent

“to arise out of the dust and shake ourselves, and throw off that servile fear, that the habit of oppression and bondage trained us up in.”

Absalom and Allen had different views on where the newly founded church should go, and ended up separating due to disagreements. Absalom remained as the leader of The African Church.

Famous for his oratory, Jones helped establish the tradition of anti-slavery sermons on New Year’s Day. His sermon for January 1, 1808, the date on which the U.S. Constitution mandated the end of the African slave trade, called A Thanksgiving Sermon was published in pamphlet-form and became famous. Nonetheless, rumors persisted that Rev. Jones possessed supernatural abilities to influence the minds of assembled congregations. White observers failed to recognize his oratory skills, perhaps because they believed rhetoric to be beyond the capabilities of black people. Numerous other African-American leaders faced similar rumors of supernatural activities.

In 1817 Rev. Jones and Allen were united again, when they formed the American Colonization Society, which encouraged freed slaves to return to Africa. One year later, Rev. Jones died on February 13, 1818 at his home in Philadelphia. On November 10, 1996, his remains were reinterred in a chapel of his church, St. Thomas African Episcopal Church (now located in Philadelphia’s Overbrook Farms) named in his honor, as is the church’s rectory. The Episcopal Church remembers his life and service annually on the anniversary of his death, February 13.



Phillis Wheatley was born in 1753 in West Africa, most likely in present-day Gambia or Senegal. Only eight years old Phillis was kidnapped by the British and brought to America, aboard a slave ship called The Phillis. Once the slave ship arrived in America, Phillis was sold to an wealthy merchant and tailor from Boston, Massachusetts named John Wheatley. John brought Phillis as a gift for his wife Susanna Wheatley. John and Susanna Wheatley named Phillis after the ship that had brought her to America. Phillis was given their last name, which was common that slaveholders normally would give their servants their last name.

Susanna recognized Phillis intellect and facility with language, she began to teach Phillis how to read and write, not only in English but some Latin. By the age twelve Phillis was reading Greek and Latin classics and difficult passages from the Bible. At the age of 14, Phillis wrote her first poem, “To the university of Cambridge, in New England.”

John and Susanna often showed off Phillis’s abilities to friends and family. While still in her teens Phillis became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, and the third woman in the American Colonies to do so. Her book of poems was on Various Subjects like Religious and Moral.

Phillis books of poems became under controversial twice. The first controversy was in 1772, when Phillis was summoned before an august group of white Bostonians to prove that she had actually composed her poetry, since common thought of the day denied the possibility of intellectual or aesthetic gifts in Africans. The second Phillis and her poetry became controversial was during the 1960s, when her blithe and sometimes glorified treatment of slavery was identified as a hindrance to historical truth and to the Civil Rights Movement.

One particular poem that brought Phillis into recognition was “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” In the poem , she speaks of the “pagan land” of her birth and her “benighted soul” which she claimed was saved when she was enslaved.


Phillis poem was echoing common folklore, which whites claimed that Africans were the seed of Cain, Phillis poem says. “Remember, Christians, Negroes black as Cain / May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.”

In 1778, after the publication of her first book of poetry, Phillis was legally freed from slavery in her master’s will, after he died. Three months later she married John Peters, a free black grocer. Phillis and John struggled living in poor conditions and the death of two babies. They had an third child that was very ill, and in 1784 John was imprisoned for debt, leaving Phillis with no income and a sickly infant son.

Phillis had completed and tried to publish a second book of poetry by the time she died, but was unable to because of her financial circumstances and lack of subscribers.

Phillis Wheatley died on December 5, 1784, at the age 31. her infant son died three and a half hours after her death.

“On being brought from Africa to America”:

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”

Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.