Courses/Lectures

Each of the 34 courses available can be enrolled in individually, or in packages.  Each course is an approximately 1-hour session that consists of the opportunity for the students to interact with the associated artifacts, and a discussion exercise tailored for your specific class in accordance with your teacher's curriculum/recommendations.  If the Course List below doesn’t fit your needs, we can work together to develop the presentation you desire – from control of the discussion topics to selection of items to be presented.

The Black Abolitionist Movement

Although we learn of the contributions of leaders like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, there were many other African-American men and women that led the Abolitionist fight.  From Revered Charles B. Ray to William G. Still and more; the books and newspapers of the 19th century from this collection help to tell some of the forgotten stories and contributions made by these leaders that sacrificed so much.

 

Artifacts: William G. Still’s History of the Underground Railroad, Check signed by Rev. Charles B. Ray, obituary of Paul Cuffee, “Am I Not a Man” and “Am I Not a Woman” abolitionist coins, newspaper articles on black abolitionists, slave biographies, other relevant items

 

Handrwritten Check to Charles B. Ray, Signed on Reverse, 1879 - Rev. Charles Bennett Ray was ajournalist, clergyman, and abolitionist born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1807. He attended school in Falmouth, and in the 1830s was given the chance with the support of white abolitionists to attend Wesleyan Seminary School in Wilbraham MA. He became a Methodist minister, while applying the boot making trade and in 1832 settled in New York City. In 1840, he married his second wife Charlotte A. Burroughs after losing his first wife Henrietta during childbirth in 1836. Charles and Charlotte would have seven children together - two of their daughters, Charlotte T. Ray and Florence Ray, became the first African-American women to practice laws in the 1870s.  Charles himself joined the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad for decades. In 1837 Charles became the general agent for The Colored American, a black-owned weekly paper. Within two years he was sole owner of the paper.  He continued to fight for the abolishment of slavery until the end of the Civil War, and afterwards continued to fight against inequality and indignities suffered by African-Americans. Rev. Charles B. Ray died in New York City on August 15, 1886.  The check written to Rev. Ray seen here is dated March 31, 1879, and is signed by Rev. Ray on the back.

18th Obituary of Paul Cuffee -Paul Cuffee was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1759, the son of a former slave Kofi or Cuffee Slocum and Native American mother Ruth Moses.  His father Kofi was a member of the Ashanti ethnic group, in a region that includes present day Ghana in West Africa.Paul was raised a Quaker by his parents, who adopted the religion from Kofi’s former owner John Slocum.  After acquiring his freedom, Kofi – a fisherman, carpenter and farmer – taught himself to read, and in turn taught his children – including Paul, eventually managing to purchase 116 acres of farmland around Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  In 1772 Kofi died – leaving Paul in charge at only 13 years old of the business his father worked so hard to build.  Determined to make his father proud, Paul took his father’s name Kofi (which was corrupted into Cuffee in English) and made it his last name, shedding the Quaker name of Slocum. Paul began working with a whaling crew in 1775, picking up navigation skills as he labored.  The ship he was working on was captured by the British early on in the Revolutionary War in 1776, with Paul being taken and held several months as a prisoner.  Upon his release, he returned home to Massachusetts.  A few years later, in 1779 he and his brother David built a small cargo ship which he would use to transport merchandise around the area.  Despite being attacked by pirates, Cuffee saved enough money to purchase a second ship – and within the next decade had turned these two ships into a fleet of ships of his own, making him one of the wealthiest men in his area. 

In 1780, having amassed quite a bit of wealth – certainly a great amount for a person of color at that time, Cuffee challenged the state of Massachusetts and the United States as a whole to be true to its creed as expressed in the Declaration of Independence when he refused to pay taxes on his property on the grounds that, as a property-owning Black man, he could not vote – and therefore should not pay taxes (i.e. no taxation without representation).  Although his petition to address this injustice was denied, his stance helped lay the groundwork for the Massachusetts state legislature to eventually amend the state constitution to allow Black men to vote.  In 1783 Paul married a member of his mother’s Wampanoag tribe Alice Pequit with whom he would have seven children.  By 1800, in addition to his fleet of ships, Paul Cuffee also owned a 140-acre waterfront property in Westport, Massachusetts.  A Quaker businessman, Sea Captain, patriot, and abolitionist, Cuffee built a lucrative shipping empire and established the first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts.

Early in the 19th century Great Britain began exploring colonization of West Africa via Sierra Leone.  Paul Cuffee stayed abreast of this development, and in 1810 traveled with his own ship – more than a century before Garvey’s vision – to Sierra Leone in an effort to establish and build trade relationships with which he could eventually transport Africans in America seeking to return home.  In his first attempt he was unsuccessful, having to deal with the tariffs imposed by the British who didn’t want Americans – especially those of color – interfering with their trade monopoly in the Sierra Leone region.  Paul went on another voyage and worked directly with the free Africans of the area – and through this relationship founded the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone which aimed both to further his trade interests and break England’s stranglehold on trade in the area.  Upon return to the United States with cargo from West Africa, Cuffee’s ship was seized, as during this time there was a trade embargo as a result of tensions between the U.S. and Britain that would come to be known as the War of 1812.  Paul had to petition to Washington, D.C. and President James Madison for his cargo’s release.  He met with Madison – nearly 50 years before Frederick Douglass would meet with Lincoln and almost a century before Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House.  During this meeting, he was able to educate Madison on the condition of Sierra Leone.  He attempted, but was unsuccessful, to get Madison and the United States to provide aid for a Cuffee-led establishment in West Africa.  Undeterred, he sought to create his own. 

In 1815, Paul Cuffee again left Westport, Massachusetts, this time with nearly 40 black men, women and children – along with equipment to build a saw mill upon their arrival in Sierra Leone.  More than just trading, his aim this time was to help these individuals return home to Africa permanently.  His ship arrived there in 1816, and he was successfully able to repatriate those 38 individuals with provisions and equipment necessary to survive in their homeland.  This success led Paul Cuffee to a greater vision of returning all former slaves back to Africa or to Haiti, which by this time had been liberated under the rebellion of formerly enslaved Africans.  Unfortunately, Paul’s health declined, and on September 7, 1817, as referenced in the newspaper obituary above, he passed away in Westport, Massachusetts.  He was a Pan-Africanist before there was Pan-Africanism; a Civil Rights Activist before there was a Civil Rights Movement – and a Garveyite even before Marcus Garvey himself was born – all while building a shipping empire.

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