Erastus Hussey was an active Quaker abolitionist throughout Michigan. In addition to helping fugitive slaves, he was a member of Michigan’s Anti-Slavery Society and, as a supporter of the Liberty Party, believed that the U.S. Constitution provided a legal framework for ending slavery. He became a state senator in 1854. During his time as a senator, Hussey worked to pass Public Act 162, more commonly known as the Michigan Personal Freedoms Act. The measure established protections for accused fugitive slaves who were pursued by slave catchers in the state and penalized offenders who falsely accused free people of being slaves.
A Michigan Historic Site plaque commemorates the spot where Erastus Hussey lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, though the home no longer exists. A Quaker, Hussey was Battle Creek’s mayor and a state senator whose Battle Creek home was a station on the Underground Railroad. Hussey was an editor of the “Liberty Press,” a member of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society and, as senator, introduced Michigan’s Personal Freedom Act of 1855, which helped restrict the Federal 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. He was instrumental in assisting 50-some fugitives during the “Kentucky Raid” in Cass County and helped over 1,000 freedom seekers on their way to Canada.
A compilation of printed texts from the libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “First-Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920” documents the American South from the viewpoint of southerners. Consisting of over one hundred diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts, and narratives published during and after the Civil War, the collection includes work by not only prominent individuals, but also relatively inaccessible populations: formerly enslaved African Americans, women, enlisted men, laborers, and Native Americans.
Frederick Douglass is perhaps the most well-known abolitionist of the anti-slavery movement. Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland around 1818. He learned to read in Baltimore and after being hired out to “slave-breaker” Edward Covey, fled to New York in 1833. He settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts and began his long career as an anti-slavery activist, lecturer and conductor on the Underground Railroad. He published his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself in 1845 and began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper, the North Star in 1847.
The National Park Service preserves local history and celebrates local and national American heritage. The Frederick Douglass House, located in the historic Cedar Hill community of Washington, DC, is one of the national treasures managed by the National Park Service. This website provides lesser-known facts about Frederick Douglass (1818-1995), the most famous nineteenth century advocate for freedom and civil rights. Under the website’s ‘History and Culture’ link, one can explore a listing of online resources about Douglass-related people, places, and collections.
The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress chronicles the papers of the nineteenth century African American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his own freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. Housed within the Library of Congress' Manuscript Division, the collection contains approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images) relating to Douglass' life as a freedom seeker, abolitionist, editor, orator, and public servant. The papers span the years 1841 to 1964, with the bulk of the material from 1862 to 1895. The collection consists of correspondences, speeches and articles by Douglass and his contemporaries, a draft of his autobiography, financial and legal papers, scrapbooks, and miscellaneous items. Included is correspondence with many prominent civil rights reformers of his day, including Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Horace Greeley, and Russell Lant, and political leaders such as Grover Clevel...
Richard Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society in 1787. The society providde financial aid to free blacks, specifically newly free blacks, with the goal of advancing Philadelphia’s black community. Members were required to pay dues and adhere to a strict code of conduct. The organization’s success inspired similar groups to form within Philadelphia and in other cities throughout the North. In 1794 it began operating as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.
George DeBaptiste was born free in Fredericksburg, Virginia circa 1815 to free parents. He became a servant for a Southerner named Lomax Smith. After traveling the South with Smith, he married Lucinda Lee and moved to Madison, Indiana in 1838. There, DeBaptiste displayed active disgust at racially oppressive laws, and ended up before the Indiana Supreme Court for challenging a state law regarding free black migrants. His involvement in abolitionist activities led him to relocate his family to Detroit where he continued the fight for freedom with William Lambert and others. He was deeply involved in the U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction.
The George DeBaptiste Homesite is marked by a historical plaque on the Southwest corner of East Larned and Beaubien Streets in Detroit. DeBaptiste was a key leader in Detroit’s black abolitionist community, participating in the Detroit Colored Vigilant Committee, Underground Railroad activities and recruiting men to enlist in Michigan’s Colored 102nd Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.
George McCoy was born into slavery in Kentucky but was freed at the age of twenty-one by his wealthy Irish-American father Henry McCoy. Around 1837 George married an enslaved woman named Milly whose two brothers had recently been sold away. Shortly after their marriage, George convinced Milly to travel with him to freedom in Canada. Helped by Underground Railroad agents in Cincinnati, the couple was pursued by slave hunters as they made their way to Detroit. From Detroit, the McCoys crossed into Canada, settling in Colchester where their first five children were born. Interestingly, the McCoy family moved back to the States after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. They settled on the Starkweather farm northwest of Ypsilanti where George McCoy grew tobacco and made cigars. His daughter Anna related how her father used his false-bottomed wagon to transport Freedom Seekers underneath his loads of cigars on frequent trips to Detroit and Wyandotte. George and Milly McCoy had a total of twelve ...