Friday, February 4, 2011

Black Friends: A History Lesson

At 9:15 a.m. this Saturday, February 5, 2011, I will be heading over to the Plainfield Quaker Meeting House (225 Watchung Avenue--next to main post office) for a Black History Month presentation titled "Quakers, African Americans, and Racial Justice: In the Lead Up to the Civil War," sponsored by the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs. Most of my own research focuses on the antebellum era, so I am looking forward to this event and am excited to learn more about black "friends" and forbears. 

According to the program, put together by Ethel Washington, History Programs Coordinator for Union County, some of the topics that will be discussed include: African American membership in the Religious Society of Friends; the relationship between the Friends and Americans of African descent; enslavement among Friends; Quakers' important role in the passage of the New Jersey State Legislature's "Gradual Emancipation Act" on February 15, 1804; the process of freeing the Society of Friends from slaveholding at Plainfield Meeting; Quaker involvement in the Underground Railroad; and Quakers and the abolitionist movement. 

Silhouette of Captain Paul Cuffe
The only two black Quakers I had ever heard about were Captain Paul Cuffe (1759-1817), the Massacusetts sea captain and abolitionist, and Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), the Civil Rights leader and architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I have provided a couple of links to more information about these two historic leaders--I think they serve as wonderful bookends to Saturday's talk, which focuses on the period smack dab in the middle. I am also looking forward to learning more about the history of slavery in Plainfield, a topic that needs to be researched more.

Those with an interest should join us on Saturday, as the speakers will, I am sure provide illuminating insights into our American history as we honor and acknowledge the contributions of African Americans in the freedom struggle.  
Quaker Bayard Rustin (l.) and Cleve Robinson

The speakers are Vanessa Julye, Co-author of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship (pub. Quaker Books); Roger Driesbach-WIlliams, 30-year Member, Rahway and Plainfield Monthly Meeting; Richard T. Irwin, Historiographer, Friends Meeting House and Cemetery Association of Randolph Township, NJ, and editor of History of Randolph Township, N.J.

Registration (small fee of $10.00) is at 9:15 am, and the panel presentation begins at 9:30. A question and answer period follows, and light refreshments will be served. A tour of the meeting house and burial grounds will be offered to those interested. For more information, call 908-558-2550. I hope you will join me at this intellectually stimulating event as we acknowledge and honor our past!
All best,


Links to more information:

1 comment:

Prof. Williams said...

I just returned from the Plainfield Quaker Meeting House program on African Americans, abolition,and "Friends." It was an excellent program, and History Programs Coordinator Ethel Washington is to be commended for putting it together. There was a good turnout in spite of the horrid weather conditions, and I was especially gratified to see so many young people in attendance!