Isaac Hopper, abolitionist, prison reformer

Isaac Tatem Hopper (1771 – 1852) was an abolitionist who was active in Philadelphia in the anti-slavery movement and protecting fugitive slaves and free blacks from slave kidnappers. He moved to New York City in 1829 to run a Quaker bookstore. From 1841-1845 he served as treasurer and book agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1845 he became active in prison reform and devoted the rest of his life to the Prison Association of New York. He influenced his daughter, who started the Women’s Prison Association to work for prison reform as well. His work was known by legislatures in Albany and the governor trusted his opinion on the pardoning… Read More

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John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist, publisher

John Brown Russwurm (1799–1851) was an abolitionist, newspaper publisher, and colonizer of Liberia where he moved from the United States.  He moved from Maine to New York City, where he was a founder with Samuel Cornish of the abolitionist newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, the first paper owned and operated by African Americans. Mr. Russwurm was born in Jamaica to an English Merchant and an enslaved woman. He was sent to Quebec when he was young for his education. He reunited with his father in 1812 and moved to Maine with his father and stepmother. The stepmother kept him with the family after the death of his father in 1815. He… Read More

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George Downing, abolitionist and activist

George T. Downing (1819-1903) was an abolitionist and activist for African-American civil rights. From the 1830s until the end of slavery, Downing was active in the abolitionist movement and in the Underground Railroad, with his restaurant serving as a rest house. During the American Civil War, Downing helped recruit African American soldiers. Downing’s grandparents were former slaves. He attended one of the first free African schools in New York City and went on to Hamilton College. In 1842, Downing started a catering business in Manhattan. His work brought him in touch with many of the elites of the city, including the… Read More

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Mary Bowne Parsons, abolitionist

The Bowne family had a long history of service and Mary Bowne Parsons (1784-1839) opened her home up to run away slaves in the Flushing area of what we now know as Queens. During her residency, the Bowne house was rumored to be a stop on the underground Railroad. Mary Bowne Parsons founded a school for indigent young women called the Flushing School for Young Women. They were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and needle and sewing skills, with the hope that they could go out and be self-supporting. The Bowne house became a museum in 1947. Up until 1945, members of the Bowne family… Read More

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Sydney Howard Gay, attorney, journalist and abolitionist

Sydney Howard Gay (1814–1888) was an American attorney, journalist and abolitionist who was active in New York City. Beginning in 1843, he was editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard for 14 years. His offices became a stop of the Underground Railroad, and he became very active in collaborating with others to help fugitive slaves reach freedom. Gay worked closely with free black Louis Napoleon, and for about two years kept a detailed record of the approximately 200 men he and Napoleon aided in what is known as the Record of Fugitives. Later records discovered put the number of people assisted… Read More

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