Biographies

These are some of the eminent figures who made significant contributions to the campaign for abolition.

William Allen William Allen (1770 - 1843) William Allen was an English abolitionist and renowned pharmacist. He also attended the Anti-Slavery Society Convention held in London in 1840. Click to see a painting of this convention by Benjamin Robert Haydon. After significant involvement in the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, he was a founding member of Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation.

Edward Baines Edward Baines (1800 - 1890) Edward Baines was the editor of the Leeds Mercury. His newspaper strongly supported abolition. It included many reports of lectures made by African American visitors to Leeds. His house was in 9 King Street. The writer Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed with him there on a visit from the United States. Did you know that a whole section of the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds is named after him?

Henry 'Box' Brown Henry 'Box' Brown (1815 - 1879) Henry 'Box' Brown made his escape from slavery by having himself packed up in a parcel which was then transported, by rail and steamboat, to Philadelphia. In Leeds he was paraded in his box from the station through the city, in a dramatic re-enactment of his escape. He published the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown in 1849. He lived in England from 1850 until 1875 when he returned to the United States with his British wife and family. He toured the country telling his story and showing a panorama called "Mirror of Slavery".

Ellen Craft and William Craft Ellen Craft (1826 - 1891) and William Craft (1824 - 1900) William and Ellen Craft were from Georgia in the Southern part of the United States. To escape from enslavement, Ellen dressed herself as a white man and pretended that her husband, William, was her slave, travelling with her. In this way they went North to freedom. The story of their escape was recounted many times in newspapers throughout Britain and was the subject of their famous work Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860). They lived in England for nineteen years before eventually returning to the United States. While in Leeds they stayed at the home of the abolitionist and writer Wilson Armistead, the author of a fascinating 1848 work A Tribute to the Negro.
The 1851 census notes their names and describes them each as "fugitive slave".

William Howard Day William Howard Day (1825 - 1900) Like Frederick Douglass, William Howard Day eventually earned a living as editor of abolitionist newspaper in the United States. In 1858 he left the United States to begin his tour of Europe, which led him to many places including Leeds to address large audiences about American slavery. See one account of this in the Leeds Mercury of 8 December 1860.

Martin Delany Martin Delany (1812 - 1885) Delany was born in Virginia which was then a slave state. He was a free man, however he still experienced racial prejudice. He was one of the first black students to enter Harvard Medical School. His public argument with Frederick Douglass over Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom's Cabin anticipated the controversy the novel still gives rise to. He published Blake: Or, The Huts of America between 1859 and 1862 as a response to her novel. Together with Frederick Douglass he founded the North Star newspaper.

Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) Frederick Douglass made his escape from slavery and, eventually, worked as an abolitionist lecturer. He was a very fine speaker. He came to Leeds on a number of occasions and gave some brilliant lectures. Although it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write, Douglass is celebrated for teaching himself, and several others, these skills and becoming a fine writer who published a celebrated slave narrative Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845).

Sarah Parker Remond (1826 - 1894) Sarah Parker Remond was one of the first women in history to give public lectures to large groups of men. Despite many setbacks due to the fact that she was both a woman and black, Remond pursued an education and eventually worked as a lecturer. She arrived in England in 1859, and delivered many public lectures to the local people of Leeds, especially during the period of the American Civil War (1861-5). She studied at Bedford College for Women (now part of the University of London.) Eventually she trained as a doctor and spent the last twenty years of her life living in Italy, where she died.

James Pennington James Pennington (1807 - 1870) Pennington was born into slavery in Maryland, but managed to escape from slavery twice. In his work The Fugitive Blacksmith (1850) he told how he had escaped. One year later he finally purchased his own freedom for $150. On 15 September 1838 Pennington, a minister, performed the wedding ceremony for Frederick Johnson and Anna Murray. Frederick Johnson had just escaped from slavery and had changed his name from Frederick Bailey. Later he would change it once more, to Frederick Douglass the name by which he is famous today.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 - 1896) Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author from a prominent family. She stayed at the house of Edward Baines when she visited Leeds. Key scenes from her bestselling novel Uncle Tom's Cabin were performed on the opening night of the Leeds Grand Theatre in 1878. The original poster advertising this can be seen here.