Cuffee, Paul

1759 to 1817
Friends Church (Quakers)
Sierra Leone

Religion and personal industry would make a successful combination in the person of Paul Cuffee, an African American Quaker from New Bedford and Westport, Massachusetts. Freed by his conscience-stricken Quaker master, Paul Cuffee (often spelled “Kofi,” hence of Ashanti ancestry) was born under the name Slocum in 1759 in Dartmouth, Bristol County, Massachusetts, the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. His father was of African descent, his mother a native Indian, probably of the Wampanoag tribe. The name Cuffee (or Cuffe) was adopted by the family in about 1778.[1] He received instruction early and by the age of thirteen was able to read and write. At sixteen, he entered the whaling trade, his first voyage taking him to the Gulf of Mexico and a second to the West Indies. When the American War of Independence broke out, he was on a whaling trip and was captured by the British and held in remand for three months in New York. After his release, he gave up whaling and took uncharacteristically to agriculture in Westport. With life at sea still casting a spell on him, he gave in and built a boat with the help of a brother, David, to trade with towns on the Connecticut coast. That and several subsequent events ended in failure, with Paul lucky on several occasions to escape capture by pirates. The end of the war found Paul still keen to pursue a career at sea. He fitted out an 18-ton boat to trade in codfish, and that laid the foundation for his future business success.[2] Assisted by his wife’s brother, he took again to whaling, making frequent trips to Newfoundland. He returned to Westport from these whaling trips and then went on to Philadelphia, where he exchanged his cargo of oil and bone for bolts and iron, with which he built a new 69-ton vessel, the Ranger. He ranged up and down the eastern seaboard and ran a particularly profitable venture in Virginia trading in corn. With success assured, Paul took on the maritime world and in 1800 commissioned a larger, 162-ton vessel, the Hero, which on one of its voyages rounded the Cape of Good Hope, a hint of things to come. In 1806, he fitted out two ships, one a 268-ton vessel, the Alpha, which traveled from Wilmington and Savannah to Gottenburg, Sweden, eventually returning to Philadelphia. In the other, the Traveller, he owned three-fourths of interest. It was with this vessel that he crossed the Atlantic to Freetown, about which more later.

With the profits from his whaling business, Paul led an effort to establish a school for blacks in Westport, eventually building one from his own funds and offering it to the community. He was convinced that education offered the route to self-improvement for blacks, and he dedicated himself to promoting the cause.

This brings us to Paul Cuffee’s religious background. His parents are recorded as having been regular attendants at the Westport meeting of Friends, where they would have been told that the revelation of the Divine Principle could enlighten “the soul of every man.”[3] Paul himself joined the Friends in 1808 [4], in what accounts describe as a sincere and faithful profession of faith.[5] In the pithy words of his biographer, Paul “was considerate of little folks, for he presented them with Bibles and good counsel and endeavored to set before them an example of righteous conduct.”[6]

In line with his religious interest, Paul strove for broader participation for blacks in the affairs of state and society, using his own personal advantages for the purpose. He and a brother, John, sent a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay, on 10 February 1780, asking for the extension of franchise rights to blacks as the logical corollary to the fight for independence, in which blacks joined. Their petition argued for consistency of principle in that regard and for the need to change the situation for blacks,

Having no vote or Influence in the Election of those that Tax us yet many of our Colour (as is well known) have Cherfully [sic] Entered the field of Battle in the defense of the Common Cause and that (as we conceive) against a similar Exertion of Power (in Regard to taxation) too well known to need a Recital in this place.[7]

The petition as an extrapolitical remedy has a long history, going back at least to the 1628 Petition of Right, in which Charles I assented to the declaration of rights and liberties of the people as presented to him by Parliament. In that form the petition was a branch of patronage and addressed as such to the ruler as superior authority, whatever material qualifications might have been implied in concessions granted in the entreaty or supplication. In the words addressed to Archbishop Ussher by Michael Robarts of Jesus College, Oxford, he was “a petitioner to your grace for favour.”[8] As used by the blacks, both in America and in West Africa, the petition thrived as a bill of grievance, an appeal to assert rights and seek remedies deemed just and proper. It expressed the individual rights of the petitioners and fit with the Puritan doctrine of the divine right of personhood, which, as Milton put it, held that we “are made in the image and resemblance of God.” In this view the petition [9] was not merely appeasement or propitiation of superior authority, but a tool of justice.[10]

Paul Cuffee had in 1808 expressed an interest in doing something tangible to help improve conditions in Africa, by which time a settlement had been established in Freetown. Zachary Macaulay, the governor, had written on behalf of the African Institution, an antislavery organization, to encourage him.[11] On 27 December 1810 he set out for West Africa from Philadelphia, where he had gone from Westport. After he arrived in Freetown the following year, he visited Governor Columbine, a girls’ school, and a Methodist service and went to Bullom to meet Old King George, whom he regaled with Quaker materials and some choice advice about the abhorrence of slavery and the need to adopt a sober, industrious life. In his meetings with local chiefs, Cuffee was careful to observe the rules of court etiquette but not to leave himself open to chiefly demands. In one case he noted dryly that the gray-headed grace chief he met was not content of the courtesies extended to him, comprised mainly of religious materials and ethical advice, and was delaying his departure till he got some rum. “I Served Him With Victuals But it a peared [sic] that there Was rum Wanting but none Was given.”[12] Cuffee’s official reception by the governor was cool, and he was not allowed to land “6 bales of India goods,” for fear of competing with local trade. The governor also discouraged Cuffee from making contact with the Nova Scotian settlers whom he said he found “the most troublesome.” There were 982 of them at the time.

Invitations to visit London from William Allen and William Wilberforce had reached Cuffee. To prepare for that he gathered views in the colony on the slavery question and composed a petition with the title “Epistle from the Society of Sierra Leone, in Africa, to the Saints and Faithful Brethren in Christ” and took it with him to London. In July 1811, he arrived in England in his ship the Traveller, making landfall at Liverpool. One of his first tasks was to help obtain the release of a slave named Aaron Richards, with a petition on the matter to the Board of Admiralty established under the terms of the 1807 act abolishing the slave trade. He was able to draw on the support of Thomas Clarkson. In London, he visited Wilberforce in the company of William Allen and subsequently went to Parliament. He also met Zachary Macaulay, since retired as governor of Sierra Leone. He had occasion to meet William Bootell, a slave trader, who invited Cuffee to his lodgings, and Captain Pane, another slave trader. The African Institution, whose president was the duke of Gloucester and whose directors included Wilberforce and Allen, convened a meeting to which Cuffee was invited. When he left to return to Freetown in September 1811, he carried with him the views of the African Institution. He reached Freetown in November of that year.[13]

Cuffee’s intention in going to West Africa was to establish a trading base at the source for the slave trade and, with others, to work from there to undermine the slave traffic. He also wished to use the transatlantic link between America and West Africa to bring that about: tropical produce, obtained through scientific cultivation, would be carried in ships owned by blacks to America, and the profits used to establish more African Americans in West Africa, and so the cycle would be repeated. But the authorities in Sierra Leone saw this plan as unacceptable encroachment on their economic interests and blocked it.[14] Charles MacCarthy (soon to be governor of the colony), for example, reported on Cuffee’s arrival to Freetown, saying Cuffee was “permitted to sell every article except some tobacco and naval stores which would have proved prejudicial to the British trade, for these he found a market at a short distance from this colony.”[15] On his trip back to Freetown from England Cuffee offered passage to a missionary of the British Methodist Church as well as to three schoolteachers. They all made it to Freetown. Before returning to America Cuffee helped found the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone[16] and later wrote to its secretary, James Wise, “I instruct thee to endeavor that she, the Friendly Society, may not give up her commercial pursuits for that is the greatest outlet to her national advancement. I foresee this to be the means of improving both your country and nation.”[17] Meanwhile Cuffee set out for the United States on 4 April 1813, arriving after a fifty-four-day voyage. Thomas Clarkson, in a notice of 28 January 1814, referred to Cuffee’s Friendly Society, saying it existed “to devise means of disposing of [the settlers’] produce on the most advantageous terms, and of promoting habits of industry among each other. This association continues but,” he urged, “it cannot carry its useful plans into execution, without assistance from England.”[18] Cuffee arrived in America, and his fame followed him.

His ship had brought British cargo with it, which was in contravention of existing embargo laws. Cuffee negotiated on the matter, meeting President Madison in Washington for the purpose.[19] He was made an exception.[20]

Cuffee continued to make representation on the issue of slavery, challenging what he called “enlightened Methodists,” for example, how they could fail to see the evil of making merchandise of a brother. He took the message to the New York Methodist Conference. The theme had been set forth in the “Epistle of the Society of Sierra Leone,” which demanded that the saints held in bondage be liberated, that blacks be freed of “the galding [galling] chain of slavery, that they may be liberated and enjoy liberty that God has granted unto all his faithful Saints.[21] Among the signatories were James Wise, Moses Wilkinson, Joseph Brown, and John Ellis.

A study of his letter to William Allen in London shows that Cuffee was thinking very much in the language of the new society. He spoke about the place religion occupied in Freetown, mentioning that four meetings are held on Sunday and two on other days. He said there were two Methodist churches, one Baptist, and one without denominational affiliation, which was run by “an old woman, Mila Baxton who keeps at her dwelling house.”[22] He described the measures taken for poor relief, with an organization convening for the purpose once every month, with people appointed to take responsibility for those needing care. A general meeting was held every six months.

Cuffee then went into detail about the necessity of a sober life, and how the habit of regular meetings would promote “all good and laudable institutions . . . and increase your temporal and spiritual welfare.” He harped on the theme of sobriety, steadfastness, and faithfulness, so that the community would be served by good examples in all things, “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly.”[23] He admonished against “following bad company and drinking of spirituous liquors” and against “idleness, and encouraged [all] to be industrious, for this is good to cultivate the mind, and may you be good examples therein yourselves.” Those who work and serve should be “brought up to industry; may their minds be cultivated for the redemption of the food seed, which is promised to all who seek after it.”[24] He returned to an address he gave to free people of color in Philadelphia in 1796. “They are advised to attend to religion, to get an elementary education, teach their children useful trades, use no spirituous liquors, avoid frolicking and idleness, have marriage legally performed, lay up their earning, and to be honest and to behave themselves.”[25] Idleness was the great Puritan vice, and so it remained for Cuffee and the brethren. The importance of setting a useful, industrious example was remarked on by a traveling Quaker minister, Stephen Grellett, who reported from Liverpool at the time of Cuffee’s visit there, describing Cuffee as “a black man, owner and master of a vessel . . . He is a member of our Society . . . The whole of his crew is black also. This together with the cleanliness of his vessel, and the excellent order prevailing onboard, has excited very general attention. It has, I believe, opened the minds of many in tender feelings toward the poor suffering Africans who, they see, are men like themselves, capable of becoming like Paul Cuffee, valuable and useful members of both civil and religious Society.”[26] Thus, for the blacks, idleness was not just a personal vice, the mark of a fallen man, but a matter of social organization and economic enterprise.

In a memorial he addressed to the U.S. president and Congress in June 1813, Cuffee made clear he wished to see established in Africa a model society based on new foundation altogether. The fundamental rule to be established in Africa would be the rule of equity and justice, requiring the cessation of the trade in slaves. A new society in Africa thus conceived would require raising a new foundation conducive to producing wholesome and practical fruit. What they needed in Sierra Leone, Cuffee pleaded, was a sawmill, a millwright, a plow, and a wagon on which to haul loads so that people would not have to carry loads on their heads. He pledged to Congress that he would commit his own resources to promote the improvement and civilization of Africa and help avert from its people the curse which the slave trade had brought. He would lay before the American public a challenge “in the expectation that persons of reputation would feel sufficiently interested to visit Africa, and endeavor to promote habits of industry, sobriety, and frugality among the natives of that country.”[27]

On 7 January 1814 the memorial was presented to Congress on Cuffee’s behalf and referred to the Committee on Commerce and Manufacturing by the Speaker of the House. The Senate passed a resolution authorizing the president of the United States to allow Cuffee to leave for West Africa with a cargo of goods, but the measure was rejected by a majority in a final vote in the House on the grounds that it would let British goods elude the blockade imposed by Congress. A similar request in London was turned down as too risky given the current state of navigation laws still dealing with the consequences of the Anglo-American War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars.

Cuffee would not be stopped, however, and with the help of Quakers in Westport, he fitted out the Traveller again and set sail in November 1815. The Traveller was carrying a cargo of tobacco, soap, candles, naval stores, flour, iron to build a sawmill, a wagon, grindstones, nails, glass, and a plow. There were thirty-eight passengers, eighteen heads of family, and twenty children, common laborers who wished to till the soil. On board was a Perry Locke, a licensed Methodist preacher, “with a hard voice for a preacher,” commented Cuffee delicately. (Cuffee reminded Locke in Freetown that Locke had complained in America of being deprived of his liberties and was again murmuring because he was called upon to serve as a juror. “Go and fill thy seat and do as well as thou canst,” Cuffee told him.)[28] Another passenger was Anthony Survance, a native of Senegal, who had been sold to the French in Saint Domingo and who escaped to Philadelphia during the Revolution. He learned to read and write and studied navigation, though, in spite of his effort, life at sea ill-suited him because of his susceptibility to seasickness. Cuffee did not think he would make a good mariner. He joined the voyage at his own expense with hopes of making it eventually to his home in Senegal.

The party dropped anchor in Freetown on 3 February 1816, much of the crew by then weary from the journey and Cuffee himself beset afterward with landing difficulties. He was required to pay heavy customs duties for his goods. It was not going to be the profitable venture he had hoped for, but for consolation he met Governor MacCarthy and the chief justice, who both received him cordially. Yet nothing could hide the fact that Cuffee had ceased being a welcome visitor to Sierra Leone. William Allen was at first mystified by the change, puzzled as to why a person of such exemplary character, industry, and self-effacing demeanor as Cuffee should be vilified in Sierra Leone. He noted in his diary on 27 December 1813: “Much taken up, day after day, with examining witnesses on the State of Sierra Leone . . . I feel it a duty to stand by the poor black settlers–they have few to take their part.”[29] At long last, he said, he found the reason for the antipathy to Cuffee. “I think we shall be able to prove,” he wrote in 1814, “that the principal thing attended to by the white people of Sierra Leone, at least by many of them, has been getting money, and that in the shortest way. The mystery of poor Paul Cuffee’s ill usage is now unravelled.”[30]

In Cuffee’s own estimation, economic motives alone were not sufficient to justify the high risks of investing in Africa, though he admitted that “trifling trade” would be necessary to make long-term involvement viable. Rather, he felt that the slave trade was a great stumbling block to the claims of full humanity to which everyone was entitled, including slaves. He realized, too, that the old power structures in Africa depended too profoundly on the slave trade to cooperate in its destruction. But so also were the European commercial interests. “It appeared to him in a very clear light of view” that the efforts being made to raise a productive class of Africans were being undermined by their heavy debts to European traders. “I had to encourage them to exert themselves on their own behalf and become their own shippers and importers that they may be able to imploy their own citizens for at present their colony is stript of their young men for as soon as they are discharged from school they have no business to go into and they enter on board foreigners so the Colony in Continually stript of her popularation [sic].” It was an acute social analysis from which chieftaincy rule emerged no less culpable. “I May also add further that in conversing with the African chiefs that it was with great reluctance they gave up on the slave trade saying it made them poor and they Could not git things as they used to git when they traded in slaves.”[31] Thus the profit motive in trade and the corrupt nature of chieftaincy office had to be remedied by the new ethics and politics of antislavery and antistructure.

Cuffee would not travel again to Africa. Instead he devoted his energies to the cause of American colonization directed to Africa. Robert S. Finley, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey and later president of the University of Georgia, had been rallying public opinion for a settlement for free blacks in Africa. He made contact with Cuffee, writing “The great desire of those whose minds are impressed with the subject is to give opportunity to the free people of color to rise to their proper level and at the same time to provide a powerful means of putting an end to the slave trade, and sending civilization and Christianity to Africa.”[32] Finley’s entreaty resulted in the founding of the American Colonization Society in 1816. Cuffee advised the society to look outside Freetown, probably wishing to avoid conflict with the authorities there.

Another figure of national importance who approached Cuffee for advice and counsel was Samuel J. Mills. Mills is credited with founding the American Bible Society as well as the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, two organizations that would become pillars of the new society Cuffee and his friends were promoting in Africa. When Mills wrote to Cuffee desiring to know the conditions of life in Africa, Cuffee described to him what he observed of the slave trade and the need to patrol the continent’s coastline to discourage the traffic in slaves. He called to Mills’s attention and to that of Finley the work of the African Institution.

The Friendly Society, which had meant so much to Cuffee, was starved of the goods it needed from America and went into rapid decline. But Cuffee would have agreed with the sentiment, offered here in a hard sell, that, as a correspondent expressed it, good behavior tied to honest, diligent industry (“in which a few horses would be an assistance”) in Africa would likely be rewarded “with yams, cassada [sic], plantains, fowls, wild hogs, deer, ducks, goats, sheep, cattle, dish in abundance, and many other articles, good running water, large oysters.”[33] Cuffee himself died on 27 July 1817, a much accomplished figure in the new world and European understanding of the new society that was being created in Africa.[34]

In a memorial notice of the board of managers of the American Colonization Society, Paul Cuffee was recognized for his clear and strong judgment, his informed opinion, his commitment and dedication, and the hands-on experience he had of life in West Africa. The tribute to him ended with the point that any future engagement with Africa would have to be based on partnership of an uncommon order, one in which fact and knowledge would replace prejudice and aspersion, an order that must be evaluated in terms of its “usefulness to the native Africans and their descendants in this country.”[35]

Cuffee’s public exertions and personal industry as well as his proven contacts with Africa and with philanthropic bodies concerned with the continent were a powerful stimulus for the awakening of the social and humanitarian impulse in America. New England papers, for instance, cited him as proof that overseas outreach was viable, an idea that the Haystack Prayer meeting in 1806 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which galvanized America’s missionary resolve, had helped to keep before the attention and sensibility of the public

Lamin Sanneh


  1. According to George Salvador, “The Slocum family of the Elizabeth Islands [Paul Cuffe’s father’s former slave owners] objected to Cuffe using their surnames for his children. In time, the children, except for one of the girls dropped the slave name of Slocum and used the given name of their father as their family name.” George Salvador, Paul Cuffe, The Black Yankee, 1759-1817 (New Bedford, MA: Reynolds-DeWalt Printing, Inc., 1969), 12.

  2. Salvador offers additional details: “Later, with a new eighteen ton boat, he sailed from Westport to George’s Banks off Cape Cod for a cargo of codfish. This venture proved to be profitable, and it became an important foundation for an extensive and lucrative fishing industry from Westport to George’s Banks. This industry continued to prosper for a considerable time and was a major source of income for Westport.” Salvador, Paul Cuffe, 13.

  3. Lamont D. Thomas, Rise to be a People: A Biography of Paul Cuffee (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 37.

  4. Salvador’s account explains the origins of Cuffee’s Quaker faith: “Rotch, an ardent Quaker, became a principle financial supporter of the Friends Academy in New Bedford and also its first president in 1811. As a resolute Quaker, it is not surprising to find that he became an ardent abolitionist in New England. Paul Cuffe’s dealing with Rotch and the eminent Quaker merchants of Philadelphia to whom Rotch had introduced him led Cuffe to investigate the Quaker faith. In 1808, he became a member of the Friends Meeting at Acoaxet, Westport.” Salvador, Paul Cuffee, 20.

  5. Salvador gives further details of Cuffee’s devoted faith: “Cuffe became a faithful and devout Quaker. His letters constantly instructed his friends in the ways of Christ, and the greatest beneficence he could offer one was ‘the reward of life everlasting in Christ.’ His zeal for his faith was unmistakable, and it gave him strength and courage.” Salvador, Paul Cuffee, 21.

  6. Henry Noble Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” Journal of Negro History, 8 (April 1923), 160.

  7. Massachusetts Archives, Yale University Library, vol. 186, 134-136. Cited also in Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 162.

  8. Cited in Seaver, Puritan Lectureships, 136.

  9. It was the American blacks who in West Africa employed the principle of the political petition on a regular and sustained scale, with James Wise and Samuel Brown among the most accomplished and polished at that epistolary art.(The petition of both James Wise and Samuel Brown can be found in the MMS Archives, box 279.) Wise, for example, combined, legalistic sophistication with literary flair, reporting accurately on settler demands, carefully sifting the unreliable from the trustworthy in the petition, pointing out the legal hazards of dealing with a chapel trustee who was attorney also held a brief to the dispute, and ending with a warning couched in understatement: if you give in “there will be room for vainglory.”(Letter of James Wise to Rev. John Beecham, 17 May 1833.) Both Wise and Brown, among others, were prominent in resisting official attempts at asserting control over the settlers. The petition as a regular medium of communication became, in the context of political agitation, an outlet and a conduit for grievances, and thus an important documentary source of historical issues, attitudes, concerns, and major actors.(The authorities in Freetown proscribed the petition. Robert Purdie, the colony’s secretary, published a public notice on 20 December 1814, saying it had been illegal and forbidden under English law since 1664 to make use of the petition, with sanctions reserved for offenders. Robert Purdie, “Notice,” Freetown, 20 December 1814, Public Record Office, London, CO 267/40.) James Wise was active early in the process, for the missionary John Huddleston was writing in February of 1822 of Wise being a leader of the Young Turk faction determined to oust the missionaries from control.

  10. “In spite of the reference to the American Revolution, the General Court rejected their petition.” Salvador, Paul Cuffee, 24.

  11. Macaulay’s letter can be found in Rosalind Cobb Wiggins, ed., Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs and Letters, 1808-1817: A Black Quaker’s “Voice from within the Veil” (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996), 84-85.

  12. Wiggins, Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs, 108.

  13. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 174-181.

  14. In the words of Thomas, “No one, including Cuffe, thought it unusual that prominent Britishers could benefit financially from slave labor while espousing a policy of humanitarianism towards Africans.” Thomas, Rise, 57.

  15. Letter of Charles MacCarthy, 31 May 1816, Public Record Office, London, CO 267/42.

  16. According to Thomas, “Policies were formally established: a monthly meeting, a written record, and an official title, the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone.” Thomas, Rise, 68.

  17. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 2014. Also Wiggins, Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs, 441-442.

  18. Thomas Clarkson, “Society for the Purpose of Encouraging the Black Settlers at Sierra Leone, and the Natives of Africa Generally, in the Cultivation of their soil, and by the sale of their produce,” 28 January 1814, Public Record Office, London, CO 267/41.

  19. Harris notes that “Thus, this black man from Westport, Massachusetts, became the first Negro known to have been both entertained as a guest by the President of the United States and received in his official residence. . . In later years, Cuffe’s experience with President Madison took on the aura of folklore. Abolitionists seized upon the meeting as proof that the black man’s intellectual equality with the white man.” Sheldon H. Harris, Paul Cuffe: Black America and the African Return (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 58.

  20. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 184.

  21. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 189. Also Wiggins, Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs, 116-117.

  22. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 190.

  23. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 192. This is a reference to Micah 6:8.

  24. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 192. Wiggins, Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs, 234.

  25. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 192.

  26. Wiggins, Cuffe’s Logs, 128.

  27. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 195-196, Wiggins, Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs, 252-253, 434-435.

  28. Wiggins, Cuffe’s Logs, 434.

  29. William Allen, William Allen, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Henry Longstreth, 1847), 134.

  30. Allen, William Allen, 138. Also Wiggins, Cuffe’s Logs, 180.

  31. Wiggins, Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs, 342.

  32. Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 213.

  33. Second Annual Report of the American Colonization Society, 153. Cited in Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 218.

  34. Thomas notes that “On August 27 Cuffe summoned his family and “bid all farewell” in the presence of the Lord. ‘It was as broken a time as was ever known amongst us,’ recounted John, his early mentor and loyal brother.” Thomas, Rise, 118.

  35. First Annual Report of the American Colonization Society, 5. Cited in Sherwood, “Paul Cuffe,” 220.


Sanneh, L. Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.


Clarkson, T. “Society for the Purpose of Encouraging the Black Settlers at Sierra Leone, and the Natives of Africa Generally, in the Cultivation of their soil, and by the sale of their produce,” 28 January 1814, Public Record Office, London, CO 267/41.

Harris, S. H. Paul Cuffe: Black America and the African Return. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

Letter of Charles MacCarthy, 31 May 1816, Public Record Office, London, CO 267/42.

Letter of James Wise to Rev. John Beecham, 17 May 1833.

Massachusetts Archives, Yale University Library, vol. 186.

MMS Archives, box 279.

Purdie, R. “Notice,” Freetown, 20 December 1814, Public Record Office, London, CO 267/40.

Salvador, G. Paul Cuffe, The Black Yankee, 1759-1817. New Bedford, MA: Reynolds-DeWalt Printing, Inc., 1969.

Seaver, P. S. The Puritan Lectureships: The Politics of Religious Dissent, 1560–1662. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1970.

Sherwood, H. N. “Paul Cuffe,” Journal of Negro History, April 1923.

Thomas, L. D. Rise to be a People: A Biography of Paul Cuffee. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

Wiggins, R. C. Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs and Letters, 1808-1817: A Black Quaker’s “Voice from within the Veil.” Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996.

William, A. William Allen, vol. 1. Philadelphia: Henry Longstreth, 1847.

This biography, uploaded in 2019, was excerpted, adapted, and enlarged from Lamin Sanneh, Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009) by Mylene Oyarzabal, a student researcher in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) at Boston University, under the supervision of Dr. Michèle Sigg, DACB Associate Director.