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Cuffe, Paul (1759–1817)

Beverly Tomek


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Paul Cuffe, a wealthy black Quaker entrepreneur, shipowner, and captain from Westport, Massachusetts, was born to an African father and a Native American mother. He became one of the most successful blacks in the United States, owning with his family and other business partners at least two ships, a shipyard, a 200-acre farm, a windmill, and a gristmill. He began his struggle for civil rights in 1777, when he pointed to the hypocrisy of the American colonists calling for “no taxation without representation” even while they taxed blacks yet denied them the right to vote. He was also known for his efforts at black education, but is best remembered for his involvement with African colonization through the British venture at Sierra Leone . British abolitionists had played a role in the colony from the beginning, helping to recruit settlers and offering advice to the colonial government. In 1807 some of these same philanthropists who had fought to end the slave trade had founded the African Institution. Through this society they hoped to carry on the philanthropic aspect by overseeing settlers' morals, protecting them from African and European dishonesty, and using the colony to combat the slave trade. Familiar with Cuffe's reputation, they desperately wanted his support. Sierra Leone needed settlers with important agricultural and mechanical skills, and the directors of the Institution ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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