The Unknown Quaker Abolitionist

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The AcknowledgeAbolish and Advocate goals of the Unpaid Labor Project are meant to connect the past with the present. As we do so it is important to remind ourselves and you of an important truth. The struggle against the Unpaid Labor system of slavery was waged by Black and White Americans. The struggle against the system of injustice that plagues African Americans today is being waged by Black and White Americans.

I was reminded of this truth as I listened to a YouTube video sent to me recently by Marcus Rediker, PhD. Dr. Rediker is a signer of the Unpaid Labor Manifesto. He is an advocate for social justice. Like 90% of the historians that have signed the Manifesto he is white, and they are friends of the Unpaid Labor Movement. I was also reminded of this truth as I read Marcus’ article entitled The “Quaker Comet” Was the Greatest Abolitionist You’ve Never Heard Of. It appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine.

The YouTube video entitled "Benjamin Lay Reconsidered" features a narration of Avis Wanda McClinton’s comments at the Abington Monthly meeting (April 21, 2018) of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). For Quakers “the meeting” is their religious service.

That meeting acknowledged Lay’s life work of advocating for the freedom of African Americans held in slavery. They dedicated a grave marker to Sarah and Benjamin Lay (died 1759). He had been thrown out of many Quaker meetings for his radical opposition to slavery among that group. That meeting also acknowledged Avis Wanda McClinton, an African American woman and a modern-day Quaker. She had been written out of the meeting for insisting on finding the graves of long forgotten enslaved people interred in Quaker graveyards. The Abington Meeting also placed a marker for them “In Honor Of Those Known Only To God.”

These past and present day “abolitionists” combine to remind us that nothing has changed. The present-day struggle involves all Americans of goodwill in the cause for social justice. It always has.