This Day in Black History: Jan. 17, 1759

Paul Cuffee, businessman and Black nationalist, is born.

Posted: 01/17/2013 08:00 AM EST

(Photo: Wikicommons)

Paul Cuffee, a successful ship builder, whaling captain, businessman and farmer, was born on Jan. 17, 1759. His birthplace was Cuttyhunk Island, a few miles off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts. His mother was an Aquinnah Wampanoag Native American, and his father was a freed African of the Ashanti people.

As a well-respected abolitionist, Cuffee established the first integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts. He was also a Quaker and spoke often at Sunday services. He ran his New Bedford shipping company with his sons-in-law and his services established him as a successful businessman.

On Jan. 1, 1811, he and his crew of Black seamen sailed from Philadelphia to Sierra Leone, which at the time was a British Colony. He met with Sierra Leone’s leaders, observed the country’s culture, and established “The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone” to help freed Black Americans emigrate to the colony.

Cuffee died on Sept. 9, 1817.

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