‘He became determined to do what he could for what he called “my brethren, the African race’’.’

A proficient sailor and businessman, Paul Cuffe was perhaps the only black Quaker in New England. Simon Webb tells the story

‘Members of the African Institution were so impressed that they tried to persuade Paul to move to Sierra Leone and become a leader of the colony.’ | Photo: Portrait of a Black Sailor, believed to be Paul Cuffe, c1880

I first came across Paul Cuffe over twenty years ago in Rufus Jones’ 1911 history The Quakers in the American Colonies. Unfortunately this classic study only makes one passing reference to ‘the famous seacaptain, Paul Cuffee, of Massachusetts’ and identifies him as a slave or freed slave who was one of the ‘few’ who ‘might be found in each of the colonies who were received into membership with the Society’.

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