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FROM Ripley, C. Peter, et al., eds., The Black Abolitionist Papers Vol. I: The British Isles, 1830-1865, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985, pp. 6-8. Used by permission of the publisher.

The idea of a black abolitionist mission to the British Isles developed throughout the 1830s and crystallized during the 1840s. After nearly a decade of visits by over twenty black Americans, antislavery reformers on both sides of the Atlantic realized that black abolitionists could make unique and significant contributions. This varied group of freeborn blacks and former slaves took with them a mix of goals, and they had a wide range of experiences once in Britain. But several of these early visitors left particularly significant imprints. The tours of Nathaniel Paul, Charles Lenox Remond, Moses Grandy, and Frederic Douglass serve as convenient connecting points to trace the development of the concept of a black abolitionist tour and to explain how the black presence in the British Isles became essential to the transatlantic antislavery network.


Moses Grandy's tour revealed to abolitionists the value of being a former slave, and it demonstrated the kind of fund-raising activities that the British found attractive. Grandy traveled to England in 1842 to raise funds to purchase his family out of slavery. He connected with John Scoble, the secretary of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS), who orchestrated Grandy's tour and the publication of his slave narrative. Grandy lectured primarily on his slave experiences, sold his narrative at meetings, and found that British audiences were eager to hear firsthand accounts of slave life. His fund-raising went well in large part because of his slave past and because he sought hard currency to purchase a wife and family out of bondage -- specific purposes with a set price. He did not solicit general antislavery revenue. After the idea of the tour was well established, successful black fund raisers took their cue from Grandy. They toured under the auspices of a reform-minded organization or a prominent citizen such as the BFASS or Scoble, who were capable of lending credibility to the enterprise. They avoided asking the British to contribute to the antislavery treasury but rather asked them to support a fugitive slave settlement, a newspaper, a church, a school, or to buy a friend or relative out of slavery.

Titles by Moses Grandy