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Wilson Armistead and the Leeds Anti-slavery Association

Abolitionist Speakers in Leeds

Former enslaved Africans and abolitionist speakers would travel around the UK giving lectures, stopping at major towns and cities. It was one way of them giving prominence to their cause whilst earning money to live through speaker fees. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, spoke to the Leeds Anti-Slavery Association in 1853 and was paid a silver fruit basket and a purse of 100 Guineas. Here are some of the other prominent speakers who spoke in Leeds:

  • 1840: Moses Roper was a mixed heritage escaped enslaved man who came to Leeds to promote his autobiography and garner support for the anti-slavery movement. His talk was so popular, it was repeated and tickets sold at 3d (about 75p today) or 6d (about £1.50 today).
  • 1846 Frederick Douglass' first visit – his eloquent speeches, printed in the Leeds Mercury and other papers, meant that the 'runaway slave' returned an international statesman.
  • 1853: William Allen, English abolitionist; and Samuel Ringgold Ward, former African-American enslaved man.
  • 1859: Frederick Douglass and Sarah Parker Remond each addressed the annual meeting of the Leeds Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass was formerly enslaved and had become an influential anti-abolitionist. Remond was an African-American lecturer, abolitionist and campaigner for women’s suffrage.
  • 1861 Martin Delany, Black nationalist visited Leeds. In 1865 he became the highest ranking Black field officer in the United States Army.

Circular coin-like token showing a man on one knee with his hands shackled. Around the edge are the words 'Am I not a man and a brother'
'Am I Not a Man and a Brother' Token