Henry Cadbury

(Part One)

Journal of Negro History, 21, 151-213. (1936)

This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.

At no period in history and in no part of America have Negroes ever become in large numbers members of the Society of Friends. This fact is the more striking when one recalls the early and constant concern of Quakerism for the colored race, especially for its spiritual welfare. Long before they realized the evils of slavery, George Fox and his followers urged the Friends to give religious instruction to their slaves. In Barbados this led, in 1676, to a law forbidding them to take their slaves to Quaker meetings, which law the Friends consistently disobeyed, suffering in consequence. Another law to the same effect was passed in 1678. (2) In Nevis, Friends were after a time prohibited from coming on shore; and Negroes were placed in irons for attending their meetings.(3)

In the West Indies special meetings were held for Negroes. Writing in "12 mot, 1673," from London just after his return from America, George Fox speaks of "your Fortnights meetings among your Blacks." (4) William Edmondson, in 1675 (5) is one of the first travellers to mention these. A lost letter to him by George Fox, dated "1 m., 22, 1676," began:

"Dear William Edmondson, I received thy letter and I am glad to hear of the good service and that you have got up the negro meetings.'(6)

Probably on the American continent instead of separate meetings the regular Friends' meetings were open to the Negroes. In fact, in the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting in 1698 it was definitely advised that "all masters of families among friends do Endeavour to bring their negroes to the publick meetings of worship on first days." (7) Aaron Atkinson, reporting in London Yearly Meeting on his visit to meetings in America in 1699, declared that "there was great openness and tenderness in North Carolina and some negroes broke into tears.(8) An unpublished paper of Pennsylvania origin, but probably somewhat earlier date, by George Gray is in the collection of Quaker papers belonging to George Gray, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It is called a "Testimony for Family Meetings and Keeping Negro servants until they are in some Measure brought into a Christian Life which is the Duty of every Master and Mistress of Families to Endeavor to Bring them so that they may be free men indeed."

Regular meetings for Negroes were initiated in Philadelphia by no less a person than William Penn. The following minute was adopted in the monthly meeting for First Month, 1700:

"Our dear Friend and governor, having laid before this meeting a concern that hath lain upon his mind for some time concerning the negroes and Indians that Friends ought to be very careful in discharging good conscience towards them in all respects, but more especially for the good of their souls; and that they might, as frequent as may be, come to meetings upon First-days, upon consideration whereof this meeting concludes to appoint a meeting for the negroes, to be kept once a month, etc., and that their masters give notice thereof in their own Families, and be present with them at the said meetings as frequent as may be. (9)

In 1756 a meeting for Negroes in Philadelphia was again proposed and finally it was arranged to hold it quarterly on the Fourth day following each Quarterly meeting "at the Bank Meeting House at 3 o'clock P.M. (10) It was probably held continuously for nearly h alf a century. It is frequently mentioned towards the year 1800 by diaries of Friends visiting Philadelphia. It was apparently held, then, on Third day afternoon. The meeting houses on Pine Street and on Market Street are both mentioned. (11) The last meeting of the sort was held in 5th month, 1805, "as Friends upon weighty deliberation, were united in the belief that the service of them was over, and they (the blacks) have now several places for worship of their own. (12)

The reference to independent Negro churches in Philadelphia leads back to a movement a few years earlier which was extraordinarily close to an independent Negro Society of Friends. (13) Prior to 1787 the Negroes in Philadelphia had attended various white places of worship in the city without any organization of their own. But in that year, due to the growing independence of the free Negroes, and in part perhaps to new discrimination against them, as for example their expulsion from the floor to the gallery in St. George's Methodist Church, they formed the Free African Society. Its purposes were principally charity, and mutual aid. But it kind concern for the moral welfare of its members, and it kind religious elements in its meetings. The latter, as well as much of its organization, show Quaker influence. Doubtless many of the Negroes were well acquainted with the Friends' meetings and discipline. The two founders, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, mentioned in the preamble of its constitution, had been pupils at Anthony Benezet's school. The first Clerk and Treasurer was Joseph Clarke, a Friend, and they decided that "whenever another should succeed him, it is always understood that one of the people called Quakers, belonging to one of the three monthly meetings in Philadelphia, is to be chosen to act as Clerk and Treasurer of this useful institution." Accordingly, in 1790, when Clarke withdrew, another Friend, George Williams, was appointed. Several other Friends were their advisors. Thus among the endorsers of a petition of the Society to lease a part of the potter's field for burials we find signatures of Nicholas Waln and William Savery. (14) They met monthly from 1788 to 1791 in the Friends' Free African School. A Meeting for Worship, was initiated in 1790 "on the third first day of each month. "They adopted a quite definite and orderly procedure for Negro marriages. It included notification in advance as in Quaker monthly meetings and a form of certificate that agreed verbatim, except for the name Society of Friends, with the fixed Quaker marriage certificate. Most striking of all - each business meeting was to be preceded by a period of silence.

Quite early in its history Richard Allen violated this rule and withdrew with several others, forming an independent Methodist Church which met first in a blacksmith shop and in 1794 became Bethel Church. He later became a founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Many in the Free African Society, former attenders at St. George's and others, preferred the Episcopal Church. They, with another of the leaders, Absalom Jones, bought a lot in 1792 and in 1794 opened the first Negro Episcopal Church in America, St. Thomas' African Episcopal Church, and withdrew their funds from the Society to the Church. Though this is usually supposed to have absorbed the original Free African Society, the latter lasted at least to 1799.(15) What finally became of it I do not know. It was probably absorbed by the denominational churches. The strongly Quaker or undenominational experiment thus came to an end, though some of the original members retained a kind of suppressed loyalty to Quakerism and may have, in a few cases, formally or informally attached themselves to the Society of Friends. The white Quakers themselves apparently looked with no jealousy on the trend towards other churches in the Negro population, and took no steps to create either independently or in their own meetings a Negro Quakerism. Even today while the two denominations mentioned each claim, from this chapter of history, the honor of priority as an independent Negro church in America (16) the Society of Friends will scarcely press its own good claim that the Free African Society, older than any of the churches, was an organization more nearly Quaker than anything else.

Beside the regular meetings held for Negroes by Friends in Philadelphia, regular meetings were elsewhere as well as irregular special meetings. One of the earliest of the latter that I have come upon is minuted Salem Monthly Meeting, 30th of 10th mot, 1769, in the following typical manner:

Mark Reeve proposed that he had a drawing in his mind to hold a religious service for the negroes. This the meeting' concurred in and appointed Joshua Thompson and John Stewart to attend him in the service.(17)

In 1758 North Carolina Yearly Meeting, appointed a large committee to consider "making provision for Negroes' meetings and it was agreed that meetings should be appointed for them at New Begun Creek, Head of Little River, Simon's Creek and Old Neck at specified times. A sufficient number of friends were to attend these meetings to see that good order was observed." (18) At Flushing, L.I., the Monthly Meeting in 1784 arranged for meeting's to be held regularly for negroes at Westbury, Cow Neck, Matinecock and Bethphage, and subsequent minutes show that the custom was continued. (19) A regular Friends' meeting for Negroes once a quarter had apparently been customary at Burlington, New Jersey, when Anthony Benezet wrote "9 mo l4, 1783" to George Dillwin there: "I am glad you have increased your meetings with the Black people; it's what I have long wished might be the case with us. (20) In 1791 Burlington reported to the Yearly Meeting "that the religious meetings have been held monthly since last year for the benefit of the Black People."(21) The emancipation of their own slaves and the increase of the free blacks led the Friends in the last part ot the eighteenth century to emphasize again the duty both of taking Negro servants to Friends' meetings and of holding special meetings for them."Traveling ministers in their journals mention meetings wholly or largely for Negroes held by appointment from Nantucket in the north (23) to Charleston, South Carolina, in the south,(24) together with a great number of places in between. (25)

When the Negroes acquired their own churches itinerant Quaker ministers sometimes arranged for meetings for them in these buildings. Thus William Williams in 1811, says, "By early candlelight, I had a meeting in the African meeting house in Baltimore, where it was supposed that there were a thousand blacks together." (26) Jesse Kersey in 1834 in Philadelphia says, "In the evening, I had a solemn and blessed meeting with a large number of the colored people in their meeting house on Lombard street." (27)

With the meetings for Negroes appointed by the local monthly meeting were sometimes associated visits to the families. An interesting manuscript of 1779 gives "Some Account from the Western Quarterly Meeting of Religious visits to the Free Negroes." (28) It mentions groups of fifty and a hundred Negroes, the latter freed by Daniel Mifflin who lived over one hundred miles from his meeting. One monthly meeting had two hundred and fifty Negroes "in their minority." But the committee appointed for this service shows its sensitive conscience by reporting the obstruction caused by the fact that of its members "some in years past have sold slaves who are yet living and in Bondage, some others had released them at an Advanced Age and no restitution made, others had hired slaves and paid the wages to their masters," etc.

This service of visitations and advice had been definitely recommended by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1778 and was therefore mentioned on many of the local minutes. (29) A typical minute of appointment is as follows from the Burlington Monthly Meeting MS. records for 12mo. 1, 1788:

The following Friends are appointed to join with Women Friends in a solid visit to the Families of such Black People as are among us and inquire into the Situation and Pursuits in Life, administering to them such Advice Temporally and Spiritually as may arise in their minds agreeable to the sense of the last Yearly Meeting.

Other religious advantages such as their own members enjoyed were extended by the Friends to Negroes. Of course Friends did not baptize as did the other churches. But marriage by Friends' ceremony was provided. A case in which John Woolman was instrumental will be mentioned later. (30) Other instances are known, (31) of which one was the well known Philadelphia Negro, Cato Collins (1772-1855). Though not a Friend himself but a member and finally the last surviving founder of St. Thomas' African Episcopal Church, he was apprenticed to Friends and employed by them, and in early life attended their meetings. His first wife was Elesina Phillips, a servant of the well known Quaker, Nicholas Waln. And he married her in 1799 by Friends' ceremony in her master's house. There is some account of the meeting and of the certificate, and

a pleasant story is told that when the Negro minister, Absalom Jones, mentioned to Nicholas Waln that by this method of marriage he had been deprived of the usual clergyman's fee, Nicholas presented him with a wig which he found too smart for his own use, which Absalom Jones wore until the end of his life." (32)

An even more delicate service for a Negro is indicated in some letters of introduction from country Friends to some city Friends for a Negro, Jacob Wilson by name, who had "some thoughts of changing his way of life, if he could find a suitable companion." The bearer was a miller at Stafford Mills, and had "acquired property real and personal, sufficient to set up comfortably in the world" and was "convinced in a good degree Friends principles and attended meeting at Deer Creek. "Whether he was actually a member I do not know, still less whether the Friends succeeded in finding him "a suitable young woman of colour" as a "suitable religious helpmate." (33)

According to E. R. Turner, writing of colonial Pennsylvania:

In one matter connected with religious observances race prejudice was shown: negroes were not as a rule buried in the cemeteries of white people. In some of the Friends' records and elsewhere there is definite prohibition. They were often buried in their masters' orchards, or on the edge of woodlands. The Philadelphia negroes were buried in a particular place outside the city. (34)

But the concern of Friends in this matter is not lacking. As early as in 1671 George Fox appears to have suggested that Friends supply suitable burial places for blacks as well as for themselves. (35) A somewhat pathetic appeal to the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting is extant from about 1699 signed by George Harmer in which he reports that the Negroes say they have no liberty to bury their dead in the day time. (36) The gift of a special burial place for Negroes may otherwise be looked upon as an unselfish charity. Such a gift was made in 1760 by Grace Lloyd at Chester. (37)

The historian of Springfield Meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania, suggests both viewpoints:

As an indication of the distinction that color made in those earlier days, and also of the thoughtful care of the Friends in providing for those who could not provide for themselves, it is interesting to recall a small graveyard, fenced in by itself and shaded by a great oak tree, where those of African descent were laid to rest. (38)

When Joseph Carpenter, a Friend of New Rochelle, New York, found that Negroes were excluded from burial in the cemeteries of the town he set apart for their use a portion of one of his fields at Mamaroneck and by his own instruction he was buried there as a protest against race prejudice. (39) Perhaps such protests at burial were usual among abolitionists. A similar story is told of Thaddaeus Stevens (1792-1868)

To some extent also the burial of Negroes occurred in the Quaker graveyards. Two instances at least are known for that at Burlington, New Jersey, one of them being of the Negro clockmaker, Peter Hill. Peter Hill, like other members of his family, was owned, liberated and reared by Friends. One of his clocks, a treasured antique, stands appropriately in the Quaker boarding school at Westtown, Pennsylvania. In the Friends' Burial Ground at Salem, New Jersey, was buried in 1862 an interesting, colored woman, Hetty Sanders, a poetess who was a Friend in everything except official membership. (40)

The Quaker minute books were probably used as a place for recording the births, marriages and manumissions of Negroes who were not members of the Society of Friends." The manumission records which are abundant served of course to vindicate the former Quaker owners, but they and the other records were likely to be serviceable to the Negroes as evidence of free status or legitimate marriage or birth. Even when they are inserted among records of Friends' marriages or births one cannot be sure that actual membership is implied. The following is a case in point:

Mingo Whano was before his capture an African Chieftain or King. He was reputed a very honest and worthy person. The only evidence of his Quaker membership that I have are two entries from the record books of Kingwood Monthly Meeting, formerly called Bethlehem, later Quakertown (New Jersey). The first is a receipt for 75 pounds received from him by Jacob Race, Jr., for the purchase from Jacob Race of his wife Christina and her child named Sam'l Coates-Whano, dated " 12mo. 18, 1797," followed by a declaration of manumission by the new owner of the same date. (42) The second is the "Record of the Children of Mingo Whano, a black man, and his wife Christiana," giving the aforesaid Sam'l Coates Whano (1797) and six other children, including two set of twins, entered in a manuscript list of births in the same meeting. (43)

An unexpected relationship of Friends officially to Negroes was that of Yearly Meeting ownership which developed in North Carolina. (44) In that state as elsewhere Friends desired to free their membership of the practice of slave owning, but the state laws made manumission almost impossible. In this dilemma a committee of the Yearly Meeting was established to receive by assignment as legal owners the slaves which members wished to set free and to give them virtual freedom, care, and assistance in removing to free soil. A State law of 1796 providing for the ownership by any religious society or congregation through trustees of real estate or other property was interpreted as including slaves. Having secured legal advice on their procedure, North Carolina Yearly Meeting appointed agents for this purpose first in 1808 and continued the practice until the Civil War. Others than Friends who wished to free their slaves used the same device, assigning them to the Quaker agents. So by a strange necessity the very Society which most objected to slave owning became itself one of the largest slave owners in North Carolina.

The situation is well summarized by J .J. Gurney, (45) except that he dates its origin too far back:

In consequence of the almost insuperable difficulties thrown in the way of manumission by the laws of these slave states, the Friends of two or three generations back, who held slaves, and were desirous of emancipating them, and others of a later date who have become slaveholders, against their own will, either by heirship or bequest, were compelled for want of a better mode of clearing their consciences, to transfer their slaves to the yearly meeting itself. That body has held them at vast expense both of money and trouble for many years -- there having been at one time at least 1500 negroes upon their hands. Practically these people were, all the time, at perfect liberty, being kindly cared for, and treated in every respect as freemen. The bulk of them have, at length, been transferred to the free states -- a small remnant only, who were unwilling to remove, being left under their kind patrons in North Carolina.

The tasks of the committee in charge, whose activities can be studied in much detail from the minutes, were arduous. To secure employment for all their charges or such as could do work so as to make the maintenance of the whole without expense to the meeting was one of their problems. There were many legal details to be attended to, and individual cases of illness or insubordination on the part of the Negroes. But the main or ultimate hope of the committee was to remove their charges to free soil. A growing hostility to immigration of free Negroes in the Northern states and the consequent prohibitive legislation constituted one difficulty. In some cases the Negroes themselves were loath to leave their homes. They were, however, sent in large numbers, some to Philadelphia, others to Ohio and Indiana and some to Haiti (46) or Africa. For this transportation considerable money was required and here Friends outside of North Carolina were able to assist by contributions.

The numbers in the hands of the agents are given in the minutes. In the 1820's they amounted to several hundred not including the hundreds that had already been helped to freedom. By 1835 the duties were lighter and were turned over together with the "African fund" to the Meeting for Sufferings. In 1848 "not more than 12 or 15," in 1856 eighteen Negroes were under the care of the Society.

The difficulties of this service can easily be imagined. To many Friends it doubtless seemed at first inconsistent for the Society to own slaves, and in 1810 Cane Creek Monthly Meeting agreed that "the authority of the agents appointed by the Yearly Meetings be suspended or entirely cease." The legal and practical difficulties were great. In 1822 to reduce the burden the Yearly Meeting forbade the agents to receive Negroes from any persons who were not Friends. It also discouraged buying slaves for the purpose of sending them to free governments.

The migration of Friends from the South left all these problems for relatively small but faithful groups of members to deal with. This difficulty is mentioned by the journals of itinerant ministers. Joseph Hoag who visited the South in 1812 says that many Quakers who had removed from Eastern North Carolina to the West had freed their slaves and then left them unprovided for, thus making them a burden to those who remained. (47)

In 1825 Stephen Grellet writes of some twenty families of Friends left at Core Sound Monthly Meeting:

I felt tenderly for the few members of our Society who continue in this corner. Some of them think it is their religious duty to remain, to protect many of the people of colour, who formerly belonged to those Friends who moved away; and who, unprotected by them, might be reduced again to slavery. (48)

Thomas Shillitoe from England writing of New Year's Day, 1829, at the Narrows Meeting says that he

attended a committee of Friends who have charge of a considerable number of free coloured people, some of whom have been freed by Friends and others have been willed to Friends by persons not in profession with our Society in order to their becoming freed; the great load of care that has devolved on this committee calls for the near sympathy of their absent friends, from the ignorance and untowardness of those they have to do with, in addition to the severity of the laws of the state in relation to free coloured people. (49)

In the same year William Forster from England visited Eastern Quarterly Meeting at Rich Square, North Carolina, and describes the situation much as do other visitors. He himself felt a particular concern for educating the black children under the care of the Yearly Meeting Trustees, of which he says there were about five hundred. (50)

To this care by Friends for free Negroes corresponds a grateful counter service. The fidelity of North Carolina Negroes to Quaker meeting houses is described by Stephen Grellet in his journal referring to the same visit, in 1825, to Core Sound Monthly Meeting:

I heard very interesting accounts of the conduct of some of these people, and of their sobriety and industry. An aged negro who resides near the meetinghouse to which his master belonged before he removed with his family to the State of Ohio, has several times repaired the house, saying, "My old master or his sons may yet return here, and I wish them to find their place of worship in good order for them to meet in." Near another forsaken meeting house (there are several thus left by the removal of Friends), resides an aged black woman, who used to attend meetings there with the family. She continues to come to the house twice a week, regularly, on First and Fourth-days, and sits alone in silence to wait upon and worship that God and Saviour whom she has been instructed to know and to love. (51)

Probably other forms of relation between Negroes and Friends' meetings could be recited. In many ways the services usually associated with church membership were extended by the Society, and, so far as social conditions permitted, meeting and Negro were in the position of church and member. The domestic servant, whether slave or free, was so intimately accepted into the Quaker family that he naturally shared to a large degree the worship care and life of the Quaker meeting to which the family belonged. It is idealization rather than exaggeration when a French writer represents John Bartram, the Quaker botanist, as telling a Russian visitor that the Negroes freed by Friends "constantly attend our meetings, they participate in health and sickness, infancy and old age, in the advantages our society affords. (52) We know that the ex-slaves remained under the care of the Friends in many individual instances and hence also indirectly under the care of the meeting.

Thus far no evidence has been given of actual membership by Negroes in the Society of Friends. That so few of them became official members is doubtless partly due to the social prejudices which Friends could scarcely escape in entirety as it grew up in colonial and later periods. But the following reasons for the scanty evidence of Negro membership may also be mentioned. Official membership was long no part of Quakerism, and in such later membership lists as we have no special notation is made of colored persons. Friends never, between 1700 and 1870, made much effort for recruits from any class of society and applicants were not admitted without delay and assurance of their complete convincement of Friends' principles. On the other hand, other churches made efforts for definite conversion. In Philadelphia, Christ Church (Episcopal) made many baptisms of Negroes, probably far outnumbering the colored adherents of all the Friends meetings in the city. (53) The Moravians were also active and successful missionaries. The first Negro Methodist was baptized by John Wesley in 1758 and from that time on there grew a large following. The Methodists and Baptists soon developed special Negro congregations with Negro preachers, and in the nineteenth century these churches drew to them most of the Negroes who desired some form of church membership.

It may be supposed that Quakerism failed to attract Negroes because of the quietness of worship. We no doubt generalize to easily along that line. (54) Not all negroes demand as much music and activity as they sometimes get in their own churches. Presumably religious temperaments vary without special regard to difference of color.

It is probably that in many Friends' meetings there were more Negro attenders than members. They usually sat in a special place, - against the wall, under the stairs, or in the gallery. When the "Great Meeting House" at Second and Market Streets, Philadelphia, was enlarged in 1756, the persons planning the building were instructed "to allot some suitable places for them (Negroes) to sit in in our common meetings." (55) The same segregation was found in other white places of worship and apparently the custom long gave no offense either to blacks or to radical whites. But the anti-slavery zealots of a century ago began to object to this discrimination. The Quaker sisters, Sarah and Angeline Grimke, though they did not notice it when they first came to Philadelphia in 1835 soon objected strongly to it. (56) they deliberately sat in the bench at Fourth and Arch Street Meeting House which was intended for Negroes. (57) The criticism was circulated in England as well as in America, and was categorically denied in the Philadelphia Friend. (58) The evidence for special seats in some meeting houses, is however, too strong to be doubted, This was true at Key's Alley, and a Friend named Israel Johnson expressed his objection to the arrangement by sitting in the Negro section himself. (59)

The Number of Negroes attending regular Friends' meetings at this time was certainly nowhere large. Joseph Sturge summarizing a four months' isit to the United States in 1841 says of an appointed meeting held at New Bedford, Massachusetts:

I had the pleasure of witnessing the coloured part of the audience, placed on a level, and sitting promiscuously with the white, the only opportunity I had of making such an observation in the United States; as on ordinary occasions, the coloured people rarely attend Friends' meetings. (60)

A Philadelphian, writing a decade later expresses the opinion that

The number of colored persons who attend the meetings of the Society of Friends is much smaller in the present day than at the period when the action and influence of the members generally were powerfully exerted to promote the abolition of slavery. The common practice of allowing, if not directing the colored people to occupy the back seat in Friends' Meeting Houses has doubt left a strong tendency to prevent the attendance of that class. (61)

The question of admitting to membership a person not of full white descent came to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1783, (62) but the applicant, named Abigail Franks, at Birmingham, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was half white, only one-eighth Negro, three-eighths Indian. (63) Like all requests for membership, it was presented by a preparative (or local) meeting to the Monthly Meeting and would have been normally determined without reference to higher meetings. In this instance it was referred to the highest authority. The story as told from the full records by Gilbert Cope (64) may be abbreviated as follows:

At Concord Monthly Meeting 7 mo. 4, 1781, a query came from Birmingham Meeting whether, if an applicant for membership is known or believed to be sincere he or she should be rejected on account of color. This was referred to a committee of men and women and subsequently to the Quarterly Meeting. The latter appointed a committee "to inquire more minutely into the disposition, color and circumstances of the individual on whose account the application took its rise." The committee reported three Months later that some of them had visited the young woman and that

her disposition they apprehended to be worthy of Friends' notice; and her color appeared to them not darker than some who are esteemed white: and we find by inquiry that her great grandfather was an African Negro and her great grandmother an American Indian; her grandfather a descendant of them and her grandmother an Indian; her father a descendant of them and the mother a white woman.

The matter was, however, not settled even then, but referred to the Yearly Meeting, which by minute of 10th Month 1st, 1783, records:

The request of Chester Quarter last year respecting the application of a woman to Concord Monthly Meeting to be received into membership, and Which was referred for further consideration to this or a future meeting being now revived, the subject opening with weight, it is the sense and judgment of the meeting that Concord Monthly Meeting may safely consider the application of the person on the same ground in common with other applications for admission into membership.

The minutes mention no opposition at any stage but but only "weighty and edifying deliberations and a spirit of condescension," "a weighty exercise," and "diverse just observations. Evidently there was doubt or objection. We could read this between the lines, but it is expressly stated in a personal letter of a friend of the applicant who after the Yearly Meeting's decision says "that the mountains of opposition are leveled before her. (65) By the following May, Abigail Franks was accepted into membership in the Birmingham Meeting.

The subject of Negro admissions to Quaker membership evidently had been considered soon after Friends generally had freed their own Negroes. James Pemberton in 1785 wrote from Philadelphia to a Friend in London that it had "excited much attention." (66) Ten years later in an unpublished paper Joseph Drinker, also of Philadelphia, expresses his regret that prominent Friends objected to their admission, preferring that they "fold by themselves," as though Christ had said "there should be one fold for black sheep and other fold for white sheep." Indeed he declared the Friends in spite of their broad principles "are the only People I know who make any objections to the Blacks or People of Color joining them in church Fellowship." (67)

Drinker's paper was not apropos of any particular applicant, "for," he says, "I know of none that I believe are fit objects for such recognition at present." But definite cases were even at that time pending.

The general question of admitting Negroes was definitely raised in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in September, 1796. (68) The matter originated with an application for membership in Rahway, New Jersey. The first minute to mention the case in Rahway and Plainfield Monthly Meeting (Men's) "4 mo. 20, 1796," and reads:

Women Friends...inform us that Cynthia Miers, a Mulatto woman, had also requested to be joined in membership with Friends, but this being a case of a singular nature amongst us the meeting thinks it best to proceed very cautiously and therefore appoints to take the subject into their serious consideration and report to the next meeting - John Haydock (and eleven other men.) (69)

the next month's minute reports progress of the committee and acceptance of its suggestion that some men be appointed to "join women Friends in a visit to her, they to report their sense of her disposition of mind to our next meeting." At the next meeting the visitors reported that they believed "her to be convinced of the principles of Truth as professed by us and desirous of walking agreeable thereto;" but the meeting accepted the judgment of the original committee that the case "go forward to the Quarterly Meeting for their advice and direction herein.

Continued in:

Part Two.

Part Three.