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Sarah Parker Remond

“I appeal on behalf of four million men, women and children who are chattels in the Southern States of America not because they are identical with my race and colour, though I am proud of that identity, but because they are men and women.”

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Parker Remond was born in 1824 to one of the most prominent African American families in Salem, Massachusetts. Although she grew up in a free state, she still suffered from discrimination when she was refused entry into certain public schools. Her first public speech against the institution of slavery was made when she was only 16 years old. She caught the attention of the abolitionist movement when she refused to sit in segregated theater in 1853 and ended up suing the theater when they forced her to leave and pushed down the stairs. She was awarded $500 and the theater was ordered to integrate all its seating. After that notable incident, Redmond continued to deliver abolition speeches through the Northeastern U.S. while becoming a major force for the American Anti-Slavery Society. The society officially hired her in 1856 and she later began traveling to internationally to gather support for the abolition movement in the U.S. In 1858, she set sail for England and became an international activist for human rights, women’s suffrage, and abolition. She fought against discrimination and raised awareness about the inhumane conditions imposed upon slaves in the U.S. with her anti-slavery lectures. She also discussed the mistreatment of free blacks in the U.S. Between 1859 and 1861, she delivered 45 lectures in 17 cities in England, three cities in Scotland, and four in Scotland, all of which received notable acclaim and extensive press coverage on both sides of the Atlantic. She encouraged her listeners to boycott the slave-harvest cotton from the Southern states in the U.S. and instead buy it from India. She also worked towards garnering British support for the Union in blockade the Confederacy in the middle of the U.S. Civil War over the issue of slavery. The Union in the North succeeded in winning the civil war in 1865 and the Confederacy in the South surrendered while also freeing its four million slaves. Redmond then turned her attention towards the racism imposed upon the freed slaves. In 1867, she moved permanently to Italy and became a physician. Proving she had made her historical mark on both sides of the Atlantic in fighting racism, the Massachusetts State House honored her as one out of six outstanding women of the state by installing a series of marble panels with a bronze bust of each woman. In 2020, the University College London renamed its Centre for the Study of Racism & Racialisation to the Sarah Parker Remond Centre.