Anthony Benezet

Quaker antislavery publicist Anthony Benezet (1713-84) was the son of a wealthy Huguenot merchant who fled France in 1715. After residing in London, the family settled in Philadelphia in 1731, and young Benezet joined the Society of Friends. He worked as a teacher and schoolmaster in Quaker-sponsored schools in Germantown and Philadelphia. In 1750, Benezet began to teach slaves and free blacks in night classes that he conducted in his home. Committed to temperance, pacifism, and the relief of American Indians and Acadian refugees, Benezet devoted his most sustained efforts to antislavery. In his campaign against the slave trade, he corresponded with antislavery advocates in England and France, anthologizing and circulating their writings in the United States. His Short Account of that Part of Africa Inhabited by the Negroes (Philadelphia, 1762) so impressed Granville Sharp that he had it reprinted in England, and John Wesley and Thomas Clarkson credited Benezet's writings with profoundly influencing their views on slavery. Although his antislavery campaign was interupted by persecution of Quakers during the War for American Independence, Benezet later revived the Africans' School, informally "Benezet's School," established by the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting before the war. Prominent northern black spokesmen, including Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and James Forten, listed among Benezet's graduates. George S. Brooks, Friend Anthony Benezet (Philadelphia, 1937), 77, 84, 87, 94, 106-07; Zilversmit, First Emancipation, 85-93, 125-27; David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966), 330, 487; Jean S. Straub, "Anthony Benezet: Teacher and Abolitionist of the Eighteenth Century," Quaker History, 57:3-16 (Spring 1968); Roger A. Bruns, "A Quaker's Antislavery Crusade: Anthony Benezet," Quaker History, 65:81-92 (Autumn 1976); Nancy Slocum Hornick, "Anthony Benezet and the Africans' School: Toward a Theory of Full Equality," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 99:399-421 (October 1975); Dictionary of National Biography, 21 vols. (London, 1921-22), 2:219-20.

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