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Easton, Hosea

Easton, Hosea

September 1, 1798

In 1837 the abolitionist Hosea Easton published one of the earliest analyses of slavery by an African American, Treatise on the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the United States. Although it addressed the issues facing African Americans in a comprehensive fashion, it attracted little enduring attention.

Easton came from a distinguished family of mixed African, white, and Native American heritage. His father, James (18541830), was a skilled ironworker in North Bridgewater (now Brockton), Massachusetts. James Easton established a manual training school for young black men; its failure after nearly ten years of existence, coupled with the failure of James Easton's business, embittered Hosea.

Hosea Easton's early years are obscure, but by 1828 he was active in Boston and taking his position among the elite. His first publication was a "Thanksgiving Day Address" to the black population of Providence, Rhode Island (1828). He was a delegate to the first National Colored Convention, held in Philadelphia in 1831, as well as to subsequent conventions. In 1833 he became pastor of Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut. Racial tensions and violence in the city ran high, and in 1836, just after he became pastor of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Zion church, the building was burned.

Easton perceived clearly the limited extent to which self-help and uplift within the black community could improve the situation. His Treatise addressed whites and called on them to realize the deleterious effects of racism and to take steps to repair the damages it caused. The work appeared shortly before his death.

See also Abolition; Antebellum Convention Movement


Price, George R., and James Brewer Stewart, eds. To Heal the Scourge of Prejudice: The Life and Writings of Hosea Easton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

robert l. johns (2001)

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