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Charles Lennox Remond

Charles Lennox Remond

Charles Lennox Remond (1810-1873), African American leader, was one of the first black abolitionists and a delegate to the World Antislavery Convention held in London in 1840.

Charles Lennox Remond was born in Salem, Mass., on Feb. 1, 1810, the son of a free West Indian barber who had voluntarily emigrated to the United States. Remond was well educated and, like many of the free, middle-class African Americans of his day, was an ardent abolitionist and a major figure in the Antislavery Convention movement that served as a forum for black Americans after 1830.

Remond was one of the original 17 members of America's first Antislavery Society. The first African American to become a regular lecturer for the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, he was an ardent supporter of William Lloyd Garrison. In 1838 Remond was elected secretary of the American Antislavery Society and vice president of the New England Antislavery Society.

For several years Remond was the most distinguished black abolitionist in America. When his uniqueness was challenged by Frederick Douglass, Remond reacted bitterly. While he never got over his jealousy of Douglass, on several occasions the two found themselves allied. One occasion was the national antislavery convention at Buffalo, N.Y. (1843), at which Henry Highland Garnett challenged the slaves to liberate themselves by any means necessary. Remond and Douglass led the opposition that rejected the address as the sentiment of the convention. Neither man was at this time committed to violence, or even to political action, as a means of liberation.

As time passed, Remond grew increasingly frustrated over the injustice of color discrimination. He protested segregated travel in Massachusetts and was so incensed by the Dred Scott decision (1857) that he felt he could "owe no allegiance to a country … which treats us like dogs." For African Americans to persist in claiming citizenship under the U.S. Constitution seemed to him "mean-spirited and craven." Eventually he moved very close to the radical position of the fiery Garnett. Speaking at the State Convention of Massachusetts Negroes in New Bedford (1858), he urged that the convention promote an insurrection among the slaves, declaring that he would rather see his people die than live in bondage.

During the Civil War, Remond recruited for the Negro 54th Massachusetts Infantry. After the war he served as a clerk in the Boston customhouse until his death on Dec. 22, 1873.

Further Reading

Useful information on Remond is offered by Herbert Aptheker, ed., A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States (1951), and by August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, eds., The Making of Black America: Essays in Negro Life and History (2 vols., 1969). See also John Daniels, In Freedom's Birthplace: A Study of the Boston Negroes (1914; repr. 1968); Carter G. Woodson and Charles H. Wesley, The Negro in Our History (1922; 11th rev. ed. 1966); and Wilhelmena S. Robinson, Historical Negro Biographies (1967; 2d rev. ed. 1969). □

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Remond, Charles Lenox

Remond, Charles Lenox

1810
December 22, 1873


The abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1810, the eldest son of John and Nancy Remond. John Remond, a hairdresser and successful merchant originally from Curaçao, was a prominent figure in Salem's black community and led the campaign to desegregate the city's public schools. Charles Remond received his education from a private tutor and attended integrated schools in Salem.

Remond adopted his parents' antislavery commitment as his own. He participated in the early life of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). He embraced the Garrisonian principles of nonresistance and moral suasion, and he acquired the reputation as an eloquent and persuasive antislavery speaker. In 1838 he became the first full-time black lecturer hired by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Over the following two years, he traveled through New England delivering antislavery lectures and organizing a network of local antislavery societies.

Remond drew on his lecturing and organizational experience during an eighteen-month tour of the British Isles. He represented the AASS at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840. When the convention refused to seat women delegates, he created a sensation by chastising the assembly for their exclusionary policy and by withdrawing from the proceedings.

Remond continued his antislavery lecturing when he returned to the United States in December 1841. He worked with Frederick Douglass (18181895) on the lecture circuit and participated in the widely publicized "One-Hundred Conventions" antislavery tour of midwestern states. Although an advocate of moral suasion, Remond revealed an interest in political antislavery as president of the Essex County Anti-Slavery Society in the late 1840s.

In the wake of federal laws and legal decisions restricting black citizenship, Remond became increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for racial progress. In the late 1850s he judged the antislavery movement a failure. He abandoned nonresistance, defended slave revolts, and predicted a violent resolution to the question of southern slavery. In the 1850s Remond advocated more aggressive tactics in the struggle for equal rights, but he remained committed to racial integration. He continued to oppose expressions of black separatism and criticized those who advocated racially exclusive schools, churches, and reform organizations.

During the Civil War, Remond recruited black soldiers for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts regiments. He spoke out on Reconstruction issues and urged AASS to extend its commitment to racial justice beyond slave emancipation. Remond attended the 1867 meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, but he apparently retired from public life shortly thereafter. He suffered from ill health most of his life. The deaths of his first wifeAmy Williams, in 1856and his second wifeElizabeth Magee, in 1872further aggravated his condition. Remond spent his last years working as a clerk in the Boston Customs House and died in 1873.

See also Abolition; Remond, Sarah Parker; Slavery

Bibliography

Usrey, Miriam L. "Charles Lenox Remond: Garrison's Ebony Echo at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. 1840." Essex Institute Historical Collections 106 (1970): 112125.

Ward, William Edward. "Charles Lenox Remond: Black Abolitionist, 18381873." Ph.D. diss., Clark University, Worcester, Mass., 1977.

michael f. hembree (1996)

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Remond, Charles Lenox

Remond, Charles Lenox 1810–1873

Charles Lenox Remond, born in Salem, Massachusetts, on February 1, 1810, was the second child of free blacks, John and Nancy (Lenox) Remond. His father was a descendant of French West Indian immigrants, and his maternal grandfather had fought in the American Revolution.

As free blacks, Charles and his sisters, Sarah Parker Remond and Caroline Remond Putnam, grew up middle class, well educated, and very involved in the abolition movement. Sarah was active in the Salem Female Antislavery Society and the Massachusetts Antislavery Society. In 1856, she became an agent for the American Antislavery Society. Caroline served on the executive committee of the American Antislavery Society.

Remond began his abolitionist career in 1838 as a lecturer for the Massachusetts Antislavery Society. As the first black professional antislavery lecturer, he devoted his life to lecturing against prejudice and slavery and advocating equal rights for free blacks. He believed that when the world realized that mind determines the man, that goodness, moral worth, and integrity of soul are the true measures of character, then prejudice against caste and color would disappear.

Remond became one of the original seventeen members of the American Antislavery Society, the first nationwide society. Later, he served as secretary of the American Antislavery Society and vice president of the New England Antislavery Society, as well as president of his county abolition unit. For several years, Remond was the most distinguished black abolitionist in America, eclipsed only in 1841 by Frederick A. Douglass (with whom he often clashed in the 1840s and 1850s because of Douglass’s popularity in the movement). He received recognition as a reformer and an advocate of equality for all people. He advised white abolitionists to employ blacks in decent jobs, and he criticized black businessmen whose fear of alienating their customers kept them from publicly supporting the abolition of slavery. He encouraged black youths to join the antislavery movement. Through his encouragement, the Negro National Convention adopted a resolution advising blacks to leave any church discriminating against them in any capacity, including at the communion table.

Remond spoke at public meetings in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. While a lecturer for the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, he supported leading white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the American Antislavery Society, concerning the principles of nonviolence and nonvoting. He believed, along with Garrison, in the creation of a totally color-blind society, one in which race had no influence at all. Some years later, Remond opposed the appointment of an African American as ambassador to Haiti because he believed a white man would have been the best candidate.

Remond’s popularity and social status grew as he continued his quest for equality and freedom. He criticized the foreign slave trade and the domestic slave trade in America, accusing both of supporting slavery because of the profitability of cotton generated from the use of slave labor. He basically believed it was morally wrong to treat black slaves as property and then to abuse them for the sake of the economy, to treat them without humanity.

In 1840, Remond traveled with Garrison on a European tour for nineteen months as a representative at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London to gain support for the abolitionist cause and to speak against America’s mistreatment of African Americans. While in Great Britain, he appealed to British abolitionist organizations, where his lectures against slavery received high acclaim. He encouraged British religious denominations to refuse to participate in communion services that discriminated against African Americans and to avoid fellowship with proslavery American Protestants.

In 1841, Remond traveled to Ireland to gain antislavery support and reduce the influence of Irish proslavery sentiment in America. In his lectures, he described America’s slave system and the oppression of free blacks. “The nominally free … still suffer all the pains incident to a degraded race,” he told a Dublin audience (Osofsky 1975, p. 897). He helped compose “An Address of the People of Ireland to Their Countrymen and Countrywomen in America.” Members of the Hibernian Antislavery Society and other interested volunteers distributed it until it had 60,000 signatures, and 70,000 had signed by the final count in 1842. In 1843, he spoke at the national antislavery convention in Buffalo, New York, and criticized black abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet’s address at the convention advising slaves to liberate themselves through violence.

By 1847, Remond began to abandon his nonviolence stance to end slavery. He advised slaves to take matters in their own hands against their masters to overthrow slavery. As time progressed, Remond also grew increasingly frustrated over the injustices of racial discrimination and segregation. Thereafter, he protested segregated travel in Massachusetts. He spoke against the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision (1857), which ruled that the Constitution did not include rights for blacks, thus depriving them of citizenship and due process of law. He was so disturbed by the decision that he felt he could not remain loyal to a country that treated blacks like dogs.

By 1857, Remond had lost hope for the success of nonresistance in the antislavery movement. At the State Convention of Massachusetts Negroes in New Bedford in 1858, he encouraged convention delegates to support an insurrection among the slaves, declaring that he would rather have them die than live in slavery. He remained vigilant against slavery and supported the upcoming war to end it. During the Civil War, he was active in recruiting black troops for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the first northern all-black regiment in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) unit. He was also active in supporting the United States Colored Troops. After the war, he worked as a clerk in the Boston Customs House and as a street lamp inspector until his death on December 22, 1873.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, William G., M. R. Delaney, C. Lenox Remond, and Thomas Cole. 1925. “Letters to Antislavery Workers and Agencies [Part 6].” Journal of Negro History 10 (3): 468–493.

Daniels, John. 1968. In Freedom’s Birthplace: A Study of the Boston Negroes. New York: Negro Universities Press. (Orig. pub. 1914.)

Leeman, Richard W., ed. 1996. African American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Osofsky, Gilbert. 1975. “Abolitionists, Irish Immigrants and the Dilemmas of Romantic Nationalism.” American Historical Review 80 (4): 889–912.

Robinson, Wilhelmena S. 1968. Historical Negro Biographies. New York: Publishers Company.

Sokolow, Jayme A. 1984. “The Emancipation of Black Abolitionists.” Reviews in American History 12 (1): 45–50.

LaVonne Jackson Leslie

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