Stockton, Betsey (c. 1798–1865)

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Stockton, Betsey (c. 1798–1865)

African-American educator. Born around 1798 into slavery; died on October 24, 1865, in Princeton, New Jersey; informally educated; never married; no children.

Born into slavery around 1798, Betsey Stockton grew up in the home of the Reverend Ashbel Green, president of Princeton College, in Princeton, New Jersey. The family educated Stockton and eventually placed her in charge of the household. Stockton was baptized a Presbyterian around age 20 and was freed by the Greens at approximately the same time.

Stockton's advanced level of education and skills in teaching led her to travel with a Presbyterian missionary, the Reverend Charles S. Stewart, and his family to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) in 1823 to open a missionary school in Lahaina, Maui. At this time, Hawaiian rulers forbade commoners to learn to read and write until all royalty had been educated. In 1824, instruction was extended to the entire population, and Stockton founded the missionary school at Lahaina, serving as both superintendent and teacher to about 30 students. Stockton is believed to have been the first black woman to arrive in the Sandwich Islands.

She remained in the islands with the Stewart family for another year, before moving to Cooperstown, New York. Stockton cared for the Stewart children following their mother's death. Later she taught at an infant school in Philadelphia, organized a school for Indians in Canada, and founded the Witherspoon Street Colored School in Princeton, New Jersey. She died on October 24, 1865, in Princeton.


Peterson, Barbara Bennett. Notable Women of Hawaii. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1984.

Barbara Koch , freelance writer, Farmington Hills, Michigan

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Stockton, Betsey (c. 1798–1865)

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