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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division

Engraved by Mason & Maas from a drawing by John Pole, M.D. of Bristol, England

Paul Cuffee

The son of an African father and a Native American mother, Cuffee (1759 - 1817), a Quaker, became a prosperous businessman in Massachusetts. He gained his wealth from farming, milling, and shipping. Prior to the War of 1812, Cuffee was the wealthiest black man in America; his prosperity and social status, however, did not protect him from racial discrimination. In 1780, he refused to pay taxes in protest against the Massachusetts state constitution, which disenfranchised blacks and Native Americans. In 1811, Cuffee and his black crew sailed to Sierra Leone in hopes of establishing trade among blacks in the United States, England, and Sierra Leone. After his travels, believing that racism prohibited people of African descent from gaining equality in America, he became a fierce advocate of Black Nationalism and emigration. In 1815, he transported thirty-eight immigrants to Sierra Leone. He returned to the United States the following year because his wife refused to emigrate.

Cuffee's Brief Account of the Settlement and Present Situation of the Colony of Sierra Leone in Africa (1812) remains a valuable source of information on Sierra Leone's early history.

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