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Paul Cuffe

ship captain, merchant, and abolitionist
Born: January 17, 1759
Birthplace: Cuttyhunk, Mass.

Paul Cuffe was born in colonial Massachusetts as a free black. Cuffe's mother was an American Indian and his father had been brought to the New World from Africa as a slave, but managed to obtain his freedom. At age 16, Cuffe became a sailor on whaling and cargo ships. Over time, he rose to the rank of captain and eventually owned his own fleet. He became a highly successful merchant, and the wealthiest African American of his time. A devout Quaker, Cuffe was an ardent abolitionist and worked to end the slave trade. His ships were staffed exclusively with African Americans. Cuffe also ardently believed in the “Back to Africa” colonization campaign. In 1815 he sailed for the colony of Sierra Leone in Africa with 38 free blacks aboard. There he created a successful homestead for them, a project he personally financed.

Died: September 9, 1817

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