While freedom reigned on the island, segregation continued.
When Eunice Ross, who was black, was denied admission to the local public high school in 1838, the island’s black population took a stand, led by Captain Boston and Pompey.
The controversy attracted enough attention that the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society decided to hold its three-day convention on Nantucket in 1841.
Frederick Douglass delivered his first address to a multiracial audience on the second day of the convention, launching his career as an abolitionist and orator.
In August 1842, the Anti-Slavery Society returned, featuring speeches by Garrison denouncing the Constitution as “an agreement with Hell”
and by the fiery abolitionist Stephen S. Foster, who ignited a riot (by a white mob) that lasted several days.
It was on this occasion that Foster delivered his “Brotherhood of Thieves” address.
Foster suggested five distinct crimes: “theft, or the stealing of a man’s labor; adultery, Committing to Equality
the disregard for the ‘requisitions of marriage’ involved in holding women as ‘stock’ and prostituting them; man-stealing or kidnapping, the act of claiming a man as property; piracy,
the illegal taking of slaves from the coast of Africa; and murder, the firm intention of masters who could hold slaves only by the threat of extermination.”
In 1844, Absalom Boston and Edward J. Pompey, along with 104 others, submitted a petition to the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives describing “insults and outrages upon their rights.”
Another soon followed, signed by more than 200 white Nantucketers—mostly Unitarians and abolitionists—in support of the petition,
and in 1845 Massachusetts legislators passed the first law in the United States guaranteeing equal education Committing to Equality.
Still, segregation lasted a few more years, with some white abolitionists refusing to send their children to the schools.
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