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Frederick Douglass

August 13, 2020 - 9:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in anti-slavery, Le Roy, history, video, Frederick Douglass.
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Anti-slavery sentiment ran strong in Le Roy in the 1830s and 1840s, with much of the activity centered around the First Presbyterian Church, where at least five significant anti-slavery meetings were held, culminating in December 1847 with a speech by famed abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass.

Local history buffs have long believed Douglass once spoke in Le Roy, but the date was placed in 1838. That wouldn't be possible because Douglass was still a slave in Maryland in 1838. 

James Evinger, a Presbyterian minister in Rochester, noticed the discrepancy and that sparked his curiosity. He began digging. With the assistance of Lynne Belluscio, Le Roy historian, he started down a path where he uncovered secondary and primary sources for all of the notable anti-slavery activity in Le Roy, including the first important anti-slavery meeting in Le Roy in 1833 where Rev. Thomas James spoke.

James was an escaped slave and founder of the first Black church in Rochester. A few years later, while working as a pastor and abolitionist in Boston, James would find the recently escaped Douglass a capable speaker and mentor to the young man as a touring speaker in the cause of abolishing slavery.

The 1833 appearance of James also brought out the pro-slave racists who mobbed the church, throwing rocks at the windows, trying to drive James from the building. A Le Roy resident, Henry Brewster, sequestered James at his home. 

Thanks to the work of Evinger, the anti-slavery movement in Le Roy is now commemorated on a historical marker in front of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

You can read a complete account of Evinger's work and his findings in the latest edition of the Universalist Herald. Click here (pdf).

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