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Nathaniel Ware

 

As Abdul Rahman boarded the steamship Neptune in April 1828 and watched Natchez fade into the distance for the last time, it was surely a bittersweet parting. His own freedom in hand, Abdul Rahman carried with him the heavy knowledge that his children's tether had not been cut. He was accompanied on his journey by one of Foster's wealthy planter friends, Nathaniel A. Ware. One of the luminaries of the colonial South, Nathaniel A. Ware was an attorney, wealthy land speculator, public official in Natchez, and one-time acting governor of Mississippi. As the father of poets Catherine Ann Warfield and Eleanor Percy Lee, he headed what was to become a Southern literary dynasty.

Known as the "Two Sisters of the West," the daughters were the first wave of writers connected to the Percy family, which would soon become famous for its literary contributions throughout the antebellum South. Among its later members was the famous novelist Sarah Dorsey, who was possibly the mistress of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. But as Ware accompanied the freed slave on his journey from the land of his servitude in 1828, the Confederacy, secession, and the unstoppable tide of abolition had not yet appeared on history's stage. On this day, Ware was an official of the status quo who stayed by Abdul Rahman's side until the two arrived in Washington, D.C.

Here in the seat of the government that had helped secure his release, the prince parted company with Ware, who went on to Philadelphia. Months later, as Abdul Rahman passed through Philadelphia on his northern tour, the two met again. Perhaps it was the time Ware spent in the city where the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the equality of all men, had been heralded by the Liberty Bell, or perhaps it was the time he spent with Abdul Rahman, but Ware stepped outside his expected role. A slave owner himself, he donated $10 (which in those days was real money) to the fund to free Abdul Rahman's children.

The Liberty Bell

Benjamin Lundy

One of Abdul Rahman's first stops on his journey to the U.S. capital was the seaport of Baltimore, where he hoped to meet with Benjamin Lundy, publisher of the anti-slavery newspaper Genius of Universal Emancipation. A Quaker and founder of several anti-slavery magazines, Lundy was one of the leading abolitionists of the early nineteenth century. A meeting with him had been suggested by Colonel Marschalk, the Mississippi journalist who was an early champion, and later detractor, of Abdul Rahman. In fact, Lundy had even already printed stories about Abdul Rahman, and his help in telling the plight of the prince's children would be valuable, as he was a man whose reach went far and wide.

Renowned abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison later became co-editor of the Genius of Universal Emancipation before moving to New England to found The Liberator. Lundy's own anti-slavery efforts took him across the United States, where he preached emphatically against the evils of slavery, risking imprisonment and physical attacks from slave traders. Indeed, he was away on this business when Abdul Rahman came to Baltimore. He had also traveled to Haiti and later visited Canada and parts of what was then Mexico to find a suitable site to establish a colony for people who had been enslaved.

Benjamin Lundy

Despite Lundy's absence, the prince's story nonetheless reached the people of Baltimore. In the May 10 issue, Lundy's assistant William Swaim published a heartfelt plea to the citizens of Baltimore: "Though this victim of ruthless misfortune has lately stepped into the enjoyment of his natural rights, he has children remaining at Natchez. While he related to us this painful truth, the tears gushed from his eyes and rolled down his cheeks!"

Following Benjamin Lundy's death, an 1839 editorial in Garrison's The Liberator explained that Lundy knew "how essential to the awakening of a lethargic nation was a regular anti-slavery periodical. It was for Lundy to place a just and sagacious estimate upon the all-shaking power of the press."

Front Page of The Genius of Universal Emancipation

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