In 1848 Brixham residents visited the Baptist Church to hear the renowned speaker Moses Roper raise awareness of the horrors of slavery in the USA. Roper, a former enslaved man from North Carolina, had escaped to New York and become a campaigner for the abolition of American slavery.
Roper’s Brixham audience will have listened to his first-hand accounts of the inhumane events he had personally suffered and witnessed. During his lectures, Roper exhibited whips and chains, and refused to shy away from being explicit about the brutality of slavery and its traumatic effects.
Roper was born on a plantation in North Carolina in 1815, sold several times and made many escape attempts, before eventually reaching New York, and then the UK where he studied at the University of London from 1836-7. He was author of the book ‘Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery’ and gave some 2,000 talks across Britain and Ireland.
Slavery in the USA was abolished in 1865, but institutional racism and segregation continued. Roper was just one of several African American speakers who visited Brixham on lecture tours campaigning for abolition and raising awareness of racist conditions in the USA throughout the 19th century – others include RM Johnson who lectured at Brixham’s Congregational Chapel in 1866, and Richard Sayers who spoke at Brown’s Assembly Rooms and Rea Hill School in Brixham in December 1885.
Brixham Museum is pleased to be able to document the visits of these campaigners to 19th-century Brixham, and are committed to incorporating stories of black history into future exhibitions and website.
Read more about Moses Roper and abolitionist speakers in the UK at Hannah Murray’s project ‘Frederick Douglass in Britain and Ireland’.
written by Anna Kisby Compton
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