Paul Cuffe was born a free man in Massachusetts. His mother was Native American and his father was of West African Ashanti lineage. An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Cuffe gained wealth as owner of an international shipping company. Despite his success, as an African American he was viewed as a second-class citizen and denied equal rights. As a taxpayer, Paul Cuffe petitioned the Massachusetts legislature in 1780 and demanded his right to vote. Free and enslaved African Americans petitioned for freedom, equality, and justice through the courts and state legislatures. They sought to assert their rights, promote their identity as citizens of the new nation, and challenge their status as enslaved people.
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
A petition to the court of Bristol County, Massachusetts, in Taunton written by an unidentified hand and signed by John Cuffe and Paul Cuffe. The text is handwritten in black ink on the front and back sides of the same sheet of paper. The petition is in regards to taxation by the state upon the signatories, who are of Indian descent and are arguing they are therefore not subject to such taxation.