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.
Carte-de-visite of Abby Hadassah Smith and Julia Evelina Smith shown in full portrait. The Smith sisters are shown standing with one shown in profile with her left side facing the camera. She looks at her sister standing to her right, who is facing the camera but looks off frame to her right. Both women wear dark colored bonnets, dark duster coats over their dresses, and have large paisley shawls draped over their arms around their backs. They stand in front of a wall with decorative wallpaper on the lower portion and behind a small wooden table.
Handwritten in graphite on the mount below the print is the text, "Abby Julia". On the back of the photograph, handwritten in graphite, is the text, "The Smith sisters / Glastonbury / Conn. / 1877".
The photograph is housed in the album 2017.30. The album page has a triple-lined, gold border framing the print. Handwritten in graphite inside the bottom border of the printed frame of the album page is the text "Abby + Julia Smith of Conn." Handwritten at the lower left corner of the album page in graphite is the text "SMITH SISTERS - 1877".
On March 31, 1870, one day after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which allowed him the right to vote, Thomas Peterson became the first African American to cast a ballot in a U.S. election under the provisions of the 15th Amendment. The citizens of Perth Amboy, N.J. were voting to settle a disagreement over whether to revise the town charter or abandon it in favor of a township form of government.
A cabinet card of Thomas Peterson. Peterson is looking at the camera and wearing a three-piece suit with a medal attached to the left side of the vest. The medal was presented to Peterson in 1884 by the residents of Perth Amboy, N.J. in recognition of his status as the first African American voter in the United States under the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment. The albumen print is attached to a stiff card backer with wear showing around the edges. There is a printed label on the verso that reads, "Inscription on the Medal. Presented by citizens of Perch Amboy, N.J., to Thomas Peterson, the first colored voter in the United States under the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment, at an election held in that city March 31st, 1870." The cabinet card was printed as a memento for the medal presentation ceremony.