Parker Pillsbury

On this date in 1809, Parker Pillsbury, the freethinker, abolitionist and reformer, was born in Massachusetts. He became a licensed minister in the Congregationalist Church in 1839, after studying at Gilmanton and Andover Theological Seminaries. After preaching briefly, Pillsbury left the ministry over Congregationalist and other Christian complicity with slavery. The abolitionist activist edited The Herald of Freedom (Concord, New Hampshire) in the 1840s and The National Antislavery Standard in New York City in 1866. From 1843 until 1863, Pillsbury worked as an abolitionist agent and lecturer, and rubbed shoulders with most of the notable reformers of his day. Pillsbury became sympathetic to the cause of women, who had to fight to be permitted to work on equal footing with male abolitionists. After the Civil War, Pillsbury collaborated with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as co-editor of the newspaper, The Revolution, published by Susan B. Anthony. His writings include Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles (1883), and the critical Church As It Is (1884). Early feminist Pauline Wright Davis lauded Pillsbury for his "good deeds and unselfish work . . . His pen, wherever found, has always been sharpened against wrong and injustice . . ." (History, 1870). He lectured widely on the "Free Religion" circuit in Ohio and Michigan, was vice president of the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association and lived to age 89. D.1899.

“The Methodist Discipline provides for 'separate Colored Conferences.' The Episcopal church shuts out some of its own most worthy ministers from clerical recognition, on account of their color. Nearly all denominations of religionists have either a written or unwritten law to the same effect. In Boston, even, there are Evangelical churches whose pews are positively forbidden by corporate mandate from being sold to any but 'respectable white persons.' Our incorporated cemeteries are often, if not always, deeded in the same manner. Even our humblest village grave yards generally have either a 'negro corner,' or refuse colored corpses altogether; and did our power extend to heaven or hell, we should have complexional salvation and colored damnation, . . .”


—Parker Pillsbury, letter, The North Star, Dec. 5, 1850

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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