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William Cooper Nell

Among books offered by Black Classic Press through is William Cooper Nell: Selected Writings 1832-1874 ($40.50/List price: $45). According to BCP, it is the first document of the life and works of the 19th century African American abolitionist and historian. It includes many of his articles for the historic publications “The Liberator,” “The National Anti-Slavery Standard,” and “The North Star,” as well as correspondence with such noted abolitionists as Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Amy Kirby Post and Charles Sumner.

Nell was born December 16, 1816, in Boston, Massachusetts, and died May 25, 1874, at the age of 57. He was at various times a student of law, journalist, author, and civil servant who worked for the integration of schools, railways, performance halls and the military, as well as for resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. His histories, Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812 (1851) and Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855), are considered the first extensive studies of African Americans ever published. He is also regarded as the first African American to serve in the federal civil service — as a post office worker.

His father, William Guion Nell, from Charleston, South Carolina, was a leading abolitionist. The younger Nell followed his example, and he became associated with the well-known white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his newspaper, “The Liberator,” and later with Frederick Douglass at his publication, “The North Star” until they parted company over philosophical differences.

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