Did you know that Leeds had an incredibly active Anti-Slavery Association and their influence upon the movement as a whole was significant? Although Leeds was not as involved in the part of the cause that led to the Anti-Slavery Act that went through Parliament in 1807, they were instrumental in helping to abolish slavery in the USA.
In addition to this they were led by Wilson Armistead, a Leeds man born and bred, who campaigned tirelessly for the cause. Armistead was a Quaker businessman who like many patrician business owners in the Victorian era, dedicated himself to the pursuit of this most worthy cause.
Armistead is not as famous as some of his colleagues in the abolitionist movement, and indeed there seems to be very little in his home city, if anything to mark his contribution to society. Research by Alexis Bissett, who is currently studying for a BA in History at Trinity & All Saints College - part of Leeds University, has brought out many interesting facts about this extraordinary Leeds character.
|"A Tribute For The Negro" first edition|
In looking into the background of abolitionists in Leeds, Alexis noticed Armistead's name cropping up time and again. His impassioned treatise for black Africans to be treated equally, "A Tribute For The Negro" was published in 1848, and was reprinted as recently as 2005. It is used extensively as an academic text in many US universities teaching about the abolition of slavery.
As well as this book he also edited a collection of writings on this cause, "500,000 Strokes For Freedom", as well as several anti-slavery tracts and other tomes on subjects other than the abolition of slavery.
The Leeds Anti-Slavery Association was just as progressive when it came to gender politics. It was the first such association to let women take an active role in its campaigning and the majority of its members were women.
Alexis has tried to trace the Armistead family as they moved to Scotland but very little exists in the archives about this great man. Leeds University has nothing and most of her research comes from material in the British Library and Oxford University, and other material exists in the archives at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.