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Rev Thomas James

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Rev Thomas James

  • Birth 1804 Canajoharie, Montgomery County, New York, USA
  • Death 1891 Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
  • Burial Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
  • Plot Range 1 Lot 367½ NW Part
  • Memorial ID 23570464

Abolitionist, Religious Leader. Born into slavery along with three siblings, he was sold between slave owners until the age of 17, when he ran away from a particularly cruel master. Using the Erie Canal construction line as a guide, he found his way to Lockport NY, whence he was directed to the Canadian border and found freedom. He returned to the American side just three months later, working as a laborer and a warehouseman, but within two years began to teach himself to read and write with a view to becoming a teacher for other freed slaves and their children. By 1823 he was preparing to enter the ministry, and by 1828 had realised his first ambition by founding a school for African American children on Favor Street. In 1830 he bought a parcel of land on which he built the AME Zion Church, and was ordained as a minister in 1833, choosing "Thomas James" as his name from the names "Tom", his slave name, and "Jim", his nickname at a warehousing job. It was around this time that he became heavily involved with the anti-slavery movement, founding his own abolitionist society with other such luminaries of the movement as William Bloss, with whom he also co-founded the civil rights newspaper "The Rights Of Man". He undertook a tour of the region to promote the newspaper, culminating in his attendance at the first Anti-slavery State Convention at Utica. He went on to found churches at Syracuse and Ithaca and eventually found his way to New Bedford, MA, and his first meeting with Frederick Douglass. There he spearheaded a campaign to rout out prejudice amongst white ministers in the Christian church, encouraged slaves to claim the freedom that many were not aware they already had under Massachusetts law, and challenged statutes such as segregated street cars with some success. He was involved in the celebrated freeing of the Emstead and Case slaves and became a beacon for escaping men, women and children, helping and sheltering countless slaves at his various homes and churches, finding them homes and jobs, and, during the Civil War, actively liberating hundreds of slaves from the Kentucky slave pens. In 1868 he was elected General Superintendent of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church, and in the 1870's travelled as a missionary from the churches of Ohio once more to Kansas to minister to those fleeing the South in the post Civil War years. In the 1880's he returned to Rochester, where he made his final home with his second wife and two children, published his memoirs in 1886 ("The Life of Reverend Thomas James, By Himself") and died of pneumonia at the advanced age of 91 at his home on Tremont Street.

Bio by: Mount Hope NY





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Mount Hope NY
  • Added: 26 Dec 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 23570464
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Thomas James (1804–1891), Find A Grave Memorial no. 23570464, citing Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .