The American Prejudice Against Color

The American Prejudice Against Color

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In 1853, William G. Allen, the “Coloured Professor” of Classics at New York Central College, became engaged to Mary King, a student at the coeducational, racially integrated school and daughter of a local white abolitionist minister. Rumors of their betrothal incited a mob of several hundred men armed with “tar, feathers, poles, and an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails.” Allen and King narrowly escaped with their lives, married in New York City, and then fled as fugitives to England and Ireland. Allen’s forthright, eloquent, and ironic accounts, which include excerpts from abolitionist and anti-abolitionist newspaper reports about the incident, drew renewed threats against the exiled pair as well as support from the couple’s circle of antislavery friends and allies, a diverse group including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, Reverend Samuel J. May, and George Thompson. The experiences related by Allen vividly illustrate the rampant fears of “amalgamation” that sparked violent protests in antebellum America. He also reveals white abolitionists’ contradictions regarding mixed-race relationships.

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