Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Julie Winch

Second Advisor

Vincent Cannato

Third Advisor

Marilyn Morgan


This thesis examines the lives of men from three different generations of the Barbadoes family of Boston, Massachusetts, men whose lives spanned the years from pre-Revolutionary America to the turn of the twentieth century. The three of them were connected not only by familial ties but also by their strong commitment to improving their communities and to advancing the liberties of African Americans by building, leading, and supporting social, cultural, and education institutions. Abel Barbadoes, born the son of slaves or perhaps himself born into slavery, moved to Boston’s Beacon Hill in the 1780s and helped build the African Meeting House and a school for the neighborhood’s African-American children. His son, James, was a close associate of William Lloyd Garrison and was active in the antislavery movement in Boston in the 1820s and 1830s. James’s son, Frederick, left Boston for California and then Washington, DC, and emerged as an important figure in the struggle for equal rights in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The thesis is based on extensive genealogical research and integrates sources available through a number of online databases (primarily, Family Search, and GenealogyBank). Foremost among these are United States Census data, city directories, and Massachusetts birth, baptism, marriage, and death records. Other important primary sources include letters and advertisements in the Liberator, some of the letters of William Lloyd Garrison, and periodicals from Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. A number of important secondary sources provided historical context for each of the generations of the Barbadoes family.

The stories of the Barbadoes family provide insight into how individuals contribute to social movements and how they and those movements effected change. The stories also provide perspective on the history of Boston in the first half of the nineteenth century, as the city developed and as the abolition movement evolved. On a larger scale, an examination of the lives of these generations informs our understanding of the United States in the nineteenth century, a century of great conflict and great change.


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