The story of an American whaler captain, a businessman who did a lot for black families
Paul Kaffe was born on Cuttyhank Island, Massachusetts in 1759.
His mother was a Native American named Ruth Moses, and his father was Kofi Slocum, a formerly enslaved man from the Ashanti empire in what is now Ghana. They had 10 children, including Paul.
Paul spent his childhood on the island, where his family managed the estate of the Slocum family who lived across Buzzards Bay in Dartmouth.
Although Paul's father was freed before he was born, these slaveholders gave him the surname "Slocum". Paul refused to take their last name, choosing instead the English version of his father's name.
When Paul was seven years old, his family moved from Cuttihank to their own farm in Dartmouth. Five years later, Kofi died, leaving the farm to Paul and his brother John.
In 1770, just a few miles from Paul's family farm, the assassination of the black sailor Crispus Attucks and the subsequent deaths of several more civilians at the hands of British soldiers ignited sparks that soon escalated into the Revolutionary War.
John Adams considered this event, later called the "Boston Massacre", as the day when "the foundation of American independence" was laid.
Amid escalating violence between British soldiers and civilians, Paul first went to sea aboard a whaling vessel at just 14 years old.
He will join several of these endeavors over the coming years.
While sailing in 1776, he was captured and held by the British navy, which strengthened his commitment to the Revolution.
After three months in prison, he was released and devoted himself to maintaining British blockades and delivering provisions to the inhabitants of the islands on which he grew up.
These secret crossings were treacherous, under cover of night and at the mercy of pirates, but they allowed Paul to build partnerships with the Nantucket Quakers for the rest of his life.
At the height of the war, Paul, his brother John, and four other blacks petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature in 1780 to vote.
The petition was initially denied, but when a new state constitution was drafted three years later, their proposal was included.
All male landowners had the right to vote, regardless of skin color.
In the same year that the new constitution was written, Paul married Alice Abel Peckwith, daughter of the famous Wampanoag family from Martha's vineyard, and also teamed up with his brother-in-law to found a shipping company.
They bought waterfront property and built several ships, each larger than the last.
Trade routes - initially only in southern New England - lengthened with each new ship, and Paul Kaffe soon began doing business across the east coast of what would become Canada, plus added a whaling route to the Atlantic Ocean. He and his family members became captains and masters of these ships.
Paul's wealth has allowed him to support local charities such as a smallpox hospital and an integrated school.
His efforts and status attracted the attention of abolitionists and Quakers, who hoped that he would become an ally in their efforts to help victims of the slave trade return to Africa.
Sierra Leone, a British territory created to send black refugees who fled slavery during the Revolutionary War, was a major destination, although it was full of disease and conflict.
At their request, Paul Kaffe took on the task of traveling to Sierra Leone to assess the situation and help improve conditions.
He made several flights between England, the United States and Africa, and even provided transportation for black families who wanted to leave the United States.
Unfortunately, around the same time, the American Colonial Society was founded with a similar mission, but ulterior motives.
The Society's leaders were sponsored by representatives of white slave owners who hoped to take free black Americans out of the country by sending them "back" to Africa.
The legacy of Kaffe's work has been overshadowed by his resemblance to the insincere and xenophobic practitioners of the ACS, despite the fact that he refused to help them and rejected their message.
By the time of his death in 1817, Kaffe was a wealthy, widely respected man among the people.
His political endeavors, philanthropy and business activities have influenced many in Massachusetts and beyond.
In the early 19th century, 20 percent of American sailors were black.
In fact, going to sea was one of the fairest professions for black Americans in the early centuries of the United States.
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