GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American businessman, whaler and abolitionist. Born free into a multiracial family on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, he became a successful merchant and sea captain. His mother, Ruth Moses, was a Wampanoag from Harwich, Cape Cod and his father an Ashanti captured as a child in West Africa and sold into slavery in Newport about 1720. In the mid-1740s, his father was manumitted by his Quaker owner, John Slocum. His parents married in 1747 in Dartmouth. After his father died when the youth was thirteen, he and his older brother, John, inherited the family farm (their mother had life rights). They resided there with their mother and three younger sisters. The following year he signed on to the first of three whaling voyages to the West Indies. During the Revolutionary War, he delivered goods to Nantucket by slipping through a British blockade on a small sailboat. After the war, he built a lucrative shipping business along the Atlantic Coast and in other parts of the world. He also built his own ships in a boatyard on the Westport River. In Westport, Massachusetts, he founded the first racially integrated school in the United States.A devout Quaker, he joined the Westport Friends Meeting in 1808. He often spoke at the Sunday services at the Westport Meeting House and also at other Quaker meetings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1813, he donated half the money for a new meeting house in Westport, and oversaw the construction. The building still survives. Few Americans of color were admitted to the Friends Meeting at that time.He became involved in the British effort to found a colony in Sierra Leone, to which the British had transported more than 1,000 freed slaves originally from America. Some were slaves of American Patriots who had sought refuge and freedom with British during the war. After the British were defeated, they took those freed slaves first to Nova Scotia and London. In 1792 they offered them a chance for a colony of their own in Sierra Leone, where they were resettled.At the urging of leading British abolitionists, in 1810 he sailed to Sierra Leone to learn about conditions for the settlers and whether he could help them. He concluded that efforts should be made to increase the local production of exportable commodities and develop their own shipping capabilities rather than continuing to export freed slaves.He sailed to England to meet with members of The African Institution, who were also leading abolitionists. He offered his recommendations to improve the lives of all the people in Sierra Leone. His recommendations were well received in London and he subsequently made two more trips to Sierra Leone to try to implement them.On his last trip in 1815–16, he transported nine families of free blacks from Massachusetts to Sierra Leone to assist and work with the former slaves and other local residents to develop their economy. Some historians relate his work to the “Back to Africa” movement being promoted by the newly organized American Colonization Society (ACS). A group made up of both Northerners and Southerners, it was focused on resettling free blacks from the United States to Africa – eventually resulting in development of Liberia. The leaders of the ACS had sought his advice and support for their effort.After some hesitation, and given the strong objections by free blacks in Philadelphia and New York City to the ACS proposal, he chose not to support the ACS. He believed his efforts in providing training, machinery and ships to the people of Africa would enable them to improve their lives and rise in the world. Today in our History – January 17, 1759 – Paul Cuffe, also known as Paul Cuffee (January 17, 1759 – September 7, 1817) was born.He was one of 10 children born to Kofi (or Cuffe) Slocum, a freed slave, and Ruth Moses, a Native American of the Wampanoag tribe. Kofi, a skilled carpenter who gained his freedom in 1745, raised his family on a farm in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. After Kofi’s death in 1772, Paul took his father’s first name as his surname. Upon coming of age, he went to sea, and during the American Revolution he served on a privateer and often participated in running American supplies through British blockades. In 1783 he married a Native American woman named Alice Pequit, and the couple eventually had seven children.After the war’s end, Cuffe and his brother-in-law, Michael Wainer, opened a shipyard, and they soon had three small ships. Cuffe would later build a number of larger vessels, including the Hero and the Alpha.He and various relatives manned the ships and went on long whaling expeditions and trading voyages to Europe and other parts of the Americas. In addition to his maritime ventures, Cuffe was a prosperous merchant as well as the owner of a grist mill and a farm. As a result of his labours, Cuffe was perhaps the wealthiest African American of his time.Despite his financial success, Cuffe was keenly aware of the inequities and difficulties faced by blacks in the United States. In the late 1770s Paul and his brother John Cuffe refused to pay taxes, arguing that, despite being free blacks, they were denied the right to vote. The two were briefly jailed, and in 1780 Cuffe and several other free blacks petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, requesting that they be exempted from taxation because they were denied the benefits of citizenship. The result was that Massachusetts passed a law making “all free persons of color liable to taxation, according to the ratio established for white men and granting them the privileges belonging to the other citizens.”In 1808 Cuffe became a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and he joined the Friends Meeting in nearby Westport, Massachusetts, where he bought a farm. Asked by the Society to assist in the resettlement of free blacks to the British colony of Sierra Leone, Cuffe became interested in the possibility of freed slaves’ returning to Africa. He thus embarked on efforts to establish settlements on Africa’s west coast and to develop trade routes to the area.In 1811 he founded the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone and subsequently sailed there. Later that year he journeyed to England, where he met with British abolitionists and sought support for his resettlement plans; he eventually secured a land grant. In 1812 Cuffe returned to the United States, at which time his cargo was seized on charges that he broke the 1807 Embargo Act, which restricted imports from Great Britain.Cuffe traveled to Washington, D.C., where he met with U.S. Pres. James Madison, who ordered the release of his cargo.Cuffe continued to advocate for his colonization plans, and he initially gained support from a number of African American leaders.In December 1815 Cuffe and 38 black settlers sailed for Sierra Leone, and they landed in February 1816. He returned to the United States later that year and sought backing for another voyage. However, his health soon began to decline, and he died the following year. He wrote Memoir of Captain Paul Cuffee (1811). Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!