The right to vote is precious and often under-appreciated. There are a lot of people we have to thank for the fact that all citizens currently have the right to vote in the United States. Here is a bit about one of those people, a man from Massachusetts no less, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude:

"Paul Cuffee was born in Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts in a family of ten children. His father Kofi was a manumitted enslaved African and a member of the Akan tribe of Ghana. Paul Cuffee’s mother, Ruth Moses, was a Native American of the Wampanoag tribe from Martha’s Vineyard. Ebenezer Slocum, a Friend, purchased Kofi (later Cuffe Slocum) in the 1720s. Twenty-two years later John Slocum purchased Cuffee Slocum from his uncle and freed him in 1745. Although Paul Cuffe’s parents had been strongly influenced by Friends, there is no evidence that they belonged to a Quaker meeting.

Paul Cuffee saw education as a means of liberation, and he fought for equal rights in many ways. He was always eager to teach young men who wanted to learn the science of navigation and skills of a merchantman. In 1799 he established a school on his own property in Westport, Massachusetts that was open to all children regardless of their race. In 1800 he bought a gristmill in Acoaxet, and was a century and a half ahead of his time when he urged mills to include African Americans in the planning stages of organizations whose goal was helping blacks. He encouraged African Americans up and down the East Coast to think about their social and economic status. In 1780, when only men of European descent had the right to, he and other African Americans protested taxation on his father’s estate on the grounds of no taxation without representation." (Friends General Conference)

On February 10, 1780, Capt. Paul Cuffee and six other black residents of Massachusetts petitioned the state legislature for the right to vote.

I hope that folks here in Boston will remember Capt. Cuffee next week when we cast our ballots. 

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