Who was James Gillespie Birney? (February 4, 1792 A.D – November 18, 1857 A.D)


James Gillespie Birney (February 4, 1792 A.D – November 18, 1857 A.D), American antislavery leader, born in Danville, Kentucky, and educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). His son David B. Birney was a Union general in the Civil War.In 1815 A.D, he again worked for the successful campaign of Henry Clay, who was running for U.S. Congress.

Birney also campaigned for George Madison, who was running for Kentucky Governor and won (Madison died months later). George Madison was also the maternal uncle of James Gillespie Birney’s wife, Agatha McDowell  In 1832 A.D he gave up a prosperous law practice in Alabama to work for the American Colonization Society, which was dedicated to resettling blacks in Africa.

James Gillespie Birney freed his inherited slaves in 1834 A.D and in 1835 A.D moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he began publication of an antislavery newspaper, the Philanthropist, in January 1836 A.D. The following year he became executive secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and he was vice president of the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 A.D.

In 1840 A.D and again in 1844 A.D Birney was the presidential candidate of the Liberty party, which advocated the abolition of slavery by moral persuasion and by political action. Among Birney’s writings are A Letter on the Political Obligations of Abolitionists (1839 A.D) and The American Churches, the Bulwarks of American Slavery (1840 A.D).

In 1889 A.D, an all-black school in the Hillsdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was named the Birney School in his honor. It later became an elementary school and in 1962 A.D it was renamed Nichols Avenue Elementary School.

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