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He also championed the Native Americans and in 1763 made an extraordinary journey to Wyalusing in Pennsylvania to be among them and to ‘feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in; if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of Truth amongst them’ (127).Unlike others of his time Woolman saw that the Indians’ plight was similar to the state of black slavery.
Eliminating dyed clothing presented a ‘singularity’ which created a stir among some Friends.
Woolman’s attire was an all-White apparition: ‘white hat, coarse raw linen shirt, coat without cuffs, white yarn stockings, and shoes of uncured leather’ (Sox, 100-01).
Shortly after its publication, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting ruled that members who purchased or sold slaves would be removed from church positions of power.
Woolman was also a pioneer of the Free Produce movement, shunning cotton and other goods produced by slave labor beginning in the early 1760s.
An experience at the shop set the future course of his life.
His employer asked him to write a bill of sale for a female black slave.For 16 years he was also a member of the Overseers of the Press for Yearly Meeting.On 18 October 1749 Woolman married Sarah Ellis by whom he had two children, Mary and John, but John only lived for a short time.Plaque: Littlegarth, Marygate Lane, York YO30 7BJ Quaker minister and anti-slavery campaigner John Woolman was born in Rancocas Creek, Burlington County, New Jersey, 18 miles from Philadelphia, America in 1720.He was one of 13 children of Samuel Woolman and his wife, Elizabeth, whose forbears had settled in the Quaker colony of West Jersey in 1678.For a long time Woolman had desired to take his concern over slavery to England.He arrived in London in time for Yearly Meeting and, at first, his appearance caused him to be regarded as ‘some itinerant enthusiast’.In May 1772, following his recovery from pleurisy, Woolman embarked on what would be his last journey.He decided to travel in steerage across the Atlantic to England rather than in cabin accommodation, remembering how his ‘fellow creatures’ – the black slaves – had made their passage from Africa.Woolman’s formal education was at a Quaker school but he had access to the large libraries of the Philadelphia Friends which widened his knowledge beyond the expected Quaker classics.When he was 21 years old, Woolman moved to Mount Holly, not far from his home, and kept books for a shopkeeper.