Simeon Jocelyn was a 19th-century white abolitionist and social activist from New Haven, Connecticut. He is known for his attempt to establish an African American college in New Haven and for his role in the Amistad affair.
Jocelyn served as the first pastor of the black congregation at the Temple Street Church in New Haven, Connecticut. A former student of Yale University, Jocelyn was also a leading advocate for the establishment of an African American college in New Haven. Working closely with both William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan, he introduced his plan to build an African American college to the New Haven community in 1831. Jocelyn's project was met with considerable opposition, and he eventually was forced to resign from his position as pastor of the African American church. Jocelyn's plan was so controversial that his house was later attacked by a white mob.
Even still, these events did not prevent Jocelyn from continuing to work as a conductor of the Underground Railroad. In addition, Jocelyn also helped build a racially integrated neighborhood in New Haven.
In 1839, several Cuban slave traders were transporting a group of 53 African captives to a Caribbean plantation. The Africans had been illegally abducted and traded by Portuguese slave hunters. On route to the Caribbean, the Africans rebelled against the captain of their ship and killed several of the kidnappers. The ship was eventually seized by the United States off the coast of Long Island, New York, and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven. Although they were dismissed of murder charges, a controversy erupted over who owned the Africans and whether they should be released or extradited back to Cuba.
This debate immediately attracted the attention of several prominent abolitionists. Along with Lewis Tappan and Joshua Leavitt, Samuel Jocelyn founded the Amistad Committee. The goals of the committee were to endorse the freedom of the Africans and to fund the Africans' legal and living expenses. With the help of Jocelyn, the Africans won the case, with the Supreme Court ruling that New Haven must allow the Africans to return to their homeland.