Boston, Massachusetts, USA
|Died||1841 (aged 31–32)
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
|Occupation||teacher, abolitionist, author|
Susan Paul (1809-1841) was an African-American abolitionist from Boston, Massachusetts. A primary school teacher and member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, Paul also wrote the first autobiography of an African American published in the United States. The book, Memoir of James Jackson, was published in 1835.
Paul was the youngest daughter of Baptist minister Thomas Paul and Catherine Waterhouse Paul. An outspoken social activist, Thomas Paul introduced Susan to the antislavery movement and many of the movement's most prominent players, such as David Walker and Lydia Maria Child.
Abolitionism and the Juvenile Choir
Paul began her abolitionist career with the New England Anti-Slavery Society (NEASS) - a group that was significantly more receptive to woman than other anti-slavery societies. In 1833, an assembly of men from NEASS, led by William Lloyd Garrison visited Paul's classroom, and were overwhelmed by the musical performances that Paul's students provided. As a result, Paul was invited to attend NEASS meetings with her students. Known as the Juvenile Choir of Boston, Paul's African-American students ranged from ages three to ten and sang patriotic and anti-slavery songs. The Juvenile Choir would also sing at concerts and various anti-slavery events in Boston. During the two years in which they performed, Paul's choir received rave reviews, and oftentimes, the halls in which they performed were so crowded that people were denied entry. Under Paul's guidance, "The choir's singing...meant that African American voices would quite literally be heard and would prevent the antislavery struggle from becoming an abstract enterprise whose goals were articulated only by white reformers."  By teaching her students songs about slavery, Paul was able to inform young African-American children about Northern abolitionism and expand the African-American anti-slavery movement.
After the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS) was formed as an auxiliary of NEASS, Paul was welcomed as one of the first African-American members. Through her work with BFASS, she inspired other African-Americans to join the anti-slavery movement and motivated women to join social justice movements. According to Lois Brown, author and scholar of African-American history, Paul helped to "redefine early republican notions of feminine virtue."
Paul wrote just one book: a biography entitled Memoir of James Jackson published in 1835. James Jackson was one of Paul's students at Boston's Primary School Number 6 who died at just six years of age. Unfortunately, Paul's writing career was cut short when she died of tuberculous in 1841.
- Yee, Shirley. "Paul, Susan (1809–1841)". BlackPast.org. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "Susan Paul Residence". Massachusetts Center for the Book. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- Brown, Lois (2002). Out of the Mouths of Babes: The Abolitionist Campaign of Susan Paul and the Juvenile Choir of Boston. The New England Quarterly. pp. 52–79.