Abraham Galloway

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Abraham H. Galloway
Galloway Abraham.jpg
Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 13th district
In office
November 16, 1868 – April 12, 1869
Preceded byMathias E. Manly
Succeeded byG.W. Price
Personal details
Born(1837-02-08)February 8, 1837
Smithville, Brunswick County, North Carolina
DiedSeptember 1, 1870(1870-09-01) (aged 33)
Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina
Spouse(s)Martha Ann Dixon
Professionabolitionist, Union Army spy, politician, brick mason

Abraham H. Galloway (8 February 1837 – 1 September 1870) was an American escaped slave, abolitionist, mason, spy for the union army, women's suffragist, and state Senator in North Carolina.

Born in Smithville (now Southport, North Carolina) in 1838. A former slave who played an important role in supporting the Union Army's success in North Carolina, he served in the North Carolina senate during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. His death in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1870 was honored by attendance from over 6,000 people.

He is remembered, in part, by a historical marker placed in Wilmington in 2012,[1] a project spearheaded by a local committee, now known as the "Friends of Abraham Galloway", as recorded in the Wilmington Journal.[2]

Although he was a driving force in shaping local and state political direction during his brief lifetime, Abraham Galloway left no record of his own thoughts and ideas, being unable to read or write. William Still, abolitionist and secretary for the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, records the escape of Galloway and his friend Richard Eden from Wilmington to Philadelphia, stowed among the cargo of a schooner carrying naval stores; pine tar and turpentine. Due to the hazards of this particular journey, Still counts Galloway and Eden as "classed among the bravest of the brave".[3] The Vigilance Committee provided passage to Canada for the two men.

Within the 20th century, historians and writers have uncovered Galloway's story, and continue to strengthen knowledge of this Civil War personality through two books, The Watermans Song, published in October 2001[4] and The Fire of Freedom, published in February 2015.[5] These books bring the story of Abraham Galloway to life. An article by Phillip Gerard, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, in Our State magazine also highlights his place in the history of North Carolina.[6]

Early life[edit]

Abraham Galloway was born to a White father and a Black slave mother in Smithville, (now Southport) North Carolina. His birth father, John Wesley Galloway, was protective of his son, despite the circumstances.[7] Galloway's owner, Marsden Milton Hankins allowed the young Galloway to seek brick masonry jobs with the provision that he could bring Hankins fifteen dollars a month. Galloway decided to escape when it became impossible for him to continue bringing his owner the fifteen dollars. In 1857, at the age of twenty, Galloway was able to escape from slavery by having a ship captain conceal him among barrels of turpentine, tar and rosin. In hiding, Galloway was able to escape from Wilmington, North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[8]

The Civil War[edit]

Four years after his escape, Galloway returned to North Carolina, as the Civil War was beginning. During the Civil War Galloway worked as a spy for the Union Army under Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler. As the chief intelligence agent working among the slaves in North Carolina, he was able to encourage many of them to join the war on the Union side. By the spring of 1863, Galloway is said to have become the most important political leader among the more than 10,000 slaves who were living in contraband camps and seaports occupied by the Federal army.[9][10]

Political leadership[edit]

In May 1864 Galloway was part of a delegation of five black leaders who met with Abraham Lincoln and urged him to advocate for suffrage for African Americans. That same year, Galloway was also one of the 144 Black leaders who attended the National Convention of Colored Citizens of the United States, which has been cited as the most important gathering of African American leaders during the Civil War.[11] By 1865, Galloway had organized a state chapter and five local chapters of the National Equal Rights League. In September 29, 1865, Galloway helped to lead a freed people's convention. He also organized a meeting of 117 Black delegates representing forty-two counties that coincided with a meeting held by the antebellum society.

Wilmington years[edit]

Galloway moved to Wilmington, North Carolina's largest city at the time, in late 1866 or early 1867. While in Wilmington, Galloway observed that the rights of Blacks were not being protected.[12] Blacks, however, did see a victory in 1867, when the Reconstruction Acts were passed by the radical congress, which forced the former confederacy to pass Universal Male Suffrage. In 1868, despite threats from the Ku Klux Klan, Galloway ran for the state senate in the first election in which Blacks were eligible to hold state office.

Senator tenure[edit]

Galloway was one of three Black senators and eighteen Black representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly of 1868-1869. On July 6, 1868, Galloway amended a proposal to segregate the senate galleries by offering an optional middle section that could be occupied by both races. Galloway was able to vote for the 14th and 15th amendments during his tenure. He was also a strong supporter of women's rights.[8][13][14]


Galloway died unexpectedly of fever and jaundice on September 1, 1870 in Wilmington. He was 33 years old at the time and had just been reelected to the senate. An estimated 6,000 mourners gathered at his funeral.[10]


  1. ^ "Marker: D-114, Abraham Galloway". ncmarkers.com. Retrieved 2015-08-15.
  2. ^ "Wilmington Journal November 27, 2014 Page 1". server-jbmultimedia.net. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  3. ^ William Still (1872). Underground Railroad, A Narrative. Porter and Coates. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  4. ^ UNC Press - The Waterman's Song. uncpress.unc.edu. October 2001. ISBN 978-0-8078-4972-9. Retrieved 2015-08-15.
  5. ^ "UNC Press - The Fire of Freedom". uncpress.unc.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
  6. ^ "Abraham Galloway: From Cartridge Box to Ballot Box |". ourstate.com. ISBN 978-1-4696-2190-6. Retrieved 2015-08-15.
  7. ^ Ceceksi, David (1998). Democracy Betrayed: the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and its Legacy. University of North Carolina. p. 47.
  8. ^ a b Cecelski, David (2012). The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves' Civil War. University of North Carolina.
  9. ^ Cecelski, David (2001). The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina. University of North Carolina.
  10. ^ a b Franck, Julie (2013). "Abraham Galloway". NCPEDIA. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  11. ^ Cecelski, David (2001). The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime. University of North Carolina. p. 190.
  12. ^ Cecelski, David; Tyson, Timothy. Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and its Legacy. University of North Carolina. p. 1998.
  13. ^ Lewis, J.D. "North Carolina House of Representatives, 1868". carolana.com. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Lewis, J.D. "North Carolina State Senate, 1868". carolana.com. Retrieved November 21, 2019.