Slave Narratives

What was the first black history founded on written documentation?

The first black history founded on written documentation is The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution by William Cooper Nell (1816–1874). Although deficient as history by modern standards, it nonetheless contains materials of lasting value. Nell’s work began as a twenty-three-page pamphlet in 1851 and was published in 1855. A native of Boston, Nell came from a relatively privileged family. He joined the First African Baptist Church, that Thomas Paul founded, and was educated in the black school that operated in the church’s basement. In 1826 he was a founding member of the Massachusetts General Colored Association and became an associate of David Walker, who wrote Walker’s Appeal. Nell was a major leader in the ultimately successful fight to desegregate the Massachusetts public schools, as well as an associate of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass in the abolition movement.

William Cooper Nell penned The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, the first black history based on documentation.


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