William Cooper Nell, Abolitionist, Author, Printer, Underground Railroad Operative.
William Cooper Nell, 12/16/1816 – 5/25/1874.
William Nell, an educated lawyer was born in Boston as a free African American. His former house at 3 Smith Court, Beacon Hill, Boston, (now a private residence), immediately across from the African American Museum and the segregated Abiel Smith School.
Nell was educated at the Abiel Smith School, at the corner of Joy and Smith Street, Boston, Massachusetts. This school was the center of a lawsuit by the Roberts Family, William Nell and Robert Morris (this nation's second African American admitted to practice law), to end school desegregation. Unfortunately, in 1850 the Massachusetts Supreme court decided that “separate but equal” was legal. Five years later the Massachusetts legislature enacted a desegregation order overriding the state supreme court decision. Unfortunately, the legal precedent was set and numerous states adopted the concept. In 1896 the Supreme Court supported a Louisiana law confirmed by Plessy vs Ferguson that "separate but equal" was the law of the land. Nearly, ninety-eight years after William Nell, Robert Morris and Sarah Roberts challenged the segregation of Massachusetts schools, the Supreme Court, in Brown vs Board of Education finally ended “separate but equal” for the nation.
Nell experienced discrimination first hand particularly at the Smith school. He won of a financial award for academic performance under a Ben Franklin scholarship program. Every year the award was presented at Faneuil Hall. He was excluded from the ceremony and simply presented with Ben Franklin’s autobiography.
In 1830 Nell studied law. He was refused entrance to the bar association because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. He openly suggested that the Constitution granted legality to slavery. For those of you that are not versed in the quiet manor used to compromise slavery into the Constitution, here is one clear confirmation. Southern states were granted a 3/5th voting right for each of their slaves in deciding the proportion of the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. By the break out of the Civil War, there were 3,911,061, slaves according to the 1860 United States Census. This gave the South 2,346,636, additional votes. This 3/5th grant loomed larger every year that slavery was legal.
Nell, began to write. He assisted William Lloyd Garrison in printing the Liberator. An abolitionist newspaper that routinely and secretly made its way to southern slaves. The Liberator was found among the dead slaves of the Nat Turner uprising. Nell, assisted Frederick Douglass with his publication, the North Star, and was often completely responsible for its content if Douglass was traveling to speaking engagements.
By 1855, Nell had completed extensive research on the African American contribution to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Fellow abolitionist, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Wendell Phillips wrote the introduction to “The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution.” 
Nell tells an interesting story on page 31 regarding George Washington. To put this in context Washington had over one-hundred slaves during the War of Independence and 317 by the time he died. Martha made him promise to free the slaves upon her death bed. It did not happen until Washington himself was on his death bed. However, in 1776, George was visiting Colonel Pickering, a regimental commander overlooking the Dorchester Heights during the siege of Boston. Time flew by and Washington decided to sleep that night with the regiment. The Colonel’s aide decamp, a free African American, known as Primus Hall,  was ordered to prepare a place for Washington to sleep. At this late hour there were no more blankets and no additional straw to provide the General of this fledgling Continental Army. Primus discreetly, gave up his blanket and straw for the General. It wasn’t long before General Washington recognized the aides sacrifice. That night George and Primus shared the one available blanket and straw bedding.
Nell, continued his abolitionist activity writing against the Dred Scott decision, slavery in Cuba and for equal education. At the age of 58 Nell died of a stroke. Surviving him was his wife Lucy B Ames and his two sons William Cooper Jr., and Frank Ames Nell.
 The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, the American Negro History and Literature. The New York Times Dewey Decimal 973.3 N32c; Library of Congress Card No., 68-29013.
 Primus purchased the house immediately next to the present National Museum of African American History that served temporarily as the school house for African Americans until it was replaced by the Abiel Smith School.
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