The Early Years, 1836–42

William Seraile

in Angels of Mercy

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234196
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240838 | DOI:

Series: Empire State Editions

The Early Years, 1836–42

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The origin of the Colored Orphan Asylum (COA) has several versions, influenced by the passage of time, boastful pride, and marketing objectives. An original version noted that in 1834 two Quaker women, Anna H. Shotwell and her niece, Mary Murray, chanced upon two dirty and unkempt children at play under the watchful eye of a black woman. Upon learning that they had been abandoned by fugitive slave parents, the two gave the woman a few dollars to care for the children. Several days later, they found that the kind woman had four additional children under her care, having received enough funds to tend to their needs. This led the two Quakers to consider opening a home for homeless children of color. The COA was formed on November 26, 1836, in the home of William Shotwell. The founders decided upon the name “colored” in deference to the community's sensibilities.

Keywords: Colored Orphan Asylum; Anna H. Shotwell; Mary Murray; Quaker women; slave parents; William Shotwell; homeless children

Chapter.  7805 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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