"Perhaps some person will ask why did I teach the art of wrestling, boxing and fighting, when desirous to learn to read the Bible? I answer because no one is so contemptible as a coward."
Reverend Greensbury Washington Offley was born into slavery in 1808 Centerville, Maryland. The son of a free black man and an enslaved woman whose names are unknown today, Offley was purchased as a child by his father and spent his youth helping to support his family. He was freed at age 21, and in 1835 moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he became an influential preacher.
Later, he solicited funds to help build a church for the Colored Methodist Zion Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, receiving donations from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. When he had completed the project, Offley resumed ministering in Connecticut, North Carolina, and Philadelphia where he called for an end to divisions within African American Methodist communities. He was also involved with the Underground Railroad and wrote on behalf of African Americans and the improvement of race relations.
His narrative, Life and Labors, recounting his life as a slave and as a free man in the North, was published in 1859. The Rev. Greensbury Offley Papers are accessible to the public at the American Antiquarian Society.