"If others fail to appreciate the merit of the colored man, let us cherish the deserted shrine. The names which others neglect should only be the more sacredly our care."
Born in 1816, William Cooper Nell advocated for racial integration in the military, schools, and social institutions. He critiqued not only segregationist practices instituted by whites, but also separatist churches and voluntary organizations formed by blacks, such as the ones to which his own father, William G. Nell, belonged.
Spending most of his life in Boston, William Cooper Nell was a member of the abolitionist circle surrounding William Lloyd Garrison and worked for Garrison’s antislavery newspaper, The Liberator. He also served briefly as publisher of Frederick Douglass’s North Star in Rochester, New York. In addition to abolitionism, Nell advocated a range of beliefs and reforms popular in the mid-nineteenth century, including women’s rights, temperance, and spiritualism.
Nell wrote articles for The Liberator and other activist newspapers, but perhaps his greatest contribution was The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855). The result of Nell’s precise research in government archives, newspapers, and graveyards, as well as interviews with Revolutionary War survivors and descendants, this compendium gathered information on African Americans involved on the patriot side of the Revolution - most especially, Crispus Attucks.
Nell is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery.