Sarah Parker Remond, an African American, was the daughter of John Remond, who arrived, alone, in the U.S. as a ten-year-old boy from Curacao, and Nancy Lenox of Newton, Massachusetts, who was born free and the daughter of a Revolutionary War soldier. The Remonds built a successful catering, provisioning, and hair styling business in Salem, operating for a time out of Hamilton Hall on Chestnut Street. Nancy was also a "fancy baker."1 The Remond children attended school in the more tolerant Rhode Island while their father worked to desegregate the schools in Salem. When he succeeded, Sarah returned to Salem to finish her education.
The Remond family was deeply involved in the movement to end slavery in America, and enjoyed a very high standing in abolitionist circles. Sarah was herself a member of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society.
It was in 1853, at the age of twenty-seven, that Sarah purchased tickets by mail to the most popular opera in Boston, Don Pasquale, which would be performed at the Howard Athenaeum. “Everyone who was anyone” was there, so that when she refused to be redirected to the segregated section—because the theater managers realized she was African American—she was shoved down a flight of stairs and hurt. Everyone witnessed this act. Sarah sued the theater, and won $500.
By 1856, along with her brother, Charles Lenox Remond, Sarah was well known as a professional anti-slavery lecturer and fundraiser for the American Anti-Slavery Society touring New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. In 1858, she appeared at the National Women's Rights Convention in New York City. The following year, Sarah took her abolitionist message across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where she also pursued the advanced education that had been denied her in America. She studied French, Latin, English literature, music, history, and elocution at Bedford College which would later become part of the University of London.
In a speech she delivered (without notes) in Liverpool in 1859, she stated:
"I appeal on behalf of four millions of men, women, and children who are chattels in the Southern States of America, Not because they are identical with my race and color, though I am proud of that identity, but because they are men and women. The sum of sixteen hundred millions of dollars is invested in their bones, sinews, and flesh -- is this not sufficient reason why all the friends of humanity should not endeavor with all their might and power, to overturn the vile systems of slavery."2
The fight to end slavery is really what propelled women on to the public stage as speakers and lecturers. Maria Stewart of Boston, an African American, is considered the first woman public speaker in America. Women brought a tone of moral authority to the abolitionist cause as mothers and daughters. Both Maria and Sarah, as African Americans, added an even more compelling dimension to the argument. Sarah was known as a "clear and forceful speaker [who] lectured to enthusiastic crowds in cities throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, and raised large sums of money for the anti-slavery cause."3
William Lloyd Garrison, the great abolitionist, praised Sarah’s “calm, dignified manner, her winning personal appearance, and her earnest appeals to the conscience and heart.”4
While living in England, Sarah visited Italy on several occasions and eventually enrolled in Santa Maria Nuova Hospital as a medical student. After graduating, she practiced medicine in Florence for twenty years. She also married Lazzaro Pinto of Sardinia in 1877 at the age of fifty-three.
Sarah Parker Remond died in Florence in 1894, and is interred at Cimitero Prostestante in Rome. She never returned to her native country.
1 "An Historic Legacy Revealed," by Abaigeal Duda,
PEM Connections, Jan/Feb 2006.
3 Wikipedia page on Sarah Parker Remond, which appears
to be well documented.
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia.
Sarah Parker Remond
Born: 1826, Salem
Home: 9 Dean Street
Died: 1894, Rome
Buried: Cimitero Prostestante, Rome
Places to visit in Salem:
• Remond Park, at the foot of the Beverly/Salem Bridge
• Hamilton Hall, where Sarah's father ran his catering business and catered many important events (like the 1824 banquet for the Marquis de Lafayette)