Paul Cuffee the first African millionaire short clip.

Self Awareness Vehicle Who Are You

From the The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution  by William Neal. Chapter 1

​Paul Cuffee

Paul Cuffee   1759 - 1817

​During slavery, most Blacks wanted their freedom granted in America.  However, some Blacks felt that it would be better to leave and return to Africa.  People who favored this back-to-Africa idea were called "colonists."  Paul Cuffee was an early pioneer of this movement.  He also became a wealthy ship builder and landowner.

Paul Cuffee was born near New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1759.  He was the seventh of ten children born to Cuffee Slocum and Ruth Moses.  His father was an ex-slave, and his mother was an Indian.  Paul's father died when he was only 13 years old.  He and his brother later sold their family farm.  Paul then decided to use his father's first name CUFFEE and became known as Paul Cuffee.

Cuffee had always loved ships and the rugged life of the sea.  He taught himself to read and write so that he could learn about sailing large ships.  At the age of 16, Cuffee went to sea.  Most of his trips were along the eastern coast of America.  In 1783, at age 24, he married Alice Pequit, who was a member of his mother's Indian tribe.  They later had six daughters and two sons.

On one sailing voyage, near the start of the American Revolution, Cuffee was captured by the British.  When he was released, three months later, he returned to his family.  From the money he earned while at sea, he bought a farm for $3,500.  He later decided to build his own ships.  He became a merchant and trader.  Cuffee built five ships, but lost them and their cargo to pirates.  Through it all, his business still grew.

Following the American Revolution, Captain Cuffee, as he was now known, built a major shipping company.  In 1810, Cuffee and a business partner built the 109-ton Traveller and the 268-ton Alpha ships.  With his great wealth, he also bought a large amount of land.

Cuffee, although rich himself, was troubled about the problems facing most Blacks in America.  He built a school on his farm in Massachusetts, hired teachers, and opened it to the public.  Captain Cuffee and his brother helped pass a law giving free Blacks in Massachusetts the same rights as Whites.  The federal government would later pass similar laws for the entire Black population in America.

Most Blacks in early America lived under the cruel and inhumane laws of slavery.  There were efforts, however, by both Black and White persons of good will to change the laws and end slavery.  However, some people still believed that it would be better for Blacks to leave America and return to Africa.  Paul Cuffee, because of his worldly experience, also believed that this was a quick solution to the problem of slavery.

In 1810, a group of colonists, called the Society of Friends, made it possible for Captain Cuffee to sail to the African country of Sierra Leone.  He was to study whether colonization could work.  Upon returning to America, he gave the Society a favorable report.

On December 5, 1815, along with 38 Black, Captain Cuffee sailed the Traveller  back to Sierra Leone.  He also paid the fare for 30 of his passengers.  Cuffee stayed with the settlers for three months before returning to America.  He was convinced that the settlement would be a success and began planning for his return.  Unfortunately, Paul Cuffee became ill and died on September 9, 1817, at the age of 58.

Excerpt from A Gift of Heritage Historic Black Pioneers.

This is only a summary of the life of Paul Cuffee.