The Inspirational Journey of Ransom Parker, Advocate for Equality and Voting Rights

By LYNN CLARK

Black Heritage Trail NH

Published: 07-07-2023 10:35 AM

In the 1820 Federal census of Hopkinton, three names were written in the margin under the heading “Colored People.” One of those names was Ransom Parker, who would have been a child at the time.

His father, Caesar Parker, and other members of his family lived in Mont Vernon, NH. We don’t know who Ransom lived with or why he was in Hopkinton, separated from his family. His name doesn’t appear in the 1830 census, but there are three young Black men living in different White households in Hopkinton. Parker would have been one of these young men. Young people often were placed in other families to work, but we can’t be sure what his relationship to the head of household was.

Parker, still listed as a resident of Hopkinton, attended Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, MA, in the mid-1830s. This enterprising young man next moved to Providence, RI, where he taught at a school for Black children, married, raised a family, and became a political activist, for temperance, against slavery, integrate public schools, and secure the vote for Black men.

In the early 1840s White male landowners born in the United States were the only Rhode Island residents allowed to vote. Blacks in Rhode Island had their right to vote taken away in 1822, part of a trend to reverse voting gains made by Blacks in some states after the Revolutionary War. A movement to extend voting rights to all White men competed with an equally energetic movement to prevent foreign-born men from voting. Against this backdrop, Black activists, such as Parker, fought to have their voting rights reinstated. In in 1842 Rhode Island became one of the few states where Black men could vote.

Parker also helped achieve statewide school integration in 1867, after decades of battling. That same year, Parker was ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been the center of Black activism in Providence. Somehow Parker also managed to find time to add a nursing career to his credits.

His daughter, Anna, married Daniel Laing, one of the first Black physicians in the United States. Anna and Daniel moved to Liberia where they worked for the American Colonization Society for a decade. They moved back to the United States when Daniel became ill and Anna ultimately moved back to Providence with their children.

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Parker’s father, Caesar, moved to Rhode Island before he died. A sister, married to a Baptist minister, also lived in Newport, RI. Parker’s children and grandchildren lived with or near him. He may have begun his adult life separated from his family, but he ended his life surrounded by his loved ones.

This article is part of an ongoing series aimed at highlighting and honoring the stories of notable Black historical figures and families who helped shape New Hampshire and Maine. These stories were originally collected by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire for a project with the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire. Stories are being shared with the partners in The Granite State News Collaborative."

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