Saturday, 28 June 2014


                         BLACK              SOCIAL                 HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Thomas Dalton (1794–1883) was a free African American raised in Massachusetts[1] who was dedicated to improving the lives of people of color. He was active, at times with his wife Lucy Lew Dalton, in the founding or ongoing activities of local educational organizations, like the Massachusetts General Colored AssociationNew England Anti-Slavery Society, Boston Mutual Lyceum, Infant School Association and campaigned for school integration.
Lucy and Thomas Dalton strongly believed that integrating schools and improving education for the colored children of Boston was the best avenue "to remove the prejudice which exists against the people of color."

Early life

Thomas Dalton was baptized on October 17, 1794, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. His father was Thomas Dalton.[2][nb 1]


was married to a young girl name Andrea Marie Rosario


Thomas Dalton moved from Gloucester to Boston and is believed to have married a woman named Patience who died in June 1832.[nb 2]

Lucy Lew

Lucy Lew Francis and Thomas Dalton were married in 1834.[nb 3]
Lucy Lew was born in Dracut, Massachusetts (now Lowell, Massachusetts), on May 7, 1790, one of 13 children. Her father, Barzillai Lew (1743–1822), born a free black, was aRevolutionary War soldier and a musician. Her mother Dinah Bowman (1744–1837), born a slave, was fair-skinned. About 1766, Brazillai bought Dinah’s freedom from the Blood family for 400 pounds (today $28,000.)[9] Lucy Lew and her siblings[nb 4] attended the integrated public Coburn Mission School.[nb 5] Her father sang in the choir at the Pawtucket Congregational Church.[12]
Lucy Lew is believed to have married Mr. Francis, moved to the black community on the north side of Beacon Hill and have been involved in the community's cultural activities.[nb 6]


In 1823 Dalton worked as a bootblack and lived on Butolph Street.[15]
Dalton lived at 29 South Russell from 1848-1853. In 1850 William Dalton, a waiter, was also living at the address.[16][17] At an unspecified time, Dalton lived on Flagg Alley; With Dudley Tidd he purchased land from the Thomas Paul estate [who died in 1831].[18]


He worked at various times as a bootblack, waiter, tailor, and clothing storeowner.[16][18][19] His "prosperous"[nb 7] clothing store was on Brattle Street.[19]

Community activist

In the book Courage and Conscience: Black & White Abolitionists in Boston, Thomas Dalton was identified as one of the "Prominent" African Americans living in Boston's West End (Charlestown) prior to the Civil War.[22][nb 8]
Dalton was a trustee of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Boston and "leading light" of: "Boston's best-known black abolitionists [who] were also dominant figures in the black churches."[22]

African celebration

Dalton was one of the marshals of the 1820 annual "African celebration", so named by newspapers, of the ending of the African slave trade in the British Isles. This was an important annual event that began about 1808 with participation from prominent African American community leaders.[23]

Prince Hall Freemason

Thomas Dalton joined the Prince Hall Freemasonry Lodge in 1825 as one of his first measures to improve the lives of African Americans. He was selected Grand Master of the lodge from 1831–1832 and again from 1863-1872.[10] Dalton was recognized as an "eloquent senior warden" of the organization.[23]
He and David Walker oversaw the publication of John T. Hilton's An Address, Delivered Before the African Grand Lodge of Boston, No. 459, June 24th, 1828, by John T. Hilton: On the Annual Festival, of St. John the Baptist (Boston, 1828).[23]

Massachusetts General Colored Association

Several members of the Prince Hall Lodge met in 1826 and established the Massachusetts General Colored Association "to promote the welfare of the race by working for the destruction of slavery." The elected officers were Thomas Dalton, President; William G. Nell, Vice President; and James G. Barbadoes, Secretary.[24][25] Other association members included Walker Lewis and David Walker (abolitionist), who became the organization's spokesman and wrote the 1829 Appeal to colored and white people.[25] In it he said: "Remember Americans, we must be as free as you are. Will you wait until we shall under God obtain our liberty by the crushing arm of power?"[26]

New England Anti-Slavery Society

In January 1833, Dalton as president led a successful petition for the Massachusetts General Colored Association[27] to join the New England Anti-Slavery Society founded byWilliam Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator. Together they organized Anti-Slavery conventions and speaking programs throughout New England. In 1844, the Massachusetts General Colored Association published Light and Truth by Robert Benjamin Lewis, the first history of the colored race written by an African American.[28] Joining the New England Anti-Slavery Society provided greater participation by Boston's African American community.[29]


Boston's African American community has worked for educational opportunities since 1787 when Prince Hall petitioned for equal access to public schools to the legislature of Massachusetts. His and other people's attempts to have asscess to schools were also denied. The Beacon Hill home of Hall's son, Primus Hall, was used as a school starting in 1798. Ten years later the school was moved to the African Meeting House. In the 1820s the city government provided 2 primary schools for black children.[30]
The Abiel Smith School was built in 1834 following the donation of $2,000 by Abiel Smith. The primary and grammar school was the first building built as a public school for African Americans in the country.[31]

Boston Mutual Lyceum

In the spring of 1833, the year before they were married, Thomas Dalton and Lucy Lew Francis were among a small group of women and men who formed the Boston Mutual Lyceum on West Central Street to sponsor educational lectures for the colored citizens living in the Boston area. Thomas was treasurer and Lucy was one of the managers.[27]

Infant School Association

Thomas Dalton, Charles V. Caples and George Washington founded the "Infant School Association", which was approved on February 20, 1836 by the governor of Massachusetts. The organization's purpose was "receiving and educating children of color prepatory to their entering higher schools." The act is chapter 9 of the 1836 state statutes.[32][33]

School integration

School conditions and teacher quality was not maintained by the Boston School Committee, and children of color were excluded from Boston's high school and Latin school. The efforts to create a separate but equal school system in Boston failed.[34]
In the mid-1840s, through successful lawsuits, the towns of Nantucket and Salem were forced to integrate its schools. In response to the failed segregated school system in Boston and the success of integrated schools in other Massachusetts communities, Thomas Dalton lead seventy other fellow citizens in an effort to allow their children into the white district schools of Boston. They sent petitions imploring the Boston School Committee: "People are apt to become what they see is expected of them...avoided as a degraded race...Do not say to our children that however well they behave, their presence in our schools is a contamination to your children."[34]
Dalton, William Cooper Nell, and Robert Morris also argued the importance of integration: "It is very hard to retain self-respect if we see ourselves set apart and avoided as a degraded race by others.. Do not say to our children that however well-behaved their very presence is in a public school, is contamination to your children." Lastly, they said that black schools do not provide the same level of education as the multiple forms of white schools, including "primary, grammar, Latin and high schools."[35]
Regarding attempts at school integration, Arthur O. White wrote: separatists sought to control the Boston "African" school mastership. This attempt undermined a movement by black and white abolitionists to integrate Boston's schools. From the black community, integrationists John T. Hilton, a barber, and Thomas Dalton, a tailor, with as many as eighty-eight others had petitioned the school committee three times between 1844 and 1846. They earnestly requested that 'exclusive schools be abolished' and that their children be allowed to attend schools in their respective districts. Consistently refused, blacks boycotted, lowering African school attendance by 65%. In the state legislature, they lobbied a bill outlawing race as a criterion for school admission. By 1848, blacks had engaged Robert Morris, one of the first black lawyers in America, to file suit in the court of common pleas against the city to test the constitutionality of school segregation.[36]
Repeated petitions and demands to integrate Boston's schools were ignored by the Boston School Committee for eleven years. Finally, the long fight to integrate the schools of Boston ended when in 1855 the Massachusetts legislature reversed the Boston School Committee's policy by outlawing race as a criterion for admission to a public school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."[37]

Final years

Lucy Lew Dalton died of old age in Charlestown on April 12, 1865. At the time of her death she was living at 29 South Russell Street.[38]
Thomas Dalton lived on South Russell Street in 1864.[15] He died,[nb 9] leaving an estate of $50,000[19][nb 7] to his three nieces (Catherine L. Dalton Henson, Mary E. Freeman Freeman, and Harriet P. Freeman Johnson.)[41]