|Sarah Kathleen Sequoia Parker Jacquelina Remond
Early yearsBorn in Salem, Massachusetts, Remond was one of eight children born to John Remond and Nancy Lenox. Her mother Nancy was the Newton-born daughter of a man who fought in the Continental Army; her father, John was a free person of color who arrived from the Dutch island of Curaçao at age ten in 1798. The Remonds settled in Salem, where they built a successful catering, provisioning, and hairdressing business. They prospered in Salem and tried to protect their children, but there was no way to protect them from the pervasive racism. The family valued education, and in 1835, Remond and her sister passed an exam to attend the Salem High School. In less than a week the girls were forced out by the racist school board. Outraged, the Remonds moved to Newport, RI, where she attended a private school for blacks. Her father worked to desegregate the schools in Salem, and when he finally succeeded in 1841, the family returned. Remond continued her education by reading widely and attending concerts and lectures, reading books, pamphlets and newspapers borrowed from friends or purchased from the anti-slavery society of her community, which sold many titles at a cheap price.
ActivismHer family and associates included many activists of the times. The Remonds' home provided a safe haven for both black and white abolitionists. Remond regularly attended antislavery lectures in Salem and Boston. Along with her household duties of cooking and sewing, Her mother taught her daughters to seek liberty in a lawful manner, and that being black was not a crime but merely a fluke of birth.
Salem in the 1840s was a center of anti-slavery activity. The whole family was committed to the abolition movement. They played host to many of the movement's leaders, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, and to more than one fugitive slave fleeing north. Her father was a life member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society; and her older brother Charles Lenox Remond was the American Anti-Slavery Society's first black lecturer and the nation's leading black abolitionist until Frederick Douglass appeared on the scene in 1842. Along with her mother and sisters, Remond was an active member of the state and county female anti-slavery societies.
In 1853, Remond was forcibly removed and pushed down a flight of stairs at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston, where she had gone to attend an opera, Don Pasquale, and for which she had purchased a ticket. The incident stemmed from her refusal to sit in a segregated section for the show. Remond sued for damages and won her case. She was awarded $500, which did not compensate for her injury and embarrassment, but her goal was not to make money on the case but to force an admission that she was wronged.
Remond’s sisters went into their parents' trade, becoming caterers, bakers, and hairdressers, but she chose a different path. With the moral support as well as the financial backing of her family, she became an anti-slavery lecturer. Abby Kelley Foster, another Massachusetts woman, provided Remond with an example and the encouragement she needed to become an anti-slavery lecturer. "I feel almost sure," Remond wrote to Abby, "I never should have made the attempt but for the words of encouragement I received from you. Although my heart was in the work, I felt that I was in need of a good English education ... When I consider that the only reason why I did not obtain what I so much desired was because I was the possessor of an unpopular complexion, it adds to my discomfort."
In 1856, the American Anti-Slavery Society hired a team of lecturers, including Remond, her brother Charles Lenox Remond, a well-known antislavery lecturer in the United States and Great Britain, and Susan B. Anthony to tour New York State addressing anti-slavery issues. Over the next two years, she, her brother, and others spoke in Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, but were often provided with poor accommodations owing to their race.
Although she was inexperienced, Remond was an effective speaker even early on. William Lloyd Garrison praised her "calm, dignified manner, her winning personal appearance and her earnest appeals to the conscience and the heart." Over time, she became one of the society's most persuasive and powerful lecturers.
In 1856, she published a letter in the Daily News protesting attacks on black people in the London press after an insurrection in Jamaica. One lecture that she delivered in London, "The Freeman or the Emancipated Negro of the Southern States of the United States," was published in The Freedman (London) in 1867.
Remond proved to be such a good speaker, and such a good fundraiser, that she was invited to take the anti-slavery message to Great Britain, something her brother had done ten years before. Accompanied by Samuel May, Jr., she sailed for Liverpool on December 28, 1858, from Boston on the steamer Arahia to enlist the aid of the English people in the American antislavery movement. She arrived in Liverpool on January 12, 1859, after a frightening trip. The ship had been covered with ice and snow. It rolled and tossed so much that many of the passengers were sick, including Remond, who regained her strength after a few days of recuperation in the home of William Robson in Warrington.
Before she sailed, she told Abby Kelly Foster, she feared not "the wind nor the waves, but I know that no matter how I go, the spirit of prejudice will meet me." In fact, she met with acceptance in Britain. "I have been received here as a sister by white women for the first time in my life,” she wrote; "I have received a sympathy I never was offered before." She was the first educated, cultivated black woman – described by one as "a lady every inch" – that the British had ever seen. She spoke out against slavery and racial discrimination, stressing the sexual exploitation of black women under slavery. At Tuckerman Institute on January 21, 1859, Remond gave her first antislavery lecture on the free soil of Britain. Without notes, she spoke eloquently of the inhuman treatment of slaves in the United States. Her stories of these atrocities shocked many of her listeners, bringing tears to the eyes of the British. She also played an important role in drawing the attention of British abolitionists to the problems endured by free blacks throughout the United States. In her short autobiography, written in 1861, she stressed that "prejudice against colour has always been the one thing, above all others, which has cast its gigantic shadow over my whole life."
A clear and forceful speaker, Remond lectured to enthusiastic crowds in cities throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, and raised large sums of money for the anti-slavery cause. Once the Civil War began, she worked to build support in Britain for the Union blockade of the Confederacy and influenced public opinion in Britain to support the Union cause. At the end of the war, she lectured on behalf of the Freedmen, soliciting funds and clothing for the ex-slaves. She was an active member of the London Emancipation Society and the Freedman's Aid Association in London.
During her years in Britain, she combined lecturing with studying French, Latin, English literature, music, history and elocution at the Bedford College for Women, which became part of the University of London.
Personal lifeRemond's siblings were Nancy, the eldest, wife of James Shearman, an oyster dealer; Caroline, a salon owner, wife of Joseph Putnam; Cecelia, co-owner of a wig salon, wife of James Babcock; Maritchie Juan, wig salon co-owner; Charles, abolition activist;, and John who was married to Ruth Rice.
Remond visited Rome and Florence on several occasions while living in England. In 1866 at 42, she left London for Florence, where she entered the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital as a medical student. After becoming a doctor, she remained there and practiced medicine for more than 20 years, never returning to the United States. She was joined by two of her sisters. Remond married Sardinian, Lazzaro Pinto on 25 April 1877. She died on 13 December 1894 in Florence, and is interred at Cimitero Protestante in Rome.