Benjamin Lay, the Quaker Comet

Benjamin Lay painted by William Williams in 1790. Image from National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Public domain

Benjamin Lay was a Quaker and a radical abolitionist who lived in the period between when the Religious Society of Friends began and when it started formally banning slave ownership among its members.

Tracy's Research:

  • “Germantown Friends' protest against slavery 1688. [Facsimile].” Library of Congress.
  • Abington Friends Meeting. “Info on Benjamin Lay.”
  • Allen, William. “The American Biographical Dictionary: Containing an Account of the Lives, Characters, and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons Deceased in North America from Its First Settlement.” 1857. Via Google books.
  • Beach, Adam R. “A Reappraisal of the Quakers and the Development of Antislavery Thought.” The Eighteenth Century, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Winter 2015.) Via JSTOR.
  • Cole, Wilford P. “Henry Dawkins and the Quaker Comet.” Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 4 (1968). Via JSTOR.
  • Frost, J. William. “George Fox's Ambiguous Anti-slavery Legacy.” Quakers & Slavery.
  • Frost, J. William. “Quaker Antislavery: From Dissidence to Sense of the Meeting.” Quaker History, Vol. 101, No. 1 (Spring 2012). Via JSTOR.
  • Hogan, Susan. “‘In the belly of hell’: The Quaker abolitionist disowned by his faith for condemning slave owners.” Washington Post. 5/14/2018.
  • Jacobs, Louis. “Shemitah, the Sabbatical Year, and The Jubilee Year (Yovel).” from The Jewish Religion: A Companion, published by Oxford University Press. Via My Jewish Learning.
  • Kaharas, Mark. “Benjamin Lay.” Quakers & Slavery. Bryn Mawr.
  • Kinsey, John. “Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes, 1738 [extracts].” Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
  • Lay, Benjamin. “All slave-keepers that keep the innocent in bondage, apostates.” Philadelphia:: Printed [by Benjamin Franklin] for the author., 1737. Evans Early American Imprint Collection.;cc=evans;rgn=div1;view=toc;idno=N03401.0001.001;node=N03401.0001.001:7
  • Maxwell, John Francis. “The Charismatic Origins of the Christian Anti-Slavery Movement in North America.” Quaker History, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Autumn 1974). Via JSTOR.
  • Mielke, Andreas. “’What's here to do?’ An Inquiry Concerning Sarah and Benjamin Lay, Abolitionists.” Quaker History, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Spring 1997). Via JSTOR.
  • Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia. “ Philadelphia Monthly Meeting Minutes 1737-09-26 [extracts].”
  • Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia. “Philadelphia Monthly Meeting Minutes 1737-06-24 [extracts].”
  • National Parks Service. “Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery.”
  • Plank, Geoffrey. “’The Flame of Life Was Kindled in All Animal and Sensitive Creatures’: One Quaker Colonist's View of Animal Life.” Church History, Vol. 76, No. 3 (Sep., 2007). Via JSTOR.
  • Rediker, Marcus. “The ‘Quaker Comet’ Was the Greatest Abolitionist You’ve Never Heard Of.” Smithsonian. 9/2017.
  • Rediker, Marcus. “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist.” Hemispheric Institute. co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Department of Liberal Studies at New York University. Via Vimeo.
  • Rediker, Marcus. “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist.” Beacon Press. 2017.
  • Rediker, Marcus. “The forgotten prophet.” Aeon. 5/3/2018.
  • Rigby, Nic. “Anti-slavery campaigner Benjamin Lay re-embraced by Quakers.” BBC. 12/2/2018.
  • Rush, Benjamin. “Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical.” Second edition. Philadelphia. 1806. Via Google books.
  • Vaux, Roberts. “Memoirs of the lives of Benjamin Lay and Ralph Sandiford / two of the earliest public advocates for the emancipation of the enslaved Africans.” S.W. Conrad. Philadelphia. 1815. Via
  • Wills, Matthew. “Benjamin Lay: The Radical ‘Quaker Comet.’” JSTOR Daily. 11/6/2017.

Topics in this Podcast: 17th century, slavery, Barbados, colonial America, disability, abolition, U.S. history, British history, Quakers, 18th century