The Story of Samuel Harrison: From Slave to Preacher, to Army Chaplain

0 Posted by - October 3, 2021 - Black History, LATEST POSTS

Photo credits: The National Park Service

Samuel Harrison (pictured) was a black American abolitionist, former slave, preacher, and Army chaplain who operated largely in and around New England. He was a staunch writer and orator against slavery and racism, eventually convincing President Abraham Lincoln to enact equal pay for black chaplains.

Samuel Harrison was born into slavery in 1818 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was freed along with his mother in 1821. As a young man, he was an apprentice shoemaker for his uncle when he felt a call towards being a minister. He began his education at the Peterboro Manual Labor School in Peterboro, New York, but as it closed shortly after his arrival, at the suggestion of Gerrit Smith, the school’s founder, and patron, he moved to Western Reserve College and Preparatory School in Hudson, Ohio, where he studied from 1836–1839 and from which he graduated.

During this time Harrison married his childhood sweetheart, Ellen Rhodes, and they later had 13 children. He was ordained and began work as the first minister of the 2nd Congregational Church of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

After being honorably discharged from the Army, Rev. Harrison ministered at several different churches in multiple Northeastern states. In the states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine he wrote pieces against the state of racial dynamics during the era of Reconstruction. He wrote his memoir, Rev. Samuel Harrison: His Life Story, printed in 1899, and in 1872 returned to pastor the Second Congregational Church of Pittsfield. During this time, Rev. Harrison would have 3 sermons printed. He died on August 11, 1900, in the city where he had begun his ministry.

His house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, deemed the Samuel Harrison House, was made a historic site in 2006.


“Samuel Harrison (Minister).” Wikipedia, 3 Oct. 2021,

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