NOTE: Thank you to Phyllis Cunningham of Baltimore, MD for this black history subject.
Abraham Galloway was a mixed-race, 19th century slave and brick mason. Born in Smithville, North Carolina, his father was a white man named John Wesley Galloway, who was the son of a wealthy Brunswick County planter. His mother was a 17-year-old slave on the Galloway plantation.
Galloway could work on his own as long as he paid his owner $15 a month. Fed up with the conditions, Galloway escaped on a ship to Pennsylvania in 1857. His journeys took him all the way to Haiti where he planned a southern revolt that never took place.
Only a few years later, after the civil war was underway, Galloway returned to North Carolina as an abolitionist. He also served as an intelligence agent for General Benjamin F. Butler. It was said that he might have been the chief African American spy in North Carolina for the Union Army. Galloway identified coastal landing sites for the Federal army and supplied information on the location and size of the approaching Confederates.
Galloway’s work as a spy was stinted by his capture then subsequent escape to New Bern. He increased his mission as an abolitionist and by the year 1864, he had joined a delegation of black leaders who met with President Abraham Lincoln on civil rights for African Americans.
Galloway organized the first Equal Rights League that became a nationwide organization. He was a champion for education of freed blacks. Galloway built a national reputation of a strong freedom fighter. In one article, he was called “the colored Napoleon.”
Most importantly, in 1868, Galloway was among the 15 blacks that were called upon to draft the North Carolina Constitution in 1868. He served in the state Senate. He put together a militia of men to combat the nightriding white mobs that terrorized black communities. Remarkably, Galloway accomplished his legacy in his short 33 years. He died in 1870.
The life of Abraham Galloway is told in the new release, “The Fire of Freedom” by David S. Cecelski.