Gerrit Smith 

Gerrit Smith was a famous abolitionist and one of the largest land owners in America. A benefactor of two large failed slave escapes as well as numerous projects in the African-American community, Gerrit Smith also supported women's suffrage though he did not financially contribute toward the cause.

See below for quick facts about Gerrit Smith.
Date of Birth and Family:
Gerrit Smith was born on 6 March 1797 to the wealthy Peter Gerrit Smith and Elizabeth Livingston. His cousin was renowned women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Date of Death:
28 December 1874

Spouse and Children:
Gerrit Smith married Wealtha Ann Backus in January 1819, but she sadly died seven months later from 'dropsy of the brain'. Gerrit Smith went on to have five children with his second wife, Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, but only two children survived to adulthood.

Gerrit Smith inherited significant wealth from his father, however, he was a shrewd businessman long beforehand. Purchasing the land his siblings had inherited made Smith one of the largest land owners in the United States.

Abolitionist Activism:
Gerrit Smith often used his own funds to help those charged under the Fugitive Slave Act; he also provided funding to friend and fellow abolitionist to Frederick Douglass for his newspaper The North Star and gave away some of his amassed land to provide homes for former slaves. It is said that he gifted over $8,000,000 to causes that he championed; however, he also gave speeches against the injustice of slavery and racial and gender equality.

Gerrit Smith had also helped fugitive slaves and hid a young woman in his house until she could continue her escape via the Underground Railroad. In 1836, Gerrit Smith was elected president of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society.

Gerrit Smith had run for president of the United States in 1848, 1856 and 1860 and held office in Congress for a year and a half from 1853.

Harpers Ferry Raid:
In 1850, Gerrit Smith met John Brown. Nine years later, Smith would become one of his secret financial backers in what became the failed Harpers Ferry Raid. However, this was to backfire as the failed raid cast suspicion on Gerrit Smith; the stress caused him to be admitted by friends to the Utica State Asylum for a short time.

Main Menu

Famous American Abolitionists
Click here to learn about American abolitionists and their fight to end slavery.

Famous American Slaves
Visit this page to read about the ordeals of famous African American slaves and their impact on history.

Famous Slave Escapes
Visit this page to learn about some of the most daring slave escapes.

Famous Slave Rebellions
Click here to read about slave rebellions and the effects they had on nineteenth century America.

Slavery Glossary
Visit this page for definitions about slavery and abolition.

State Slave Laws
Click here to learn about the slave codes and laws governing the United States of America.