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Although often ignored or unrecognized by both historians and the community-at-large, African-Americans played an important role in the history of Lowell, Massachusetts.  This exhibit of the events and experiences of two African-American families, the Quork-Lewis Family and the Lew Family, is an attempt to understand and appreciate their courage and contributions.

The Quork-Lewis Family (1754-1954) 
Records of the Quork-Lewis Family experiences began with the sale of three slaves, Mingo, Dinah and their son, Quaco or Quork, to James Caldwell of Barre, Massachusetts, in 1754.  At Caldwell's death in 1763, Quork, his parents, and siblings were left to  Caldwell's widow, Isabell, who took them with her when she  married Nathaniel Jennison.  Jennison became sole owner of these slaves at Isabell's death in 1774.  In 1781, after two promises of freedom were broken, Quork ran away from Nathaniel Jennison to the brothers of his former owner.  When caught by Jennison, Quork was beaten and locked in a shed for several hours.  These actions became the basis for a lawsuit in which the Massachusetts Courts applied the new 1780 State Constitution with its claim of the "rights of man."  After a series of suits, counter suits and appeals, Quork's case was upheld in 1783 by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  This case is now viewed as the landmark decision which effectively ended slavery in Massachusetts.

     Among the slaves, owned by Nathaniel Jennison, was Quork's sister Minor Walker.  In 1792, she married Peter P. Lewis, also from Barre, and they moved to Cambridge.  There they purchased a home and raised a family of nine sons and two daughters.  Their sons and daughters became leaders in the anti-slavery movement centered in Boston.  About 1830, John and Sophia Lewis Levy, Walker Lewis, Simpson H. Lewis, Andrews V. Lewis, Samuel A. Lewis, Enoch Lewis, and Peter P Lewis, Jr. moved their families to Lowell.  Their reasons are not clear:  perhaps family ties, business expansion, anti-slavery activities, or better educational opportunities for their children.

     John Levy, hairdresser, was an agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and a paid organizer for the Annual National Anti-Slavery Bazaar held in Boston.  In 1843, Levy worked with Maria Chapman and Sarah Clay to establish the Lowell Woman's Anti-Slavery Society and their anti-slavery fairs were held in Old City Hall.  In 1844, Levy, along with William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, and others, helped organize a series of one hundred anti-slavery conventions throughout Massachusetts. 

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