A Boston Activist
In addition to his professional duties, Battiste, Sr. actively participated in anti-slavery meetings and causes in Boston. He was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, for example.
Protecting the Rights of Seamen
Battiste, Sr. was especially active in the protection of African-American seaman from abuses when traveling in slave states. In 1842, for example, The Liberator reported that he led a meeting to protest the treatment of free African-American sailors passing through southern ports.
In 1843, he and other colored citizens of Boston signed a petition asking the state to condemn laws in southern states that allowed the jailing and even kidnapping of colored seaman in their ports.
Petitioning for Justice
Battiste, Sr., in fact, was present at many meetings where he signed anti-slavery and anti-discrimination petitions to the Massachusetts government.
Harvard University has digitized these important examples of political activism in pre-Civil War Boston and placed them online.
Petitions signed by Battiste in 1843 included one from citizens of Boston demanding the repeal of laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Another petition condemned acts of discrimination on passenger railroads in Massachusetts.
In 1845, he served as secretary of a meeting to petition the state to condemn the mistreatment of free colored citizens in other states. Finally, in 1845, he also signed a petition to ban the use of the word "color" in state statute books.
These petitions can be seen below.
Battiste also joined his former classmate Nell as an officer of the Adelphic Union Library Association, a literary society for young African-Americans. This organization sought to promote education and uplift in Boston's free community, but it also provided a stage for political action.
For several years in a row, the Association sponsored a lecture series. Speakers included William Lloyd Garrison, James McCune Smith, Wendell Phillips, and other leading abolitionists of the day.
Since Battiste, Sr. helped bring McCune Smith to Boston for a speaking engagement, McCune Smith and the Battistes might have had a previous relationship before the children arrived at the orphanage.
Advertisements for Adelphic Union lectures can be seen by clicking on the thumbnails below.