Influence of Slavery

This timeline establishes the national and local events surrounding slavery and explores the relationship of the founding of American University, including the history of the land, and its founder, Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, to the legacy of slavery.

Timeline created by the AU Working Group on the Influence of Slavery in August 2018. It is organized into five categories:;xNLx;Bishop John Fletcher Hurst focuses on the founder of American University's personal life.;xNLx;;xNLx;American University history depicts milestones in the founding of the university, as well as the history and ownership of the site of the University before its founding.;xNLx;;xNLx;Local events contextualizes relevant events in Maryland and the District of Columbia in tandem with events in the Hurst and American University categories.;xNLx;;xNLx;National events contextualizes relevant national events in tandem with events in the Hurst and American University categories.;xNLx;;xNLx;Methodist Church category contextualizes relevant events of the Church's history in tandem with events in the Hurst and American University categories.

1619-07-01 00:00:00

First African Slaves brought to the United States

African slavery in the future United States begins with the arrival of around 20 African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia colony.

1663-07-01 00:00:00

Maryland legalizes slavery

Maryland legalizes slavery with "an Act Concerning Negroes & other Slaues" [sic] during the Maryland General Assembly in 1663-1664.

1690-07-01 00:00:00

Piscataway Indians

Piscataway Indians inhabit the Potomac Valley, including the Tenleytown area, historically through the 1690s.

1713-07-01 00:00:00

Friendship Tract

In 1713, the “Friendship tract” is granted by Charles Calvert to Colonel Thomas Addison and James A. Stoddert, the southern part of which becomes the site of American University.

1760-07-01 00:00:00

Murdock family builds Friendship house

John Murdock, who’s relatives married into the Addison family and inherited the land, builds Friendship house (current site of the President’s house), the first substantive country manor in the area. Murdock inherited from Anthony Addison who at the time of his death had “20 Negroes” who would have worked the tobacco farm; however, it is not clear if anyone was living on the property itself aside from treating the home as a “country house”. Historically this land was owned by slave owning families and had their slaves working the land.

1766-01-01 00:00:00

Introduction of Methodism to North America

The Wesleyan Methodist movement introduced to North America in 1766 by Irish immigrants near Strawbridge, Maryland.

1775-07-01 00:00:00

The American Revolution

The 13 colonies declare independence from Great Britain and engage in the American Revolutionary War as the United States of America.

1784-07-01 00:00:00

1784 Book of Discipline

1784 Book of Discipline gives two options to slave-owning Methodists: free their slaves or leave the church.

1784-07-01 00:00:00

Founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church

At Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane Church in Baltimore, Maryland, the Methodist Episcopal Church (ME Church) is founded. Francis Asbury named first Bishop.

1785-07-01 00:00:00

Suspension of the Rule of the 1784 Discipline

The Rule of the 1784 Discipline is suspended for a time for “practical” reasons, with the caveat: “We do hold in the deepest abhorrence the practice of Slavery, and shall not cease to seek its destruction, by all wise and prudent means.”

1788-06-21 00:00:00

U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution is ratified and included the Three-Fifths Compromise, found in Article 1, Section 2, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person.

1789-04-30 00:00:00

Inauguration of George Washington

George Washington is inaugurated as the first President of the United States.

1789-07-01 00:00:00

Maryland abolition society is founded

The Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes and Others Unlawfully Held in Bondage is founded.

1790-07-16 00:00:00

Congress establishes the federal district

Congress establishes the federal district on lands previously ceded by Maryland and Virginia. The capital is officially named the District of Columbia in 1796, and the government moved to the District of Columbia from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 1, 1800.

1796-07-01 00:00:00

Methodist Episcopal Church establishes new slavery rule

The Methodist Episcopal Church adopts the Rule: “No slaveholder shall be received into society till the preacher who has the oversight of the Circuit, has spoken to him freely and faithfully upon the subject of slavery.”

1800-07-01 00:00:00

Methodist Episcopal Church adopts additional slavery rules

An additional Rule: “When any travelling preacher becomes an owner of a slave, or slaves, by any means, he shall forfeit his ministerial character in our church, unless he executes, if it be practicable, a legal emancipation of such slaves, conformably to the laws of the State in which he lives.”

1801-07-01 00:00:00

Slavery is extended into the District of Columbia

Congress extends the Virginia and Maryland slavery laws into the District of Columbia.

1808-07-01 00:00:00

Methodist Episcopal Church changes slavery rules

General Rules softened with the effect of permitting slaveholding (especially in the South). In subsequent years, southern ministers would declare the General Rule against slaveholding “a dead letter” in the South.

1834-08-17 00:19:36

Birth of John Fletcher Hurst

John Fletcher Hurst is born at “Weir Neck," the family farm in Salem, Dorcester County, Maryland to Elijah and Ann Catherine (Colston). The Hurst family historically owned slaves to run their mid-Atlantic Maryland farms. Federal census records and chattel records indicate Elijah Hurst (and wives) were active slave-holders.

1835-07-01 00:00:00

Methodist Episcopal Church faces debate about slavery

The 1830’s begin to see the rifts emerging in American Methodism as Northern conferences push for anti-slavery and abolition and Southern conferences seek to preserve the status quo. The Baltimore Annual Conference adopts a statement in favor of “peaceable, gradual emancipation” rejecting radical abolition.

1836-07-01 00:00:00

Methodist Episcopal Church debates abolition

The fraught political environment leads the bishops to instruct the clergy not to engage in abolition work, a move resisted by a number of the Northern conferences, who attempt to issue statements condemning the Baltimore Conference resolution.

1836-07-01 00:00:00

Georgia Annual Conference

The Georgia Annual Conference declares that slavery is not a “moral evil” and is a civil institution about which “ministers of Christ” have nothing to do. The move is condemned in the North and followed by other conferences in the South.

1841-05-03 00:19:36

John Fletcher Hurst's mother dies

Ann Catherine (Colston) Hurst, Hurst’s mother, dies after long bout of asthma.

1844-07-01 00:00:00

Schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church

A breaking point is reached: General Conference votes to censure a bishop for ownership of slaves. Southern conferences express displeasure with censure. Plan for separation introduced. Southern Churches break away to form Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

1845-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst's father remarries

Elijah Hurst, Hurst’s father, marries Emily L. Travers.

1847-07-01 00:00:00

Alexandria County, D.C. retroceded to Virginia.

Alexandria County, D.C. retroceded to Virginia.

1849-08-04 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst's father dies

Hurst’s father Elijah dies, bequeathing one or two slaves to him at age 15, as well as "Weir Neck" farm. Between 1848-1850, Hurst was attending Cambridge Academy and boarding with the family of Captain Shadrach Mitchell in Cambridge, Maryland.

1850-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst enrolls in Dickinson College

Hurst begins college at Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA at age 16.

1850-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst debates slavery

As a freshman in college, Hurst argues for abolition as part of the Union Philosophical Society, prevailing in the debate.

1854-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst graduates from Dickinson College

Hurst graduates from Dickinson a month before turning 20.

1856-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst studies abroad

Hurst travels to Germany to begin theological studies at Halle in Germany.

1857-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst becomes a circuit preacher

Hurst returns home, resolving on the way, to enter the Methodist ministry. Upon returning home, Hurst becomes a circuit preacher in the East Baltimore Conference.

1858-04-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst is awarded a pastorate

Hurst is appointed to a pastorate at Irvington, New Jersey. (Age 24)

1858-05-27 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst manumits his slave Tom King

Authorized the manumission of Tom King, a slave he’d inherited from his father, to take effect in 1862 when Tom turns 21.

1859-05-12 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst reacts to anti-slavery speeches

Hurst writes in his diary: “12. — (New York) Tract Society Anniversary. Speeches by Dr. Kirk, Missionary Vrooman, and Henry Ward Beecher. The last was a great one and well done. It was a rebuke to the American Tract Society on slavery issues. He far surpasses Spurgeon in several characteristics of greatness. Without indorsing his antislavery ultraism, I admire his boldness and steadfastness of purpose. He preaches with an aim.

1860-04-08 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst becomes a deacon

Hurst is ordained a deacon by Bishop Levi Scott; and is reappointed to his post in Passaic, New Jersey.

1860-07-01 00:00:00

Changes to Maryland's manumission laws

Maryland outlaws manumission through will and deeds

1861-04-12 00:00:00

U.S. Civil War begins

The Civil War begins at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

1861-08-01 00:00:00

Fort Gaines is established on the Friendship tract

Fort Gaines is established in Tenleytown (on future American University grounds) owned by William D.C. Murdock (only son of Addison Murdock and great-grandson of Colonel John Murdock).

1862-07-01 00:00:00

Slavery abolished in Washington, D.C.

Slavery is abolished in Washington, D.C.

1862-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst becomes an Elder

Hurst ordained an Elder by Bishop Thomas A. Morris.

1862-07-01 00:00:00

Murdock family emancipates slaves under D.C. law

William D.C. Murdock, land owner of “Friendship” in 1862, frees his 9 slaves, believed to be living in Georgetown, unclear if Murdock’s slaves would have been working on Friendship property at the time.

1862-07-01 00:00:00

Davis family emancipates slaves under D.C. law

Nancy W. Davis, sister and housemate to future “Friendship” landowners James L. Davis and Achsah C. Davis, frees her four slaves.

1863-01-01 00:00:00

Emancipation Proclamation

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation take effect, which frees all slaves in the territories currently in rebellion.

1863-05-13 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst writes about the New York City draft riots

Hurst writes in his diary: “18. — On my knees I declare that in future I will be the black man’s friend, and if my previous course has seemed dubious may God forgive me. The riots in New York have disgusted me with conservatism.”

1863-07-01 00:00:00

John Fletcher Hurst sells the family farm, "Weir Neck"

Sold Weir Neck farm left to him by his father.

1864-11-01 00:00:00

Maryland abolishes slavery

Maryland abolishes slavery.

1865-04-15 00:00:00

Assassination of President Lincoln

President Lincoln is assassinated and dies.

1865-05-09 00:00:00

End of the U.S. Civil War

The Civil war ends

1865-07-01 00:00:00

Fort Gaines post-war

Fort Gaines is abandoned at the end of the Civil War.

Influence of Slavery

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