Author: Marie Tyler-McGraw


William Crane (1790–1866)

William Crane was a Baptist lay leader, missionary, and businessman. Born in New Jersey in 1790, he became a shoemaker and joined his brother in Richmond, Virginia, where he became a successful merchant. He joined the Baptist church and in 1813 helped organize the Foreign Missionary Society of Virginia. Two years later, he and Lott Cary, a free black member of his church, founded the Richmond African Baptist Missionary Society. Crane led a Sunday school and then a night school for African Americans, and after the establishment of the American Colonization Society in 1816 helped to raise money for those who wanted to immigrate to Liberia, in West Africa. Frustrated and disillusioned by the problem of slavery, he moved to Baltimore in 1834 and joined in the incorporation of the Chesapeake and Liberia Trading Company in 1845. In Baltimore Crane remained active in the Baptist church. In 1865, he published the pamphlet Anti-Slavery in Virginia that criticized abolitionists and secessionists equally. He died in 1866.


Billy or Blind Billy (ca. 1805–1855)

Billy or Blind Billy was a fifer. Born enslaved in Lynchburg, he was the property of Howell Davies, and Billy’s obituary reported that he became free through a subscription raised by the townspeople. At the time of his death, Billy was married to a woman named Ann Armistead, although it is unknown whether Armistead was his surname, too. Little is known of his life except that he was renowned on his instrument. He played at balls and parties and on public occasions and was associated with the tune “Wandering Willie.” Billy died in 1855.


C. W. Andrews (1807–1875)

C. W. Andrews was an Episcopal minister and reformer who was active in the American Colonization Society. Born and educated in Vermont, he moved to Virginia for his health and there fell under the influence of William Meade, an evangelical minister and his wife’s uncle. Andrews was ordained in 1832 and soon after became involved in the movement to gradually emancipate enslaved men, women, and children in Virginia and send them to the colony of Liberia in western Africa. He also preached against dancing, the theater, and tobacco. In 1842 Andrews became rector of Trinity Church in Shepherdstown, in what later became West Virginia, and as the American Civil War (1861–1865) threatened he opposed secession but remained loyal to Virginia when it joined the Confederacy. Skeptical of immigration, he believed that the North had become overrun with foreigners. Andrews continued to preach after the war and authored a number of sermons, essays, and books. He died in 1875.