Occramer Marycoo, Newport Gardner

In 1760, Occramer Marycoo (1746–1826), who was born in Africa and was later known in America as Newport Gardner, was transported against his will to Newport, Rhode Island, where he became enslaved to a sea captain named Caleb Gardner. He mastered the English language, but held onto the skills of his native tongue so he could talk with the newly enslaved people who arrived from his homeland. He taught himself to read and write and became well known in New England for his musical compositions and his work as director of a popular singing school. He was a member of the First Congregational Church of Newport, where the pastor, Rev. Samuel Hopkins, was an outspoken critic of slavery. Occramer later started the Colored Union Church in Newport and eventually obtained his freedom from Gardner. After moving to Boston in 1825, he worked with the American Colonization Society, a group that helped free slaves return to Africa and founded a church in the city. After many years of longing to return to Africa, in 1826, at the age of 80, he voyaged on the brig Vine, which landed in Liberia, where he and many other returning slaves fell victim to a fever to which they had no immunity. Occramer was buried in the soil of his homeland.

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