Free Blacks and Quaker Communities in Loudoun County
Quakers, also called “The Religious Society of Friends,” who lived in southern states were said to live “in the Lion’s mouth,” because of the stark contrast between their ideals of peace and equality and the ideologies of the slave holding society surrounding them. Quakers had two main settlements in Loudoun County: Goose Creek and Waterford. These towns were much like other Northern Virginian towns: home to schools, businesses, agriculture endeavours, as well as to Quaker “meeting houses”, centers of religious growth and abolitionist action.
Historians argue that Loudoun Quakers, like all Friends in pre-Civil War U.S., struggled to balance conflicting identities as members of a Northern Virginia community rooted in slavery with their firm spiritual and moral belief in the in injustice of slavery. Most of Quakers’ engagement with their wider community was in the spread of abolition rhetoric and actions that were in opposition to the ideals of Northern Virginia slaveholders.
Quaker public engagement in the wider Northern Virginia community was deeply influenced by religious beliefs in equality and the injustice of slavery. Their abolitionary actions and sentiments challenged the social and political structure of the slave-south, and thereby the authority and morality of slave-holders in Northern Virginia. Heightened tension and increasingly frequent conflicts between Quakers and pro-slavery neighbors. Unwilling to engage in violence and disheartened by the ever-firmer commitment of slaveholders to the institution, many Quakers moved from Loudoun county to areas that were more tolerant of their abolitionist ideals in the years leading up to the Civil War.
This exhibit examines Quaker abolition sentiments and movements in Loudoun County and free-blacks in their communities during the pre-revolutionary war period. Several of the Masons, including Armstead and Thompson Mason, were slaveholders in Loudoun during this period and both they and their enslaved peoples would have encountered Quakers and abolition movements in the surrounding county.