Event Title

The Life of John Laurens

Presenter Information

Alex Kohn, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 121

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2019 1:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2019 2:20 PM

Abstract

Did you know that a white, rich, male abolitionist who was attracted to men, could have changed the history of abolition in the United States? This is the story of John Laurens, oldest son of Henry Laurens, one of the first presidents of the continental congress. He grew up on a plantation in Charleston, S.C. before studying in France and attending law school in England. His education in France coincided with the end of the Enlightenment, which idealized the inherent natural rights of man. During his time in England, the country had already begun to end slavery on its soil. After finishing his studies, he returned to the colonies where he enlisted in the newly formed revolutionary army. While in service he became part of Washington's military family, had close relationships with figures such as Alexander Hamilton, served as a prisoner of war, and petitioned congress for a free black battalion, which was his dream as he firmly believed that America could not be free unless it ended slavery. He served as Franklin's secretary while Franklin was in France and was an instrumental part of France sending aid to the colonies. He returned to America where he died in a battle he didn't have to fight in, without knowing the war had ended. If he had not died in 1782 he likely would have changed the timeline of abolition in America, making him one of the largest What If's in American history.

Keywords:

American History, Abolition, Sexuality

Notes

Session III, Panel 5 - Legal | Histories

Moderator: Cortney Smith, Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Rhetoric & Composition

Major

Theater; History

Advisor(s)

Eric Steggall, Theater
Pablo Mitchell, History

Project Mentor(s)

Leonard Smith, History

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Apr 27th, 1:00 PM Apr 27th, 2:20 PM

The Life of John Laurens

King Building 121

Did you know that a white, rich, male abolitionist who was attracted to men, could have changed the history of abolition in the United States? This is the story of John Laurens, oldest son of Henry Laurens, one of the first presidents of the continental congress. He grew up on a plantation in Charleston, S.C. before studying in France and attending law school in England. His education in France coincided with the end of the Enlightenment, which idealized the inherent natural rights of man. During his time in England, the country had already begun to end slavery on its soil. After finishing his studies, he returned to the colonies where he enlisted in the newly formed revolutionary army. While in service he became part of Washington's military family, had close relationships with figures such as Alexander Hamilton, served as a prisoner of war, and petitioned congress for a free black battalion, which was his dream as he firmly believed that America could not be free unless it ended slavery. He served as Franklin's secretary while Franklin was in France and was an instrumental part of France sending aid to the colonies. He returned to America where he died in a battle he didn't have to fight in, without knowing the war had ended. If he had not died in 1782 he likely would have changed the timeline of abolition in America, making him one of the largest What If's in American history.