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"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock." - Mary Shelly, Frankenstein, ch. XIII
The Burleigh Family of Plainfield, Connecticut
The Burleigh family of Plainfield, Connecticut - they are known to any serious student of the Abolitionist era, but virtually unknown to the wider public. They first made their mark when they "early in the fray came to the moral rescue of Miss Prudence Crandall" in nearby Canterbury. From that point their activism radiated out to Anti-Slavery generally, as well as Peace, Temperance, opposition to the Death Penalty, and political parties. Educational projects were always important to the family, as was the printed word - three of the brothers edited Abolitionist newspapers at some point in their career. But the arts were also a crucial component of the Burleighs: poetry in the Abolitionist generation, and painting for their progeny.
However, this is not the whole story, nor their whole significance. The Burleigh family embodied a progressive anti-racist attitude in their Abolitionist work. They also had a pro- and proto-feminist perspective on women's equality. Most of their marriages were to women who also had independent public voices and activist involvement; a few even had professional careers.
Below are fifteen individual character accounts. Click on the name to go to the person you want to see. Each character account includes a short biography, a list of publications and/or archival holdings, and whatever visual evidence - photographs, portraits, art works, ephemera - have been discovered.
A full-length essay on the Burleigh family as a unit will also be produced and added to these individual accounts at a later date.
This poem, by George S. Burleigh, was written for the 1899 celebration of Plainfield's Bicentennial. It features reflections on the area that shaped the generation of Rinaldo and Lydia Burleigh's accomplished children.
Help locate even more Burleigh information!
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This website is meant to be a work in perpetual progress. Building information about the Burleigh family will help anti-racist activism, as we come to understand the heritage of allies and leaders in the struggle. When you discover more Burleigh arcana, please share. All contributions will be acknowledged. Drop me a line at