Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biographical Sketch of Anna Bustill Smith, 1862-1945


By Holly Honeywell, M.K. Pennell, Misha Perez, and Zoe Weinman
Undergraduates, Warren Wilson College.
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Margaret W. Carmack

Anna Bustill Smith was born to Sarah H. and Joseph C. Bustill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1862. The Bustill Family is one of the oldest African American families in the United States, tracing their heritage back to Anna's great grandfather, Cyrus Bustill (1732-1806), a former slave who became free and settled in Pennsylvania. As part of the growing free black population of Philadelphia, Cyrus became part of the Underground Railroad and founding member of the city's Free African Society. Anna's father, Joseph Bustill, is recognized as being the youngest member of the Underground Railroad at the age of 17.

By the time Anna Bustill was born, her family had become prominent members of Philadelphia's black community. As a child, Anna grew up within the Quaker church. Many members of her family were part of the Religious Society of Friends, as well as among the growing number of abolitionists. Bustill Smith's father worked as a teacher for many years and instilled the importance of education and learning within his daughter.

Much is known about the Bustill family because of Anna Bustill Smith. As she herself noted, "There are so few histories of colored people... . I feel constrained to record a few facts relative to these people." Bustill Smith devoted much of her life to recording her family's history including several articles for the Journal of Negro History and a full-length study of the black community in Princeton, New Jersey.

Ironically, little is known of Anna Bustill Smith's own life. She married a man simply known as "Wm Smith." The two lived in Chicago before moving to New York City, where Anna lived until her death in 1945. Bustill Smith is the first known black genealogist in the United States. Because of her diligent work in collecting and recording the history of her family, her family's contributions to the abolitionist movement are preserved for history.

For Further Reading:

Smith, Anna Amelia Bustill, Reminiscences of Colored People in Princeton, N.J., 1800-1900. N.p.: A.B. Smith, 1913.

Smith, Anna Bustill, "The Bustill Family." The Journal of Negro History 10:4 (1925), 638-44.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Vol. 133 New York: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 2002.


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