Eliza Julia (Brockett or Brackett) Shadd Anderson


Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Eliza Julia (Brockett or Brackett) Shadd Anderson, 1824-1898

By Blake Wintory, Ph.D., Independent Scholar

Eliza Julia (Brockett or Brackett) Shadd Anderson (ca. 1824-1898), born in what is now Alexandria, Virginia, around 1824, was an African-American abolitionist and suffragist.

Born in Alexandria, Eliza Brockett moved to Washington, D.C at a young age. An 1898 obituary, published in the Colored American, suggests she was born free, however little else is known about her early life. On March 28, 1842, she married Absolom W. Shadd in the city. Shadd, born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1815, came from a family of free black business owners and activists. Absolom's older half-brother, Abraham D. Shadd emerged in the 1830s as an important leader of free black communities in Delaware and Pennsylvania and was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Sometime in the late 1830s, Absolom opened a restaurant and hotel at the corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue--the site of Beverly Snow's restaurant and Snow's Riot in 1835. By 1850, the 34 year-old Absolom and 24 year-old Eliza, had two daughters Julia, 5, and Adelaide, 2.

In the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Shadds sold their restaurant in 1853 for $25,000. Absolom and Eliza, in pursuit of freedom, moved their family, which now included newborn Furman Jeremiah Shadd, to Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Absolom purchased two farms totaling about 400 acres. The Shadds joined relatives, including Abraham and his daughter, Mary Ann Shadd, publisher of the influential anti-slavery paper, the Provincial Freeman. Also accompanying the family was Osborne Perry Anderson of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Anderson planned to help manage the Shadd farm, but he also acted as an agent, printer, and writer for the Provincial Freeman.

After Absolom's death on June 15, 1857, Eliza managed the farm. The 1861 Agricultural Census shows a 150-acre farm valued at $4000 and cultivating wheat, rye, peas, oats, buck wheat, corn, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and hay. According her obituary in the Colored American, Eliza carried "a hatred of slavery" and was "devoted to her slave-crushed people." When John Brown visited Chatham in 1858, Eliza reportedly hosted the famed abolitionist in her home. Anderson, the Shadd's farm manager, attended Brown's recruiting meetings at Chatham and a year later became famous as the only surviving member of the raid at Harpers Ferry.

On March 18, 1861, Eliza married Rev. Duke W. Anderson in Detroit, Michigan. Anderson, a teacher and abolitionist born in Illinois in 1812, was then head of Detroit's Second Baptist Church. Anderson, no relation to Osborne Perry Anderson, relocated with his new family to Chatham where he farmed and headed the First Baptist Church on King Street. Soon after the Civil War, Rev. Duke and Eliza Anderson briefly moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he ministered to and taught freedpeople. However, by July 1865 the family moved to Washington, D.C. where Rev. Anderson was called to lead the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, then called First Baptist Church. Influential churches like the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church were hubs of political activity and activism. In his position, Rev. Anderson attracted freedpeople to his congregation and assumed leadership roles as Justice of the Peace, trustee for Howard University and the Freedman's Bank, and as a commissioner of the Washington asylum.

In the late 1860s, Eliza Anderson stepped into her role as a suffrage activist. Following the success of black male suffrage in the spring of 1867, the Universal Franchise Association formed with the goal of achieving women's right to vote. In the spring of 1869, activist Josephine Griffing encouraged women in the city to register to vote in the municipal elections. On April 22, a group that included Louisa C. Butler, Eliza Anderson, and two white friends, Julia Wilbur and Sarah Evans, met for dinner. The women signed a petition addressed to the "Judges of Election of the City of Washington." Wilbur copied the text into her diary: "We request that our names be placed on the list of qualified voters therein which you are engaged in preparing. We know that it is unusual for those of our sex to make such a request. We do so because we believe ourselves entitled to the franchise...We do not know that any law expressly forbids you to comply with our request. If such there be[,] we hereby solemnly protest against an exclusion from the highest privilege of American citizenship, to which our consent has never been asked." The group presented their petition to the election judges at the First Ward firehouse and departed without incident. While their request had little effect, Wilbur wrote, "It is hoped that ladies in every Ward will do the same that it may be apparent the women do wish to vote. I am convinced that when a sufficient number ask for the suffrage they will get it."

Rev. Duke W. Anderson died on February 17, 1873. Eliza Anderson died at her home on September 26, 1898. At the time of her death, her three surviving children, Julia R. Purnell, Dr. Furman J. Shadd, and Marion P. Shadd, were all educators: Mrs. Purnell at Howard University's Normal School; Dr. Shadd at Howard University Medical School; and Miss Shadd headed the Lincoln School.


1850, 1870, 1880 U.S. Federal Census, accessed via familysearch.org and ancestry.com.

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"Celebration by the National Monument Colored Association," New Orleans Tribune, July 20, 1865.

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Meyer, Eugene L. Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown's Army. Chicago Review Press, 2018.

"Mrs. Eliza Anderson. A Pioneer Citizen and Mother of a Distinguished Family--A Race Benefactress," Colored American, October 8, 1898, accessed at Readex: America's Historical Newspapers.

Pipkin, Rev. J. J. The Story of a Rising Race: The Negro in Revelation in History and in Citizenship. St. Louis: N. D. Thompson Publishing Company, 1902, accessed at Hathitrust.org, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007669486.

Rhodes, Jane. Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press,1999.

Robinson, Henry S. "Medical History: Furman Jeremiah Shadd, MD 1852-1908," Journal of the National Medical Association 17 (1980): 151-153, accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2552480.

Stamatel, Janet P. "Marion Purnell Shadd (c. 1856-1943)." In Notable Black American Women, Book III, edited by Jessie Carney Smith, p. 542-544. New York: Thomson Gale, 2003.

Sutherland, R. R. comp. County of Kent Gazetteer, and General Business Directory for 1864-5. Ingersoll [ON]: A. R. and John Sutherland, 1864, accessed at https://static.torontopubliclibrary.ca/da/pdfs/37131055373179d.pdf.

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Whitacre, Paula Tarnapol. A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time: Julia Wilbur's Struggle for Purpose. [Lincoln]: Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press, 2017.

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