Quack Walker Lewis, black abolitionist, barber, AND elder (priest) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was born in Barre, Worcester County, Massachusetts, on August 3, 1798. His father, Peter P. Lewis, was a free black yeoman farmer in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and his mother, Minor Walker Lewis, was born a slave in Worcester County. Peter and Minor had a total of eleven children, all of whom were born free and part of the black middle class in Massachusetts.
Walker Lewis’s involvement with abolitionism was a central component of his family’s history. He was named after his maternal uncle, Quacko (Kwaku) Walker. Quacko’s parents maintained Ghanaian naming practices (Kwaku means “boy born on Saturday”). Quacko and his parents were slaves in Worcester County, Massachusetts. In two legal cases in 1781 and 1783, Quacko obtained his freedom from Nathaniel Jennison. Quacko v. Jennison (1781) and Jennison v. Caldwell et al (1783) are cited as legal precedents for ending slavery in Massachusetts. With this genealogy of slavery and emancipation, Walker Lewis assisted in the formation of the Massachusetts General Colored Association (MGCA) in 1826.
That year, Lewis and other prominent black abolitionists, including David Walker (no relation), formed the MGCA, the first all-black abolitionist organization in the United States, and in 1829, it released David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. This treatise called for complete emancipation of slaves, armed insurrection (if necessary), and disfavor of African colonization. The MGCA later merged with William Lloyd Garrison’s New England Anti-Slavery Society, which was then renamed the Boston Anti-Slavery Society.
Walker Lewis married Elizabeth Lovejoy in 1826 shortly before he helped found the MGCA. He also established his first barbershop in Tewksbury, a town that was later annexed by Lowell. By 1830, Walker Lewis had two successful barbershops in Lowell and Boston and specialized in children’s haircuts. Along with Prince Hall,