Before Fair Trade Coffee~ The Free Produce Movement

Uneducated New Jersey kid makes good.
Uneducated New Jersey kid makes good.

Once upon a time there was a Quaker kid living on his parents’ farm in the Garden State of New Jersey. He didn’t make it to school too often and back then you had the freedom to skip it. Maybe he just liked plowing fields with his father or getting into small scrapes with his little Quaker friends.

Eventually young Benjamin Lundy was apprenticed out to a saddler in Wheeling, Virginia where he was first exposed to slavery. Now maybe he wanted to get away from his parents and be apprenticed and maybe he didn’t, but either way he didn’t waste time thinking of himself. Still a young person, he determined that he was not only against slavery, but that he would actually devote his life to doing something about it.

Benjamin married and went on to open a successful store. In this store he sold “Free Produce” goods. Not a single thing in his Baltimore store was produced using slave labor. Slave holders and people who were willing to keep quiet about slavery because it was easier hated Benjamin for it. Back then there was no cool group of college kids wearing rainbow colored caps and raggedy clothes he could join. He was pretty much on his own in 1815.

For no reason other than human decency he put his life on the line for people he could have just ignored, yet he never wavered. It’s one thing to stand up as an oppressed person and demand that wrongs be righted; it’s another to put your neck on the line for people who don’t even know you and fight a giant system of evil and corruption. I’m sure there were people who quietly supported his actions but remained in their homes doing nothing–just like most of us do now when we hear about human trafficking. We hope someone does something.

Benjamin organized anti-slavery groups, started newspapers and “traveled more than 5000 miles on foot and 20,000 in other ways, visited 19 states of the Union, and held more than 200 public meetings.” (wikipedia) He was also brutally assaulted by a slave trader, but it never stopped him.

He was a tough Quaker kid from New Jersey.