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The birth of Bethany Veney in 1815 is celebrated on this date. She was a Black author and abolitionist.
Bethany Veney was born a slave in Luray Page County, Virginia; she never met her father, and her mother died when she was nine years old. Her master, James Fletcher, willed Veney as the property of his daughter, Lucy, when he died. She had a daughter by her first husband and a son by her second husband, Frank Veney. Veney married another slave named Jerry, but he managed to escape after a year. In December 1858, Veney and her son Joe were sold for $775 to a man in Rhode Island. She served several different masters and was separated from her family often before being sold to a northern businessman, G.J. Adams, who freed her and her son.
Veney worked for Adams and his family in the North. After living briefly in Providence, Rhode Island, Veney settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, with her daughter and three grandchildren. After the American Civil War, she obtained her freedom and, in 1889, published her autobiography, A Slave Woman.
On November 16, 1916, Bethany Veney, at the age of 101 years, died at the home of her daughter, Charlotte, at 33 Winfield Street in Worcester. She “retained her faculties, except her eyesight, in a wonderful manner." Her memory was keen, not in the manner of old persons, in remembering dates of long ago, but she kept herself posted on today's topics of interest. Although she could not read because of her eyesight in later years, she kept posted by asking questions.
Veney’s daughter, Charlotte, died on February 14, 1921, at a home that she had moved to since her mother's death, at 89 Mayfield Street in Worcester. She was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery near her mother. On July 12, 2003, the Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, signed a proclamation honoring Bethany Veney and her life by declaring the day “Bethany Veney Day in Worcester, Massachusetts."
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Work Consulted: Clark, Edward, Black Writers in New England. A bibliography, with biographical notes, of books by and about Afro-American writers associated with New England in the Collection of Afro-American Literature, Boston: National Park Service, 1985.