Portrait of Benjamin Lay

A fervent abolitionist and activist for human rights, Benjamin Lay was a Quaker living in the Philadelphia area in the early eighteenth century. Revolutionary for his time, he boycotted the use of any material associated with enslaved labor. He was well aware that textiles were often sold and exchanged for enslaved people throughout the Atlantic world, so he made his own clothing from carefully sourced, Pennsylvania-grown linen―one of the many ways he protested the institution of slavery pervading colonial trade systems.


Portrait of Benjamin Lay
Henry Dawkins, engraver, after a painting by William Williams Sr.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1745−60
Ink on wove paper
Gift of Marie D. Schwartz and Robert D. Schwartz in memory of Frank S. Schwartz 1985.0160