Bethany Veney, abolitionist and author

Bethany Veney
Wed, 1815-09-27

The birth of Bethany Veney in 1815 is celebrated on this date. She was a Black woman author.

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. Veney married another slave named Jerry but after a year he managed to escape. In December 1858, Veney and her son Joe were sold for $775 to a man in Rhode Island. She had a daughter by her first husband and a son by her second husband, Frank Veney. She served a number of 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 for a short time in Providence, Rhode Island, Veney settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, with her daughter and three grandchildren. After the 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 103 years, died at the home of her daughter, Charlotte, at 33 Winfield Street in Worcester. It was said that 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 the topics of interest of today and 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 the death of her mother, 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.

To be a Writer

Person / name: 

Veney, Bethany