Samuel Joseph May, 1797 - 1871

Samuel Joseph May was a Unitarian minister, reformer, and member of the Transcendental Club who was active in numerous causes: temperance, nonresistance, women's rights, penal reform, education reform, the treatment of Native Americans, and especially the abolition of slavery.  His reformist stance cost him dearly, as people who were not ready for his message forced his resignation from the pastorate of two churches--at Brooklyn, Connecticut and South Scituate, Massachusetts--and he was mobbed five times during his antislavery tour through Vermont in 1835.  Amos Bronson Alcott, his brother-in-law, and Abigail May Alcott, his sister, both highly admired May, whose financial aid and sympathetic support of the Alcotts was second only to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  May shared in Bronson Alcott's zeal for education, advocated improvement in education, and for a time served as principal of the Normal School at Lexington, Massachusetts at the request of educator Horace Mann.  May championed the cause of Prudence Crandall, a schoolteacher who--like Alcott--tried to bring an African-American child into her classroom and met with violent resistance.  May's kindness earned him the title "God's chore boy" from Alcott.