Peter Williams, Jr. Reproduced courtesy Vivian Hewitt.
Peter Williams Jr.

After attending the African Free School as a boy, Peter Williams Jr. became a minister in the Episcopal Church and a prominent, widely-respected black New Yorker. He tutored the young James McCune Smith, and helped his brilliant pupil attend medical school in Scotland. He was the minister of St. Philip's Church, the leading black Episcopal congregation in the city. During the anti-abolitionist riots of 1834, a letter to the Mayor from Bishop Benjamin Onderdonk of the Episcopal Church alerted the authorities to the threats against St. Philip's. The church and Rev. Williams' home, however, were both damaged. Later, Bishop Onderdonk instructed Rev. Williams to resign from the American Anti-Slavery Society immediately. Williams' obedient response was reported in New-York Spectator. He said he had closed his church, already much wrecked by rioters. He disavowed any opposition to the American Colonization Society, except insofar as the group said that "a colored man...can never enjoy the privileges of a citizen of the United States."