COKER, DANIEL (1780–1846). The son of a white servant and a black
slave, Daniel Coker was born in Maryland as Isaac Wright, changing his
name when he escaped to New York. After buying his freedom, he moved
to Baltimore to be a minister, teacher, and abolitionist. Coker helped create
a separate Methodist church for blacks, later named the Bethel African
Methodist Episcopal Church. He wrote several pamphlets, including A Dialogue between a Virginian and an African Minister (1810). In 1816 the
newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church elected Coker its bishop,
but he resigned the next day. Coker sailed to Sierra Leone in 1820, settling
in Africa as part of the American Colonization Society’s effort to establish
a colony for the emigration of free blacks and to provide support for ships
working against the slave trade.
In 1820 Edward J. Coale published the Journal of Daniel Coker, a Descendant of Africa: from the Time of Leaving New York in the Ship Elizabeth
Capt. Sebor on a Voyage for Sherbo in Africa in Company with Three Agents
and about Ninety Persons of Colour . . . with an Appendix. Coker writes with
a devoted, religious tone. He describes a storm that separates the Elizabeth
from the ship of war meant to accompany her. The next day they discover
a wrecked and deserted vessel with all hands apparently lost. After thirtyfour days at sea, the Elizabeth drops anchor in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Coker chronicles his experiences ashore and sailing the coast, including observations of the slave trade. He hears a story about an illegal Spanish slaver
who poisoned 400 Africans when the vessel was discovered by an English
ship; only 6 survived.