She became the president of the school’s Ladies Literary Society and was selected to deliver the graduation commencement address on August 27, 1850. The speech was delivered just weeks before the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which placed escaped slaves in the North in danger of recapture from their former Southern masters. The speech was a moving appeal for abolishing slavery, and she uttered the words, “Slavery is the combination of all crime. It is War” – invoking much of the abolitionist rhetoric of the time.
She would marry former Oberlin classmate William Howard Day, an editor of a local abolitionist newspaper. According to historical accounts, Day Sessions was the first African-American to have a fictional story published when she wrote a short story for her husband’s publication. The couple lived in Canada and assisted fugitive slaves with their education. When her husband left her and their daughter in 1859, Day Sessions returned to Cleveland.
Although she took a job as a school principal shortly after graduating, she returned to Ohio to work as a seamstress to support herself and her daughter. Her fortunes changed for the better after the Cleveland Freedman’s Association sponsored her to teach in Georgia and later Mississippi, where she met her second husband, Levi Sessions. The couple married in 1878, and worked in Tennessee in philanthropy and other efforts. The couple later moved to Los Angeles, where Day Sessions died in 1910.
Little Known Black History Fact: Lucy Stanton Day Sessions was originally published on blackamericaweb.com