Poet, abolitionist, and anti-colonialist Joseph Cephas Holly worked as a boot maker and lived in Brooklyn and Burlington before settling in Rochester in 1852. He married, and fathered a son who died in infancy.

Joseph lectured widely with his younger brother, James Theodore Holly, on antislavery topics. A schism later developed between the brothers over the issue of colonialism, with Joseph strongly against it and James an emigrationist who later become the bishop of Haiti.

Holly’s poetry confronts racism, colonialism, and imbalances of power, and also pursues religious and historical themes. During his life he published one volume of poetry, Freedom’s Offering (1853). A selection of his work is included in African American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century (1992, ed. Joan R. Sherman).

Holly died of consumption in Rochester.

Poems by Joseph Cephas Holly
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