Who is Benjamin Lay?

During my freshman fall, I spent a lot of time in McCabe Library. It was my number one study spot. Living in Willets, which is a few minutes away, made it pretty ideal.

One day I began to notice flyers in McCabe. They were advertising an exhibit of the abolitionist Benjamin Lay. Being absorbed in my studies, I didn’t do much outside research. Still, I was pretty interested. I took a picture as a reminder to check it out later on.

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A few weeks passed, and I still hadn’t visited the exhibit. Then as I was exiting McCabe, I saw him in the distance. I was very much intrigued.

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Benjamin Lay inside the Friends Historical Library

So, who is he?

Benjamin Lay was a Quaker abolitionist who performed ingenious nonviolent protests.  Known for smashing tea cups and feigning a stabbing, Lay used eccentric methods to point out the hypocrisies of slave-owners. His own stigmatization as a dwarf made him empathetic to other marginalized groups.

Lay was also a vegetarian. He lived in a cave, complete with its own library, and made his own clothes to boycott the slave-labor industry. You can read more about Benjamin Lay and his exhibit here.

Lay’s exhibit was in the Friends Historical Library, a Quaker Library located in McCabe. It has over 9,000 volumes of original meeting records, as well as 45,000+ books. Not only can you discover historical figures, but students can look through the archives to learn more about Swat’s history.

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