Clarissa Maria Campbell Beman

Clarissa Maria Campbell (or Cammel) Beman was born on December 18, 1809 in East Haddam, Connecticut,1 to John “Punch” Cammel and Axe (or Achsah) Mason.2 Both Cammel and Mason were born free and had four children, the youngest of which is Clarissa. As a young woman, she eventually lived in Middletown where she established a chapter of Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society, whose goal is to improve the conditions of both free and enslaved African Americans.3 Part of Connecticut’s Black elite community, Clarissa Campbell mingled with many Black activists devoted to racial uplift. She went on to marry Leverett Beman, one of Jehiel Beman’s sons. The couple was well-off, and, during their marriage, Leverett Beman built their home and established a small residential subdivision for African Americans.4 Today it is known as the Leverett Beman Historic District.

In Middletown, Clarissa Beman petitioned against and boycotted goods that were produced by slave labor. As founder of the Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society, Beman “assumed leadership roles in local organizations that coordinated petitioning drives.”5 Middletown was a divided city, being home to anti-slavery groups and pro-slavery factions, and in 1835, an anti-slavery riot broke out.6 Despite this, the Bemans continued to fight for racial uplift. It is also highly likely that Clarissa Beman aided fugitive slaves as Middletown is one of the Underground Railroad’s stops.

Clarissa Beman died in 1844, likely due to childbirth.8 Although her life was cut short, it is clear that she took every advantage of her position as a free Black woman to support anti-slavery efforts.


Written by Samantha de Vera, University of Delaware.

With contributions from Taylor Williams, Taught by: Professor Pier Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware Spring 2013


[1] “Clarissa M Bemon [sic]” Connecticut, Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, 1629-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

[2] “Punch [John Cammel].” Connecticut, Town Marriage Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.


[3] Elizabeth J. Normen. African American Connecticut Explored. (Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2013), 83.

[4] “Leverett Beman Historic District.” Connecticut Freedom Trail, accessed July 19, 2016. Link

[5] Omar H. Ali. In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States. (Athens: Ohio UP, 2008), 25.

[6] “The Underground Railroad in Middletown.” Wesleyan University. Accessed July 19, 2016. Link

[7] “Clarissa M Bemon [sic]”