Robert Roberts was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1777, and it is not known whether he was free born or the child of slaves. Arriving in Boston with his employer financier Nathan Appleton, he possessed many skills as a manservant, and he could read and write. He became a valued servant, prominent member of Boston’s African American community, prosperous property owner, and father of twelve children. The House Servant’s Directory was written when Roberts was employed as butler and majordomo in the household of Christopher Gore, U.S. senator and governor of Massachusetts. In later years, Roberts was a dedicated abolitionist and supporter of equal rights in education for children of all races.
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