Samuel Joseph May was born on September 12, 1797 in Boston, Massachusetts. May graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1820, and became the only Unitarian minister in Brooklyn, Connecticut. He became very active in the reform movements of the day. After becoming acquainted in 1830, May and William Lloyd Garrison worked for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. May also helped to found the New England Anti-Slavery Society, the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the New England Non-Resistance Society. In the 1850s, May worked against the Fugitive Slave Law, which made him a target for slavery advocates. Samuel Joseph May died on July 1, 1871.