Abraham Galloway was born to a white man named John Wesley Galloway, and a 17-year-old enslaved black woman in Smithville, North Carolina. Galloway was allowed to work on his own under the condition that he paid his owner $15 a month. It was not long before Galloway became unhappy with his life and decided to plan his escape. In 1857, Galloway escaped on a ship to Pennsylvania. Shortly after settling in Canada West (now known as the province of Ontario), Galloway began working for the abolitionist movement, traveling throughout Canada and the United States. His travels later took him to Haiti where he planned a southern revolt that never occurred.
Galloway returned to North Carolina as an abolitionist. He served as an intelligence agent for General Benjamin F. Butler. Galloway organized the first Equal Rights League that became a nationwide organization. He was a champion for education of freed blacks. By the spring of 1863, Galloway is said to have become the most important political leader among the more than 10,000 slaves who were living in contraband camps and seaports occupied by the Federal army.
In 1864, Galloway joined a delegation of black leaders. He led the group of black southern delegates to meet with President Abraham Lincoln to argue for African American citizenship with suffrage and political equality. He was then chosen by freedmen in New Bern to serve as a North Carolina delegate for the National Convention of Colored Men of the United States that took place in Syracuse, New York. The convention founded the National Equal Rights League. In 1868, Galloway was among the 15 blacks that were called upon to draft the North Carolina Constitution in 1868. He served in the state Senate. He put together a militia of men to combat the night riding white mobs that terrorized black communities. Galloway died in 1870 from fever and jaundice.