His mother was a seventeen-year-old slave, and his white father, John Wesley Galloway, was the son of a wealthy Brunswick County planter. Marsden Milton Hankins, a railroad mechanic (skilled artisan) and prosperous citizen of Wilmington, owned Abraham Galloway from infancy. Galloway received training as a brick mason and was allowed to work independently, as long as he earned enough to give his owner fifteen dollars each month. Craving freedom, Galloway escaped from Wilmington on a ship going north and arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 1857. From there he journeyed to the safety of Ontario, Canada, and became a spokesman for abolition. He maintained close contacts with abolitionists in Massachusetts and probably helped other fugitive slaves reach the safety of Canada. After the outbreak of war, Galloway returned to North Carolina to work for the liberation of African Americans.
Fugitive slave and abolitionist Abraham H. Galloway returned to North Carolina in 1862 or 1863. He worked as an intelligence agent for General Benjamin F. Butler and other Union officers and may have been the chief African American spy in North Carolina. Galloway probably identified coastal landing sites for the Federal army and supplied information on the location and strength of Confederate forces. He also used his influence to encourage free blacks and former slaves to enlist in North Carolina African American Union regiments or to work as laborers for Federal forces. By early 1863, Galloway had become eastern North Carolina's most important spokesman for African American rights. He envisioned a life in which blacks and whites enjoyed legal and social equality. In the spring of 1864, Galloway joined a delegation of black leaders who met with President Abraham Lincoln on the issue of African American suffrage. In the fall, he attended the National Convention of the Colored Citizens of the United States in Syracuse, New York.
Already established as one of the principal African American leaders in eastern North Carolina, Abraham H. Galloway prepared to play a substantial role in Reconstruction politics after the Union victory in April 1865. He gave the keynote address to more than 2,000 former slaves at a July 4, 1865, rally in Beaufort. He also traveled across North Carolina and spoke before black audiences on equal rights for African Americans and on women's suffrage. In one speech, Galloway declared that "if the Negro knows how to use the cartridge box, he knows how to use the ballot box." Galloway helped organize a Freedman's Convention in Raleigh during September and October 1865, as well as the North Carolina Republican Party. He served as a delegate from New Hanover County to the state constitutional convention in Raleigh in January 1868 and was elected state senator in April 1868 and again in 1870. Galloway was a renowned orator, even though apparently he could neither read nor write. Galloway died unexpectedly in Wilmington at the age of thirty-three on September 1, 1870. An estimated 6,000 people attended the funeral of the former slave two days later.