Abolitionist Movement (19th Century)

From the 1830s until 1870, the abolitionist movement sought immediate emancipation of all slaves and the ending of racial segregation and discrimination. There were more moderate anti-slavery advocates who proposed the gradual emancipation of slaves. Many people started to advocate for emancipation on religious grounds, arguing that slavery was a sin. Abolitionist ideas became increasingly prominent in Northern churches and politics beginning in the 1830s. There was regional hatred due to opposing views of slavery between North and South, leading up to the Civil War.

Timeline of the Abolitionist Movement

1831: William Lloyd Garrison publishes The Liberator
1833: American Anti-Slavery Society is formed
1837: Abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy is murdered
Slave auction
Slave auction

1838: Frederick Douglass escapes slavery and becomes active in the abolitionist cause
1847: Frederick Douglass begins publication of the North Star
1850: Compromise of 1850; passage of Fugitive Slave Act
1860: Presidential election of Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln
1861: The beginning of the Civil War
1863: Emancipation Proclamation
1865: 13th Amendment is added to the Constitution, Civil War ends

What historical forces led to the rise of the movement?

  • Abolitionist feelings had been strong during the American Revolution and in the Upper South during the 1820s.
  • But the abolitionist movement did not come together until the 1830s because the North went through social disruption associated with the spread of manufacturing and commerce.
  • By stressing the moral imperative to end sinful practices and each person's responsibility to uphold God's will in society, preachers such as Lyman Beecher, Nathaniel Taylor, and Charles G. Finney led massive religious revivals in what came to be the Second Great Awakening, which later influenced abolitionism.
  • By the early 1830s, Theodore D. Weld, William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and Elizur Wright, Jr., all spiritually nourished by revivalism, had taken up the cause of "immediate emancipation".
  • The abolitionist group, the Quakers were one of the first to speak against slavery (around 1700's), and spread their belief around America.

What major figures were involved in the movement?

Important people:

  • William Lloyd Garrison
    William Lloyd Garrison
    William Lloyd Garrison
    • Garrison first joined the Abolition movement at the age of 25.
    • He supported the American Colonization Society, an organization that believed freed blacks should emigrate to a territory on the west coast of Africa and helped organize the New England Anti-Slavery and the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1832, which were the first organizations to promote immediate emancipation.
    • On January 1, 1831, he published the first issue of his own anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator, and advocated for the immediate emancipation of all slaves, but many disagreed with this.
  • Frederick Douglass
    Frederick Douglass
    Frederick Douglass
    • Douglass was born as a slave, who later escaped and became a passionate abolitionist. He read to educate himself, joined various organizations, attended Abolitionists' meetings, and subscribed to The Liberator.
    • In 1841, he was inspired by Garrison upon witnessing his speech at the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society's annual meeting. Several days later, Douglass gave his own speech at the New England Anti-Slavery Society's annual convention in Nantucket and afterward became a lecturer for the Society for three years.
    • In 1845, Douglass published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself, and three years later he published the first issue of the North Star.
    • Douglass continued to give speeches for the rest of his life and would become a leading spokesperson for the abolition of slavery and for racial equality.
    • Frederick Douglass's speech - One of Frederick Douglass's famous speeches (presented July 4, 1852.)
  • Harriet Tubman
    • The most distinguished of all the Underground Railroad "conductors."
    • Born as a slave, she escaped early in her life and traveled to Philadelphia, where she saved her money. Then, she returned to the South in order to lead her sister and her sister's children to safety.
    • Over a span of ten years, she made 19 trips to the south and successfully led over 300 slaves to freedom. Amazingly, she "never lost a single passenger."
    • In her later life, she became involved in the abolitionist cause and even participated in anti-slavery sanctions.
  • Elijah Lovejoy
    Elijah Lovejoy
    Elijah Lovejoy
    • Elijah Lovejoy was a known anti-slavery activist, and was involved in the printing and circulation of abolitionist literature.
    • Before establishing a newspaper company, he studied religion at Princeton and became a Presbyterian minister.
    • In early November of 1837, while Lovejoy and several of his supporters were waiting for the installation of his new printing equipment, they were soon assaulted by a massive pro-slavery mob. It resulted in the death of Lovejoy, and his printing equipment was then thrown into a nearby river.

Important Groups/Societies

  • Quakers
    George Fox
    George Fox
    • The Quakers are a religious group, founded by George Fox in the 17th century. They are devoted to pacifist and humanitarian principles and reject the idea of an arrogant, organized religion.
    • Quakers believe that God is within each human being, and they held meetings where members sit quietly or speak their own minds.
    • Many Quakers on the eastern line of the Underground Railroad participated because of their Quaker value system, but it is a misunderstanding that all Quakers were abolitionists.There was a schism within the Quaker establishment as a result of different views on anti-slavery activism.
  • American Anti-Slavery Society
    • Among one of the largest abolitionist organizations, they were known for
      National Anti-Slavery >> Standard
      National Anti-Slavery >> Standard
      radically opposing slavery.
    • It's active members consisted of people from "diverse social, economic, and religious backgrounds"
    • In an effort to spread their beliefs, they published millions of abolitionist documents (such as pamphlets, books, and newspapers), such as the famous Emancipator (1833-1850) and the National Anti-Slavery Standard (1840-1872).
    • Furthermore, they were even supported by former slaves such as Frederick Douglass in a "heroic effort to expose the horrors of slavery and persuade northern whites to recognize the essential humanity of all African Americans."
  • New-England Anti-Slavery Society
    • The New England Anti-Slavery Society (abbreviated as NEAS) was the first formal abolitionist association established by white activists. They wanted African Americans to have equal rights without having to provide a compensation to their masters.
    • The society was founded in 1831, mainly by William Lloyd Garrison, who was inspired by Benjamin Ludy
      "Am I not a man and a brother?"
      "Am I not a man and a brother?"
      (a Quaker newspaper editor.)
    • The organization initially hosted campaigns to petition the slave trade, then began focusing on the issue of segregation, especially in schools. Their hope was to provide African-American youths more opportunities in specialized occupations.
    • One of their most distinct accomplishments was their attack on the American Colonization Society, formerly the most powerful abolitionist group in the United States. Though they were a fellow abolitionist group, the ACS advocated that abolition was required to include "physical and political separation of the races," also known as segregation.
    • In 1835, Garrison started advocating nonviolent civil disobedience of laws that forced citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves. The organization also began circulating antislavery documents.

Important Events
Fugitive Slave Act 1850 - a flyer in Boston, warning the run away slaves/freed slaves of the slave catchers
Fugitive Slave Act 1850 - a flyer in Boston, warning the run away slaves/freed slaves of the slave catchers

  • Fugitive Slave Act 1850
    • Law passed in 1850 to render the northern states unsafe for escaped slaves. If an escaped slave was caught by a slave hunter in a free state, he could legally be forced back into slavery despite his residence in a free state. Free citizens of free states could also be legally conscripted to aid in a slave's return to slavery.
    • This law galvanized the abolitionist movement in the North. The abolitionist who assisted slaves in the Underground Railroad faced greater danger and challenge even as the activity on the railroad increased in response to the new law. In the North, the politicians alienated the Northerners and transformed many whites who had previously considered themselves unaffected by slavery into fervent abolitionists.

Emancipation Proclamation 1863
Emancipation Proclamation 1863

  • Emancipation Proclamation 1863

    • Lincoln supported the idea of gradually pushing towards the freeing of slaves. Hoping to make his idea appear more reasonable, he even offered just compensation to slaveholders for the release of their "property." Unfortunately, few considered the offer and still opposed his idea.
    • Contrary to popular belief, the Emancipation Proclamation wasn't responsible for the freedom of all slaves. It only granted freedom to slaves in states not under the authority of the Union. The last thing he wanted to do is anger the slave states allied with the Union by releasing all of their slaves.

Methods and Tactics

Abolitionist Literature
In response to the growing issue of slavery, literature centered around the abolitionist movement began to appear around the 1820s. Those against slavery published a "steadily growing stream of newspapers, periodicals, sermons, children's publications, speeches, abolitionist society reports, broadsides, and memoirs of former slaves," that would continue until the Civil War.
Early Anti-Slavery Publication: Sermon
Early Anti-Slavery Publication: Sermon
Abolitionist literature was responsible for the circulation of anti-slavery beliefs and was even used as propaganda to gain the support of children and women.

  • Sermon: Jonathan Edwards Jr. (1745-1801)
    • Edwards was originally a minister working at the Congregationalist White Haven Church in Connecticut, eventually succeeding in becoming the president of Union College in New York. He often delivered sermons, in which he criticized slavery and provided opposing arguments against the popular "pro-slavery positions." In the records of the Library of Congress, his sermon is among the earliest abolitionist literature, and it exhibits the immense anti-slavery feelings many had during the "early days of the republic."
  • Children's Publications
    • A collection of poems, songs, and stories for children were published monthly by the American Anti-Slavery Society. It encouraged children to raise money to support the anti-slavery movement with illustrations and inspirational text. In this image is a picture of the "coffle-yoke" used to chain groups of slaves together. A young girl named Ellen, presumably the protagonist, has a discussion with her father, Mr. Murray, about the wickedness of slavery. She then proceeds to state, "I will never boast of our liberty while there is a slave in this land." This exhibits the powerful influence abolitionist literature had on even children, as the propaganda truly inspired them to support the anti-slavery cause.
The Slave's Friend: A Children's Publication
The Slave's Friend: A Children's Publication

  • The Liberator (1831)
    • An abolitionist newspaper started by William Lloyd Garrison in 1831. It's issues were published weekly from Boston. In it's very first issue, Garrison stated, "I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation... I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - AND I WILL BE HEARD."
    • There weren't many subscribers, and three-quarters of the subscribers were African Americans, but the newspaper nevertheless earned the nationwide reputation for its uncompromising support for the freedom of slaves. The Liberator came to an end in 1865, when the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States.

  • The North Star (1847)
    • An abolitionist newspaper company owned by Frederick Douglass, published in New York on December 3rd, 1847. The paper later became one of the most influential African-American abolitionist publications in the entire movement. Not only did it criticize slavery, but it also petitioned for women's equality and other groups that had been discriminated against. It's motto; "Right is of no Sex - Truth is of no Color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren." Popular in the United States, Europe, and the West Indies, it had more than 4,000 regular subscribers. In June of 1851, the North Star was renamed "Frederick Douglass' Paper."

    Underground Railroad
    Harriet Tubman
    Harriet Tubman
    • Organized by a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North
    • It consisted of many individuals (many whites but predominantly black) who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation.
    • Effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year; the South lost an estimated 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850.
    • The slaves had to rely on their own resources, and sometimes a "conductor" (such as Harriet Tubman) would pose as a slave and enter a plantation, then guide the runaways northward.
    • These slaves would move at night and travel between 10-20 miles to the next states where they rest and eat, hiding in barns or places where they wouldn't be found by slave catchers, while a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.
    • The slaves would also travel by train and boat, meaning they needed money, which was donated by individuals, and also raised by various groups.
    • Physical force was often used as a means to rebel against slavery. Nat Turner, a well-educated slave with a gift for public speaking, led a massive slave rebellion in 1831 that ended in bloodshed. His gang murdered 60 whites in rage, and even proceeded to mutilate several bodies. In the end, however, 200 slaves were executed.

How successful was the movement?
Civil War
Civil War

  • The movement was successful to such an extent that slavery was ended, and the thirteenth amendment was ratified, but failed to end peacefully.

  • Thirteenth Amendment
    • Originally, the Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment for an entirely different purpose - to guarantee the legality and perpetuity of slavery in the slave states, rather than to end it. This was a result of complicated politics before the period of the Civil War. Before the amendment could be sent to the states for ratification, the Civil War started.
    • The Amendment that we know today is the final version that ended slavery. It was passed during the Civil War years, when the southern congressional representatives were not present for debate. It was passed in April 1864 by the Senate, with a vote of 38 to 6, but the required two-thirds majority was
      President Abraham Lincoln
      President Abraham Lincoln
      defeated in the House by a vote of 93 to 65. Only four Democrats voted for it, and abolishing slavery was almost exclusively a Republican party effort.
    • President Abraham Lincoln played an important role in pushing the amendment through congress. He used his political skills and influence to convince that the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment be added to the Republican party platform for the upcoming presidential elections and to convince additional democrats to support the amendments' passage. Then, on January 1865 with a vote of 119-56, all of Lincoln's effort payed off. Lincoln supported those congressmen that insisted southern state legislatures must adopt the Thirteenth Amendment before their states would be allowed to return with full rights to Congress.

  • When the Civil War broke out, the Union was separated into the South and North, which was something many people feared. The North won in the end, but it did not give any merits to the country and 618,000 Americans died in this war.

(Saya's bibliography)
(Felicia's bibliography)