The Abolitionist Movement in the United States
The abolitionist Movement was a campaign throughout the United States to end slavery in the 1800 s. There were many reformers, most in northern states, that would dedicate their life s work to the abolishment of this institution.
The first anti-slavery activities occurred as far back as colonial days. The Quakers of Pennsylvania condemned slavery on moral grounds alone. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry both spoke strongly against slavery and tried to have it outlawed in the constitution to no avail. Even the principles the United States was founded upon, true freedom, no discrimination, advocated the abolishment of slavery.
The American Colonization Society was one of the first set groups that actually held anti-slavery protest in the U.S. Founded in 1816, the society, thinking slaves would never adapt to the U.S. way of life, tried to send slaves back to Liberia. They successfully sent a few back, but, at most, was only a small percentage of the slaves actually here.
One of the first abolitionists, Elihy Embree, published a weekly newspaper in Jonesborough, Tenn. His paper was solely devoted to the abolition of slavery. In 1820, he came out with a monthly publication called, The Emancipator , another anti-slavery paper.
One very influential man in the anti-slavery movement was William Lloyd Garrison. At the age of 14 he himself served as an indentured servant. After his seven years were up and his servitude paid he became a very passionate advocate in the war to end slavery. Garrison became publisher of an anti-slavery newspaper in Boston called The Liberator (one who sets free). This became one of the most influential journals in the abolitionist movement. Garrison was constantly attacked and harassed for his beliefs, but never gave in. In the state of Georgia alone he had a $5,000 reward for his capture. He was also an advocate for women s suffrage, and helped in England s anti-slavery movement also. In 1833, the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded to continue Garrison s work.
The American Anti-Slavery Society split in the year 1839. On one side were the radicals, and on the other the gradualist. The radicals wanted an immediate end to slavery by whatever means necessary. This group included William Garrison, John Brown, and Lucretia Mott. They retained control of the society and the Liberator. The gradualist believed in a slow and legal end to slavery by political pressure. This group included Theodore Weld, Author and Lewis Tappan, and James Birney. The gradualist went on to start the first anti-slavery party, the Liberty Party, which helped to develop the Free Soil Party and then went on to become the Republican Party.
Now the anti-slavery movement had broke into politics and with the formation of the Underground Railroad was well on its way to see and end to this awful institution.
The Underground Railroad was no formal organization, it wasn t underground, nor was it a railroad. The railroad consisted of abolitionist along the route to freedom. They would provide food, shelter, clothing, hiding places, and directions (most commonly the North Star). The goal was the Mason Dixon line, although most slaves went on to Canada. The most famous members of this railroad were Levi Coffen and Harret Tubman. Coffen was called President of the Underground Railroad and helped nearly 3,000 slaves escape bondage.
In 1852, Harret Beecher Stowe published the famous book Uncle Tom s Cabin . The book was written as a criticism of slavery in the South. This book had a strong effect on the hearts of many Northerners, and increased their hostility towards the South. Southerners felt that Stowe s interpretation of slavery was inaccurate, misleading, and exaggerated. Many historians believe that this very book ignited enough hostility between the North and South to eventually lead to the start of the civil war.
By this time the issue of slavery had become more wide spread than ever. The anti-slavery campaign was steadily on the rise generating more members everyday. Abraham Lincoln had just been elected president under the Republican Party, the South s back was to the wall. On April 4, 1861, the south succeeded from the Union and initiated the Civil War.
In 1870, we adopted the 15th amendment, and slavery, in the United States, was abolished.
Abolitionist. World Book Encyclopedia, 1998 ed. CD-ROM.
Underground Railroad. World Book Encyclopedia, 1998 ed. CD-ROM.
William Garrison. World Book Encyclopedia, 1998 ed. CD-ROM.
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Slavery. Encarta, 1998 ed. CD-ROM.
William Garrison. Encarta, 1998 ed. CD-ROM.