Origin Of Anti-Slavery Movement Essay Outline Graphic Organizer

Before 1833 the anti-slavery movement in America was largely unorganised. There was a scattering of local societies, such as the New York City Manumission Society (founded 1785) and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (founded 1789). The first national society was the American Colonization Society, established in 1817. Led by men in the upper South, and helped by the Federal Government, it established a colony in western Africa (Liberia) for emancipated slaves. It achieved some success, despite strong opposition from abolitionists, and by 1865 over 10,000 emigrants had settled in Liberia.

In 1831 William Lloyd Garrison of Massachusetts founded the newspaper The Liberator and in the following year he set up the New England Anti-Slavery Society. In 1833 he joined with Arthur and Lewis Tappan of New York in forming the American Anti-Slavery Society. Based in New York City, it made rapid progress and within five years had 1350 local chapters and about 250,000 members. These years saw an enormous output of pamphlets, tracts, newspapers and abolition petitions. In 1839, however, the Society split. Garrison and his followers antagonized more moderate members by criticizing churches, opposing political action, denouncing the Constitution as supportive of slavery, and by urging that women hold office within the Society. Lewis Tappan set up the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and at the same time the Liberty Party was founded, nominating James Birney as President in 1840 and 1844. Most abolitionists initially hoped that one of the two old political parties, the Democrats or the Whigs, would take a stronger stand against slavery. In 1848 former members of both parties who were opposed to slavery set up the Free Soil Party, which sent two senators and 14 representatives to Congress. In 1854 the Party formed an alliance with Whigs opposed to the extension of slavery into Kansas. The resulting Republican Party achieved success when its candidate, Abraham Lincoln, was elected President in 1860.

The historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1948 that ‘Abolitionism was a religious movement, emerging from the ferment of evangelical Protestantism, psychologically akin to other reforms – women’s rights, temperance, and pacifism – which agitated the spirits of the Northern middle classes during the three decades before the Civil War. Its philosophy was essentially a theology, its technique similar to the techniques of revivalism, its agencies the church congregations of the towns’. The profusion of anti-slavery and abolitionist books, newspapers, pamphlets, reports, printed speeches and other publications which appeared in those three decades were an essential feature of this evangelical movement. The Southern states took drastic measures to block their distribution, but in the North they were sold and read in huge numbers. American slavery as it is: testimony of a thousand witnesses, written by Theodore Weld in 1839, sold nearly 100,000 copies in its first year. Similarly, newspapers such as The Liberator, The Emancipator, Slaves’ Friend and Anti-Slavery Record had exceptionally large print runs, reaching a total of over a million copies in 1835.


The National Library holds five microform collections documenting the anti-slavery movement. They were acquired between 1969 and 1984. These are supported by a number of other monographs - collections of documents and historical studies.



(i)American Colonization Society (mfm 1062)

The American Colonization Society was founded in 1817 with the aim of establishing a colony of former American slaves in western Africa. Land was purchased at Cape Meserudo, near Sierra Leone, in 1821 and the first settlers arrived in 1822. The colony was named Liberia in 1824. The colony declared its independence and it was recognised by the United States Government in 1862. By 1867 more than 13,000 emigrants had been sent to Liberia. The Society sought to maintain a neutral position on the slavery question and it was condemned as pro-slavery by William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists.

The records of the American Colonization Society, mostly dating from 1823 to 1912, are held in the Library of Congress and were microfilmed on 323 reels. They are arranged in the following series:

  1. Incoming correspondence, 1819-1917 (181 reels)

  2. Outgoing correspondence, 1839-1912 (61 reels)

  3. General correspondence, 1909-65 (8 reels)

  4. Financial papers, 1818-1963 (35 reels)

  5. Business papers, 1816-1963 (14 reels)

  6. Subject files, 1792-1964 (16 reels)

  7. Miscellaneous papers, 1835-1935 (8 reels)

(ii)British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (mfm 889)

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1839 and had a particular concern with American slavery. It held a World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, which was attended by many American abolitionists, and another in 1843. It corresponded with abolitionists, but was opposed to the Garrison wing of the movement and its influence was limited.

The records of the Society are held in Rhodes House Library, Oxford. The records referring specifically to American slavery were filmed on two reels. They consist of

  1. Minutebooks, 1839-68

  2. Memorials and petitions, 1839-50

  3. Incoming correspondence, 1836-62

(iii)Estlin Papers (mfm 893)

John B. Estlin and his daughter Mary Estlin lived in Bristol, England, and were active supporters of the anti-slavery movement. Mary in particular had an extensive correspondence with American abolitionists, both before and after the Civil War. She visited the United States in 1868. Among her correspondents were William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The Estlin Papers, including 70 pamphlets and reports, are held in the Dr Williams Library in London. They were microfilmed on six reels and comprise:

  1. Minute book of the Bristol and Clifton Auxiliary Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, 1840-60

  2. Letters, 1844-81, mostly written to Mary Estlin and including letters that she wrote from America in 1868

  3. Pamphlets and reports, including anti-slavery pamphlets, Civil War pamphlets, and memoirs of abolitionists

(iv)Oberlin College (mc 13 - catalogued individually)

Oberlin College in Ohio was founded in 1833. From the outset it was a major focus of the abolitionist movement, especially after a group of about 50 students from Lane Theological Seminary joined it on condition that in future students would be accepted regardless of colour. In 1835 it began to admit African-American students and in 1837 it became one of the first colleges to admit women as undergraduates. It was later an active terminus for the ‘underground railroad’, the network of secret routes and safe houses by which slaves escaped from the southern states.

The collection that was filmed at Oberlin College comprises about 2500 books and pamphlets published between 1780 and 1865, including annual reports and proceedings of anti-slavery societies, speeches, slave narratives, travellers’ observations of slavery, biographies of leaders of the anti-slavery movement, children’s books, songs, religious and economic arguments for or against slavery, and pro-slavery works. Among the authors are John Quincy Adams, George B. Cheever, Stephen Douglas, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Joshua Giddings, William Goodell, Angelina Grimke, William Jay, Abraham Lincoln, Horace Mann, Theodore Parker, William Patton, Wendell Phillips, William Henry Seward, Gerrit Smith, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Sumner and Theodore Dwight Weld. There are also works by British abolitionists such as Thomas Clarkson, Zacharay Macaulay and William Wilberforce.

(v) Slavery: source material and critical literature (mc 104 - some titles catalogued individually)

This very large microfiche collection was produced by Lost Cause Press and was based on Dwight Dumond’s A bibliography of antislavery in America (1961) and the ‘Slavery’ entries in the catalogue of the Library of Congress. The works filmed cover a wide date range, from about 1740 to 1940, with a large number dating from the decades following the American Civil War. They include speeches, sermons, open letters, petitions, tracts, slave narratives, travel accounts, memoirs, histories, songs and poems. There are a number of works on the West Indies, Liberia, and the African slave trade. While American publications make up the bulk of the collection, there are also British, French, German and Spanish publications.

Among the authors represented in the collection are John Quincy Adams, James G. Birney, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Horace Mann, Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, William H. Seward, Charles Sumner and Theodore Dwight Weld.

A selection of other publications

(i) Collections of documents

Blassingame, John W., ed., The Frederick Douglass papers, 5 vols, 1979-92

Foner, Philip S.and Herbert Shapiro, eds, Northern labor and antislavery : a documentary history, 1990

Merrill, Walter M., ed., The letters of William Lloyd Garrison, 6 vols, 1971-81

Nelson, Truman, Documents of upheaval; selections from William Lloyd Garrison's the Liberator, 1831-1865, 1966

Pearse, William H. and Jane H., eds, The antislavery argument, 1965

Phillips, Wendell, Speeches, lectures, letters, 1864

Ruchames, Louis, ed., The abolitionists; a collection of their writing, 1963

(ii) Historical studies

Abzug, Robert H., Passionate liberator : Theodore Dwight Weld and the dilemma of reform, 1980

Aptheker, Herbert, Abolitionism: a revolutionary movement, 1989

Barnes, Gilbert, The antislavery impulse, 1830-1844, 1933 [new ed. 1964]

Curry, Richard O., ed., The abolitionists, 1973

Duberman, Martin, ed., The antislavery vanguard: new essays on the abolitionists, 1965

Dumond, Dwight L., Antislavery: the crusade for freedom in America, 1961

Filler, Louis, The crusade against slavery, 1830-1860, 1960

Mabee, Carleton, Black freedom: the nonviolent abolitionists from 1830 through the Civil War, 1970

McKivigan, John R., The war against proslavery religion: abolitionism and the northern churches, 1830-1865, 1984

Pease, Jane H. and William H., Bound with them in chains: a biographical history of the antislavery movement, 1972

Perry, Lewis, Radical abolitionism: anarchy and the government of God in antislavery thought, 1973

Perry, Lewis and Michael Fellman, eds, Antislavery reconsidered: new perspectives on the abolitionists, 1979

Quarles, Benjamin, Black abolitionists, 1969

Ratner, Loman, Powder keg: Northern opposition to the antislavery movement, 1831-1840, 1968

Reynolds, David S., John Brown, abolitionist: the man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded civil rights, 2005

Richards, Leonard L., Gentlemen of property and standing: anti-abolition mobs in Jacksonian America, 1970

Savage, W. Sherman, The controversy over the distribution of abolition literature, 1830-1860, 1968

Sewell, Richard H., Ballots for freedom: antislavery politics in the United States, 1837-1860, 1976

Stewart, James B., Holy warriors: the abolitionists and American slavery, 1976

Stewart, James B., Wendell Phillips, liberty’s hero, 1986

Walters, Ronald G., The antislavery appeal: American abolitionism after 1830, 1976

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram, Yankee saints and Southern sinners, 1985

Yellin, Jean Fagan, Women & sisters: the antislavery feminists in American culture, 1989


The five anti-slavery collections are held in the Newspaper and Microforms Collection. The 323 reels of American Colonization Society microfilm are held at mfm 1062. They are listed in a 34 page register published by the Library of Congress in 1979.

The two reels of records of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society are held at mfm 889. There is a list of the contents at the beginning of each reel. The six reels of Eslin Papers are held at mfm 893. They also contain a description of the records at the beginning of each reel.

The Oberlin College Library collection was filmed on about 7500 microcards and is held at mc 13. The publications have been individually catalogued and they are also listed in a finding-aid published by the Lost Cause Press in 1968. The cards are filed alphabetically by author or title.

Slavery: source material and critical literature was filmed on about 9500 microfiche and is held at mc 104. Only a small proportion (about 1070 titles) of the publications have entries in the on-line catalogue. The remainder have catalogue cards in the Books In Process (BIP) file in the Main Reading Room. The fiche is filed alphabetically by author or title.

The books are held in the General Collection at various locations.


American Colonization Society: a register of its records in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, Library of Congress, 1979

Dumond, Dwight L., A bibliography of antislavery in America, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1961

Hofstadter, Richard, TheAmerican political tradition and the men who made it, New York, A.A. Knopf, 1948

Lost Cause Press, Anti-slavery propaganda in the Oberlin College Library, Louisville, Lost Cause Press, 1968

The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship
Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy

Home | Exhibition Overview | Exhibition Items | Learn More | Public Programs | Acknowledgments

Sections:Slavery—The Peculiar Institution | Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period | Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy | The Civil War | Reconstruction and Its Aftermath | The Booker T. Washington Era | World War I and Postwar Society | The Depression, The New Deal, and World War II | The Civil Rights Era

Black and white abolitionists in the first half of the nineteenth century waged a biracial assault against slavery. Their efforts proved to be extremely effective. Abolitionists focused attention on slavery and made it difficult to ignore. They heightened the rift that had threatened to destroy the unity of the nation even as early as the Constitutional Convention.

Although some Quakers were slaveholders, members of that religious group were among the earliest to protest the African slave trade, the perpetual bondage of its captives, and the practice of separating enslaved family members by sale to different masters.

As the nineteenth century progressed, many abolitionists united to form numerous antislavery societies. These groups sent petitions with thousands of signatures to Congress, held abolition meetings and conferences, boycotted products made with slave labor, printed mountains of literature, and gave innumerable speeches for their cause. Individual abolitionists sometimes advocated violent means for bringing slavery to an end.

Although black and white abolitionists often worked together, by the 1840s they differed in philosophy and method. While many white abolitionists focused only on slavery, black Americans tended to couple anti-slavery activities with demands for racial equality and justice.

Anti-Slavery Activists

Christian Arguments Against Slavery

Benjamin Lay, a Quaker who saw slavery as a “notorious sin,” addresses this 1737 volume to those who “pretend to lay claim to the pure and holy Christian religion.” Although some Quakers held slaves, no religious group was more outspoken against slavery from the seventeenth century until slavery's demise. Quaker petitions on behalf of the emancipation of African Americans flowed into colonial legislatures and later to the United States Congress.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj1

Plea for the Suppression of the Slave Trade

In this plea for the abolition of the slave trade, Anthony Benezet, a Quaker of French Huguenot descent, pointed out that if buyers did not demand slaves, the supply would end. “Without purchasers,” he argued, “there would be no trade; and consequently every purchaser as he encourages the trade, becomes partaker in the guilt of it.” He contended that guilt existed on both sides of the Atlantic. There are Africans, he alleged, “who will sell their own children, kindred, or neighbors.” Benezet also used the biblical maxim, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to justify ending slavery. Insisting that emancipation alone would not solve the problems of people of color, Benezet opened schools to prepare them for more productive lives.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj2

Anthony Benezet. Observations on the Inslaving, Importing and Purchasing of Negroes. Germantown, Pennsylvania: Christopher Sower, 1760. American Imprints Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (3–1)

The Conflict Between Christianity and Slavery

Connecticut theologian Jonathan Edwards, born 1745, echoes Benezet's use of the Golden Rule as well as the natural rights arguments of the Revolutionary era to justify the abolition of slavery. In this printed version of his 1791 sermon to a local anti-slavery group, he notes the progress toward abolition in the North and predicts that through vigilant efforts slavery would be extinguished in the next fifty years.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj3

Jonathan Edwards, D.D. The Injustice and Impolicy of the Slave Trade and of the Slavery of Africans . . . A Sermon. New Haven, Connecticut: Thomas and Samuel Green, 1791. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (3–2)

Sojourner Truth

Abolitionist and women's rights advocate Sojourner Truth was enslaved in New York until she was an adult. Born Isabella Baumfree around the turn of the nineteenth century, her first language was Dutch. Owned by a series of masters, she was freed in 1827 by the New York Gradual Abolition Act and worked as a domestic. In 1843 she believed that she was called by God to travel around the nation—sojourn—and preach the truth of his word. Thus, she believed God gave her the name, Sojourner Truth. One of the ways that she supported her work was selling these calling cards.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj4

Woman to Woman

Ye wives and ye mothers, your influence extend—
Ye sisters, ye daughters, the helpless defend—
The strong ties are severed for one crime alone,
Possessing a colour less fair than your own.

Abolitionists understood the power of pictorial representations in drawing support for the cause of emancipation. As white and black women became more active in the 1830s as lecturers, petitioners, and meeting organizers, variations of this female supplicant motif, appealing for interracial sisterhood, appeared in newspapers, broadsides, and handicraft goods sold at fund-raising fairs.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj5

Harriet Tubman—the Moses of Her People

The quote below, echoing Patrick Henry, is from this biography of underground railroad conductor Harriet Tubman:

Harriet was now left alone, . . . She turned her face toward the north, and fixing her eyes on the guiding star, and committing her way unto the Lord, she started again upon her long, lonely journey. She believed that there were one or two things she had a right to, liberty or death.

After making her own escape, Tubman returned to the South nineteen times to bring over three hundred fugitives to safety, including her own aged parents.

In a handwritten note on the title page of this book, Susan B. Anthony, who was an abolitionist as well as a suffragist, referred to Tubman as a “most wonderful woman.”

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj6

Increasing Tide of Anti-slavery Organizations

In 1833, sixty abolitionist leaders from ten states met in Philadelphia to create a national organization to bring about immediate emancipation of all slaves. The American Anti-slavery Society elected officers and adopted a constitution and declaration. Drafted by William Lloyd Garrison, the declaration pledged its members to work for emancipation through non-violent actions of “moral suasion,” or “the overthrow of prejudice by the power of love.” The society encouraged public lectures, publications, civil disobedience, and the boycott of cotton and other slave-manufactured products.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj7

William Lloyd Garrison—Abolitionist Strategies

White abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, born in 1805, had a particular fondness for poetry, which he believed to be “naturally and instinctively on the side of liberty.” He used verse as a vehicle for enhancing anti-slavery sentiment. Garrison collected his work in Sonnets and Other Poems (1843).

During the 1840s, abolitionist societies used song to stir up enthusiasm at their meetings. To make songs easier to learn, new words were set to familiar tunes. This song by William Lloyd Garrison has six stanzas set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj8

  • William L. Garrison. “Sonnet to Liberty.” Manuscript, December 14, 1840. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (3–19a)

  • William L. Garrison. “Song of the Abolitionist.” November 10, 1841. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (3–19b)

Back to top

Popularizing Anti-Slavery Sentiment

Slave Stealer Branded

Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker, born in 1790, was apprehended off the coast of Florida for attempting to carry slaves who were members of his church denomination to freedom in the Bahamas in 1844. He was jailed for more than a year and branded with the letters “S.S.” for slave stealer. The abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized Walker's deed in this often reprinted verse: “Then lift that manly right hand, bold ploughman of the wave! Its branded palm shall prophesy, ‘Salvation to the Slave!’”

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj9

Abolitionist Songsters

George W. Clark's, The Liberty Minstrel, is an exception among songsters in having music as well as words. “Minstrel” in the title has its earlier meaning of “wandering singer.” Clark, a white musician, wrote some of the music himself; most of it, however, consists of well-known melodies to which anti-slavery words have been written. The book is open to a page containing lyrics to the tune of “Near the Lake,” which appeared earlier in this exhibit (section 1, item 22) as “Long Time Ago.” Note that there is an anti-slavery poem on the right-hand page. Like many songsters, The Liberty Minstrel contains an occasional poem.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj10

George W. Clark. The Liberty Minstrel. New York: Leavitt & Alden [et al.], 1844. General Collections, Library of Congress (3–17)

Abolitionist Songsters

Music was one of the most powerful weapons of the abolitionists. In 1848, William Wells Brown, abolitionist and former slave, published The Anti-Slavery Harp, “a collection of songs for anti-slavery meetings,” which contains songs and occasional poems. The Anti-Slavery Harp is in the format of a “songster”—giving the lyrics and indicating the tunes to which they are to be sung, but with no music. The book is open to the pages containing lyrics to the tune of the “Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, which to 19th-century Americans symbolized the determination to bring about freedom, by force if necessary.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj11

The Anti-Slavery Harp: A Collection of Songs for Anti-slavery Meetings. Compiled by William Wells Brown. Boston: Bela Marsh, 1848. Music Division, Library of Congress (3–16)

Suffer the Children

This abolitionist tract, distributed by the Sunday School Union, uses actual life stories about slave children separated from their parents or mistreated by their masters to excite the sympathy of free children. Vivid illustrations help to reinforce the message that black children should have the same rights as white children, and that holding humans as property is “a sin against God.”

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj12

Back to top

Fugitive Slave Law

North to Canada

In the wake of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which forced Northern law enforcement officers to aid in the recapture of runaways, more than ten thousand fugitive slaves swelled the flood of those fleeing to Canada. The Colonial Church and School Society established mission schools in western Canada, particularly for children of fugitive slaves but open to all. The school's Mistress Williams notes that their success proves the “feasibility of educating together white and colored children.” While primarily focusing on spiritual and secular educational operations, the report reproduces letters of thanks for food, clothing, shoes, and books sent from England. This early photograph accompanied one such letter to the children of St. Matthew's School, Bristol.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj13

  • Mission to Fugitive Slaves in Canada: Being a Branch of the Operations of the Colonial Church and School Society . . . 1858–9. [London]: Society's Offices, 1859. Pamphlet. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (3–4a)

  • Mission to Fugitive Slaves in Canada: Being a Branch of the Operations of the Colonial Church and School Society . . . 1858–9. [London]: Society's Offices, 1859. Copyprint. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (3–4b)

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850

This controversial law allowed slave-hunters to seize alleged fugitive slaves without due process of law and prohibited anyone from aiding escaped fugitives or obstructing their recovery. Because it was often presumed that a black person was a slave, the law threatened the safety of all blacks, slave and free, and forced many Northerners to become more defiant in their support of fugitives. S. M. Africanus presents objections in prose and verse to justify noncompliance with this law.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj14

Anthony Burns--Capture of A Fugitive Slave

This is a portrait of fugitive slave Anthony Burns, whose arrest and trial in Boston under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 incited riots and protests by white and black abolitionists and citizens of Boston in the spring of 1854. The portrait is surrounded by scenes from his life, including his sale on the auction block, escape from Richmond, Virginia, capture and imprisonment in Boston, and his return to a vessel to transport him to the South. Within a year after his capture, abolitionists were able to raise enough money to purchase Burns's freedom.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj15

Back to top

Growing Sectionalism

Antebellum Map Showing the Free and Slave States

The growing sectionalism that was dividing the nation during the late antebellum years is documented graphically with this political map of the United States, published in 1856. Designed to portray and compare the areas of free and slave states, it also includes tables of statistics for each of the states from the 1850 census, the results of the 1852 presidential election, congressional representation by state, and the number of slaves held by owners. The map is also embellished with portraits of John C. Fremont and William L. Dayton, the 1856 presidential and vice presidential candidates of the newly organized Republican Party, which advocated an anti-slavery platform.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj16

Distribution of Slaves

Although the Southern states were known collectively as the “slave states” by the end of the Antebellum Period, this map provides statistical evidence to demonstrate that slaves were not evenly distributed throughout each state or the region as a whole. Using data from the 1860 census, the map shows, by county, the percentage of slave population to the whole population. Tables also list population and area for both Southern and Northern states, while an inset map shows the extent of cotton, rice, and sugar cultivation. Another version of this map was published with Daniel Lord's The Effect of Secession upon the Commercial Relations between the North and South, and upon Each Section (New York, 1861), a series of articles reprinted from The New York Times.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj17

Back to top

Militant Abolition

John Brown's Raid

More than twenty years after the militant abolitionist John Brown had consecrated his life to the destruction of slavery, his crusade ended in October 1859 with his ill-fated attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in western Virginia. He hoped to take the weapons from the arsenal and arm the slaves, who would then overthrow their masters and establish a free state for themselves.

Convicted of treason and sentenced to death, Brown maintained to the end that he intended only to free the slaves, not to incite insurrection. His zeal, courage, and willingness to die for the slaves made him a martyr and a bellwether of the violence soon to consume the country during the Civil War.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj18

Frederick Douglass on John Brown

The friendship of Frederick Douglass and John Brown began in 1848, when Douglass visited Brown's home in Springfield, Massachusetts. Brown confided to Douglass his ambitious scheme to free the slaves. Over the next eleven years, Brown sought Douglass's counsel and support.

In August 1859 Brown made a final plea to Douglass to join the raid on Harpers Ferry. Douglass refused. After Brown's capture, federal marshals issued a warrant for Douglass's arrest as an accomplice. Douglass fled abroad. When he returned five months later to mourn the death of his youngest daughter Annie, he had been exonerated. Douglass wrote this lecture as a tribute to “a hero and martyr in the cause of liberty.”

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj19

  • Frederick Douglass. “A Lecture on John Brown.” Typescript, 1860. Frederick Douglass Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (3–8a)

  • Frederick Douglass. “A Lecture on John Brown.” Autograph corrections and drafts, 1860. Frederick Douglass Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (3–8b)

Back to top

“The Book That Made This Great War”

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Mighty Pen

Harriet Beecher Stowe is best remembered as the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, her first novel, published as a serial in 1851 and then in book form in 1852. This book infuriated Southerners. It focused on the cruelties of slavery—particularly the separation of family members—and brought instant acclaim to Stowe. After its publication, Stowe traveled throughout the United States and Europe speaking against slavery. She reported that upon meeting President Lincoln, he remarked, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj20

Uncle Tom's Cabin—Theatrical Productions

This poster for a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin features the Garden City Quartette under the direction of Tom Dailey and George W. Goodhart. Many stage productions of Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel have been performed in various parts of the country since Uncle Tom's Cabin was first published as a serial in 1851. Although the major actors were usually white, people of color were sometimes part of the cast. African American performers were often allowed only stereotypical roles—if any—in productions by major companies.

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/abolition.html#obj21

Back to top

Home | Exhibition Overview | Exhibition Items | Learn More | Public Programs | Acknowledgments

Sections:Slavery—The Peculiar Institution | Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period | Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy | The Civil War | Reconstruction and Its Aftermath | The Booker T. Washington Era | World War I and Postwar Society | The Depression, The New Deal, and World War II | The Civil Rights Era


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *