Antislavery protest did not disappear with the waning of the first wave of abolition. In 1817 Jesse Torrey of the PAS interviewed an enslaved mother who had jumped from the window of a tavern in Washington, D.C., after slave traders “carried my children off with ’em to Carolina.” Torrey’s recounting of the plight of the bedridden, paralyzed woman, Anna, with an accompanying illustration of her jumping from the building became a classic indictment of the domestic slave trade and was reprinted in abolition journals for years to come.1 Abolitionists confronted the explosive expansion of slavery into the trans-Mississippi West and an interstate slave trade whose dimensions—nearly two million sold to the Cotton Kingdom and in local sales—far exceeded the African slave trade to mainland North America.

During the “neglected period of anti-slavery,” when slavery, far from disappearing, became the cornerstone of the national economy, abolitionists experimented with tactics that paved the way for second-wave abolition. The roots of antebellum abolition lay in the virtually unanimous rejection by blacks of the program of the American Colonization Society (ACS), founded in 1816 to colonize black Americans in Africa. Controversy over the colonization movement reinforced abolitionists’ demands for black citizenship. By positioning themselves against colonization, African Americans rejected any solution to slavery that did not encompass black rights. Their misgivings about colonization, though, must be distinguished from independent, black-led emigration efforts.2

Northern unease over the growth of southern slavery also set the stage for the rise of immediate abolition. The debate over the admission of Missouri as a slave state in 1819–20 reenergized abolitionists. Besides national politics, transnational developments influenced American abolitionists. A revived British abolition movement became a powerful model of antislavery activism, inspiring comparable ideas in the United States.3


The African American road to immediate abolition took a detour through movements for emigration thanks to Paul Cuffe. A black Quaker sea captain from Massachusetts, Cuffe was the son of an Akan father, Kofi, and a Wampanoag mother. By the early 1800s the enterprising Cuffe, building on his Quaker connections, had established himself as a successful trader, sailing along America’s slavery-riddled coastline and to faraway Scandinavian countries. From his early antitaxation petitions to his later career as an emigrationist, Cuffe revealed an abiding concern for black economic autonomy. He wrote to abolitionists in Britain and America, alerting them to his plans for trade with Africa. With an all-black crew he set sail for Sierra Leone in 1811, noting in his logbook that he read Clarkson’s history on the abolition of the slave trade during the voyage, which “Ba[p]tized my mind.” Cuffe organized a “Friendly Society” in Sierra Leone. Its president was John Kizell, a former slave from South Carolina and black Loyalist from Nova Scotia. Kizell, who had been enslaved from this very region as a young boy and was miraculously reunited with his African family, shared Cuffe’s Pan-African vision. Kizell’s former owners were German immigrants who had established a Friendly Society in South Carolina. In one of its first acts, Cuffe’s society petitioned for more emigrants and permission to conduct independent trade. There was no reason, Cuffe wrote, why Sierra Leone should “not become a Nation to be Numbered among the historians nations of the World.”

James Pemberton alerted Cuffe to the African Institution, a society founded in London in 1807 to end the the slave trade in Africa and remedy the conditions of slaves in the British colonies. Its members included the radical Quaker pharmacist William Allen, Dillwyn, Sharp, Clarkson, Macaulay, and the antislavery parliamentarians James Stephens and Lord Henry Brougham. From Sierra Leone, Cuffe sailed to England and was cordially received by them and by Wilberforce, who assisted him in recovering two members of his ship impressed by the British navy. Cuffe received a six-month trading license through the intervention of Allen, a longtime supporter of black settlers and critic of colonial authorities in Sierra Leone. Kizell had corresponded with Allen, apprising him of the abuse of settlers by company officials. He also presented Clarkson with an African gold ring “as a token of [his] love and respect” and sent his eight-year-old son with Macaulay to be educated in England. Allen and Clarkson formed a separate society to encourage black emigration at Cuffe’s and his behest. Cuffe presented the Duke of Gloucester, the honorary president of the African Institution, with African artifacts “to Shew that the Affricans Was Capebell of mantel Endowments.”4

Cuffe kept abolitionists apprized of his travels and established African Institutions in Philadelphia and New York. He corresponded with John Murray of the NYMS and his partners Samuel Fisher and John James in Pennsylvania. Moses Brown assisted him in gaining an audience with President Madison, when the American government impounded his ship laden with British goods for violating the Embargo. He became the first black leader to meet with an American president. The next such meeting would not take place until the Civil War. Cuffe was often subject to racial harassment but reported that Madison and Secretary of State Albert G. Gallatin, known for his antislavery sympathies, received him courteously. Madison evinced some interest in his plans, as did other colonizationists, including Jedidiah Morse, Samuel J. Mills, a Congregational clergyman from the Andover Theological Seminary, and the Presbyterian Robert Finley, who wanted to mine his knowledge of the West African coast.5

Cuffe’s Pan-African vision was distinct from the movement to colonize African Americans, which took off after his death. He hoped that an “open Communication between America-Africa and England” would connect the black diaspora in three continents. Africans, he wrote, should “become their own Carryer and imploy their Citizens as meriners.” In a short pamphlet that he published after his return, Cuffe argued that only as a “national body” could Africans escape laboring “under the narrow predict that had ben so Long hanging our heads.” Racial uplift was part of his message. In an address to “my African Breatheren and fellow Countreymen” in Sierra Leone, he urged piety, temperance, duty, and faithfulness. He attached a similar exhortation from the American Convention to the free people of color. Cuffe thought an economically prosperous black nation would redeem all Africans. In a memorial of 1813 he requested the American government to allow him to trade with Sierra Leone. He hoped it could be prevailed upon “at Some future day when the liberation of Slavery become more General” to support his expeditions.

For his second voyage to Sierra Leone in 1816, Cuffe, with the help of local black leaders, rounded up thirty-eight emigrants and got the African Institutions in Philadelphia and New York to address Sierra Leone’s Friendly Society. In a letter to the directors of the African Institution in London, Forten and Parrott, on behalf of the African Institution in Philadelphia, inquired what “privilege your Government would be disposed to grant” future black emigrants. On the eve of his death in 1817, Cuffe recommended the founding of two black nations, one in Africa and one in the western territories that would include Native Americans. His wife, Alice Pequit, who was a Wampanoag like his mother, had refused to relocate to Africa. To black abolitionists, Cuffe was a model leader. In his eulogy, Peter Williams said, “It was in his active commiseration in behalf of his African brethren, that he shone forth most conspicuously.” He argued that blacks, however, ought to “suspend [their] judgments” on the ACS, sounding a warning against the new colonization movement claiming Cuffe’s mantle.6

By the end of the decade a large bisectional coalition of religious and political leaders from the North and upper south, including Sen. Henry Clay and President James Monroe, sought to solve the problem of slavery and race by promoting the colonization of African Americans. The ACS, modeled after societies like the American Bible Society, the American Sunday School Union, and the American Tract Society and as yet another exercise in religious benevolence, was founded by clergymen, including Finley, Morse, Mills, Nathan Lord, and Leonard Bacon. They supported colonization as a plan for gradually ending slavery and for Christianizing Africa. In his Thoughts on the Colonization of Free Blacks, Finley, posing the question, “What shall we do with the free people of color?” proposed “the gradual separation of the black from the white population.” He rejected Cuffe’s idea of a black state in the west, fearing it would become a haven for fugitive slaves and an ally of Indians, Europeans, and other enemies of the American nation. Finley, who had worked as a tutor in South Carolina, knew that this is exactly what had happened on the Florida frontier. He contended that the black presence was harmful to “our industry and morals” and resulted in racial intermarriage. Emancipation could be enacted only on the condition of colonization, and it would be so imperceptible and slow as to prepare whites for the end of slavery. Finley sought the backing of the federal government for colonization and circulated his pamphlet widely among congressmen.7

Support for colonization crossed party and sectional lines. The ACS was launched at a meeting in Washington on December 21, 1816, that, besides clergymen like Finley and Mills, included the prominent lawyers Francis Scott Key, famous for composing the national anthem, and Elias B. Caldwell, Finley’s brother-in-law and a clerk in the Supreme Court, and the politicians John Randolph of Roanoke, Daniel Webster, and Clay, who presided. In his speech, Clay, a Kentucky slaveholder whose distaste for slavery led him to colonization, recommended getting “rid . . . of a useless and pernicious, if not dangerous portion of” the American population and bringing “redemption from ignorance and barbarism of a benighted quarter of the globe!” A week later, when the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color in the United States met, the future president Andrew Jackson, Secretary of the Treasury William Crawford of Georgia, and the states’ rights champion John Taylor of Caroline attended. In January 1817 the Supreme Court justice Bushrod Washington, the nephew of George Washington, was elected president, and the ACS submitted its first memorial to Congress asking for an African colony. To “National Republicans,” colonization complemented the promotion of domestic manufactures and internal improvements. The American System, Clay’s blueprint for national economic development, stipulated the elimination of slavery and black people.

A mixture of men and motives, from southern slaveholders to northern ministers, characterized colonization, but its center of gravity emanated from the South. Even before the founding of the ACS, the Federalist Charles Fenton Mercer, godfather to Bushrod Washington, persuaded the Virginia House of Delegates to adopt resolutions requesting the federal government to sponsor colonization, a proposition the state had been pushing since Gabriel’s rebellion. A conservative nationalist, Mercer deplored lower classes of all colors, especially free blacks, who he claimed lived mainly by pilfering. Robert Goodloe Harper of Maryland, in a letter to the ACS secretary Elias Caldwell, called free blacks a “nuisance and a burden” who increased pauperism and crime and corrupted the slave population. After Finley’s premature death, Mercer assumed leadership of the movement. In 1819 he sponsored the law that allowed the ACS to receive federal money to resettle African “recaptives” apprehended from the illegal Atlantic slave trade. This initial funding allowed the ACS to conduct its first voyages to West Africa and acquire land for the colony of Liberia, whose capital was named Monrovia in honor of the president. Within a decade the ACS had auxiliaries in nearly all the states, and independent state colonization societies were formed. Despite its critics in the proslavery lower south, the ACS had more auxiliaries in the South than in the North. Distinguishing itself from the American Convention, the ACS proclaimed that colonization of degraded free blacks, not abolition, was its goal. As the Powhatan auxiliary stated in its memorial, colonization would not undermine slaveholders’ “rights of property” and would remove the “baneful and contaminating” influence of free blacks on the enslaved. Despite avowing that free blacks would be colonized “with their own consent,” colonizationists continued to denigrate them. The creation of a lily-white, slaveholding republic was predicated on the removal of free blacks and the disappearance of Native Americans.8

African Americans registered their opposition to colonization and refuted aspersions on their character. A large meeting of free black people at Philadelphia’s Bethel Church in January 1817 chaired by Forten, with Parrott as secretary, resolved that they would never be banished from a country whose soil had been “manured” by the “blood and sweat” of their ancestors and that they abhorred “the unmerited stigma attempted to be cast upon the reputation of the free people of color.” It further resolved that “we will never separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population of this country; they are our brethren by the ties of consanguinity, of suffering and of wrong.” Forten reported that at least three thousand people were present, and not one was in favor of colonization. They “think that slaveholders want to get rid of them so as to make their property more secure.” Forten, who had written to Cuffe that “they will never become a people until they come out from amongst the white people,” remained silent. Other black leaders also followed rather than led the meeting. A few months later another meeting issued an address signed by Forten and Parrott that emphatically stated, “We . . . renounce and disclaim every connexion with it; and respectfully and firmly declare our determination not to participate in any of it.” The “heart-rending agonies” endured by their African forefathers would be repeated by sending free blacks to Africa. The address concluded, “Let not a purpose be assisted which will stay the cause of the entire abolition of slavery in the United States, and which may defeat it altogether . . . and which must insure to the multitudes whose prayers can only reach you through us, MISERY, sufferings, and perpetual slavery.” Finley’s visit to Philadelphia was in vain, as blacks firmly rejected colonization.9

In the slave states, where the condition of free blacks was legally akin to masterless slaves, opposition to colonization was more muted yet clear. Richmond blacks asked to be settled in the west rather than in Africa. A meeting in Georgetown asked for territory within the United States and sought to galvanize free blacks all over the country against colonization. A majority of free blacks who left for Liberia came from the border slave states. Colonization followed the failure of even the most gradual kind of abolition in the postrevolutionary South. In the antebellum period it afforded one avenue for the manumission of slaves in southern states that had anti-emancipation laws that required former slaves to leave on obtaining their freedom. Slaves used any opportunity, including colonization, to negotiate the terms of their freedom. The ACS and the Pennsylvania Colonization Society helped transport hundreds of emancipated slaves, but this hardly made a dent in the South’s flourishing peculiar institution. Colonization, pace its proslavery critics, was not a stalking horse for abolition. It was an alternative to general emancipation for a few conscientious slaveholders, many of whose heirs tried to undo their wishes through protracted legal battles in southern courts. Slaves who secured their freedom found that removal to Liberia was the price they paid for liberty.10

The founding of Liberia was a result of the missionary zeal of colonizationist clergymen. In an initial fact-finding mission in 1818, Mills, on behalf of the American Bible Society, and Ebenezer Burgess of Burlington College, set out for West Africa. On Clarkson’s suggestion, they decided on an American settlement at Sherbro island and elicited the help of Kizell. Despite the reluctance of the native population to part with their land, Mills and Burgess composed a glowing report of the feasibility of colonization, but Mills died en route home. He became the first of many colonizationist martyrs, a group that included Rev. Samuel Bacon of Sturbridge, who led the ill-fated expedition of 1820 to Sherbro and died in Africa. After the failure to colonize Sherbro, Lt. Richard Stockton of the U.S. Navy procured land at gunpoint in Cape Mesurado to establish the American colony of Liberia in 1821. Rev. Leonard Bacon best articulated the sensibility behind the founding of Liberia in his “Plea for Africa.” Africa, in Bacon’s eyes, was synonymous with barbarism, imbecility, depravity, savage warfare, and the slave trade. Only its “exiled sons” could rescue the dark continent through Christianity and civilization, as white men could not flourish there. Rev. Jehudi Ashmun, the ACS agent who resisted what he called native attacks and fractious black settlers, put the colony on a firm footing the next year. He fell ill and came home to die in New Haven in 1828. In his eulogy Bacon called Ashmun a “victim to his labors and privations and afflictions under the burning sun of Africa.” Even a fierce critic of colonization like the black abolitionist David Walker had kind words for Ashmun.11

Colonizationists were interested in redeeming “poor benighted Africa.” While their writings praised the past glories of Africa, their views of contemporary African societies were decidedly unfavorable. According to Ashmun, native Africans “enjoy animal existence in perfection” and their miseries, slavery and polygamy, were of a moral nature. Colonization would “build up among barbarians the Church of God and a republican empire.” As another colonizationist grandiosely put it, “The germ of an Americo-African empire has been planted; and though our society should be dissolved tomorrow, it will flourish and expand until it overshadows a continent.” The Ladies Colonization Society of Fredericksburg and Falmouth argued that if India was “the appropriate sphere of action” for the British, Africa was for the United States. This protoimperialist discourse complemented colonizationists’ derogatory view of free black people. The energetic secretary of the ACS, Rev. Ralph Randolph Gurley, asked free blacks suffering from degradation and debasement to save Africa from barbarism and heathenism.12

The colonial structure and ideology of the ACS constrained blacks’ efforts to achieve autonomy. African Americans who migrated to Liberia were confronted by white control and native resentment. The only prominent black abolitionist to participate in early colonization was Daniel Coker. He joined the expedition of 1820 along with ninety other black emigrants. It was Coker who led the retreat to Sierra Leone after the failure at Sherbro. He viewed his voyage to Africa as a homecoming: “Will not Africa open her bosom, and receive her weeping and bleeding children that may be taken from slave ships or come from America?” In an address to his “African brethren in America,” Coker, calling for missionaries and emigrants to Christianize Africa and end the slave trade, wrote that his “soul cleaves to Africa.” He described the natives as generally hospitable and praised Kizell for his support. Unfortunately, this state of affairs did not last long; the bitter rivalry between the two doomed any chance of a united black leadership and left the colony firmly in the hands of the ACS’s white agents. Both men preferred to cast their lot in Sierra Leone, where they lived and worked, rather than in Liberia.13

The experience of African American settlers revealed the nature of white-directed colonization. Ashmun, who preferred white agents, felt that the settlers lacked moral and religious fiber and were further corrupted by the “vitiating example of natives of this country.” But a few left their mark in Liberia. Rev. Lott Cary and Colin Teague, from Richmond, established a Baptist church in Monrovia, and Forten’s apprentice, Francis Devany, originally a slave of Langdon Cheves in South Carolina, was one of a handful who prospered in the colony. He died in 1834 from consumption. Cary, who led a minirevolt against white authorities, became Ashmun’s right-hand man. Model emigrants like Cary, colonizationists claimed, underwent an “absolute reversal” of character and cast off their former “profane and vicious habits.” Cary, a preacher who had bought himself and his children from slavery and who was as responsible for the survival of the colony as Ashmun, was in no need of moral instruction. Ashmun remarked that he was still given to “fits of turbulence.” Cary gained his trust for defending the colony against a native invasion and was appointed vice agent when Ashmun returned to the United States. He died shortly thereafter, in 1828, in a gunpowder accident.

A large number of colonists found disease and an early death. High mortality rates plagued Liberia throughout its existence and increased black opposition to colonization. Settlers did not realize Cuffe’s Pan-African unity but were placed in an untenable position of conflict with the surrounding African nations whose land was appropriated. They were also dependent on the ACS and their former masters for supplies, and the native populations remained enmeshed in the slave trade. Colonial notions of superiority soon infiltrated the settler population, giving rise to divisions that mark the history of Liberia until today. The Liberian Herald wrote, “The Liberian is certainly a great man, and what is more, by the natives he is considered a white man.” The colonist George C. Brown went so far as to relate that “the natives bow at our feet as if we are giants; and they are no more than grasshoppers.” In their address of 1827 to the people of color, the colonists contended, “We know nothing of that debasing inferiority with which our color stamped us with in America” and asked free blacks to join them in “founding a new Christian empire.” In a trenchant critique of their views of native Africans, Jeremiah Gloucester asked, “Is it not obvious that the inhabitants of Africa notwithstanding they are heathens, can teach the greater part of those that have gone to Africa in a great many respects?”14

A majority of African Americans who were interested in emigrating chose Haiti rather than Liberia as their destination. While a trickle of emigrants went to Liberia, around eight thousand emigrated to Haiti in the 1820s. The man most responsible for the Haitian emigration movement was Prince Saunders, a Boston abolitionist, teacher, and Masonic leader, and the son-in-law of Cuffe. Born in Connecticut, Saunders was a schoolteacher at an African school in Colchester and a landowner in Vermont by the age of twenty-one. He was briefly educated at Dartmouth, where he attracted the attention of President John Wheelock. Wheelock recommended him to William Ellery Channing in Boston, and Saunders became a teacher in the city’s African school. He also became secretary of the African Masonic Lodge and persuaded Abiel Smith to bequeath a large amount to the African school, henceforth named after its benefactor. Through much of his life Saunders championed black education and emigration. He visited England in 1815 with Rev. Thomas Paul, representing the Prince Hall Masons, and both he and Paul were converted to the cause of Haitian emigration by Wilberforce and Clarkson. Saunders helped found schools in Haiti and wrote the Haytian Papers, a compilation of the history and conditions of Haiti containing several official proclamations of King Henri Christophe aimed at attracting black emigrants to the island. On his return to the United States in 1818, Saunders extolled the virtues of education and Haiti in an address to the Pennsylvania Augustine Society for the Education of the People of Colour. He also presented a memoir to the American Convention recommending Haiti as an asylum for free blacks and slaves. He migrated to Haiti, became its attorney general, and wrote the country’s criminal code. Saunders died there in 1839.15

Haitian emigration rather than colonization appealed to African Americans and abolitionists for whom the republic symbolized antislavery and black self-government. The movement took off in the 1820s with the unification of Haiti and the Haitian government’s plans to lure black emigrants to revive the island’s economy. In 1820 President Jean Pierre Boyer issued an appeal to African Americans, promising land and citizenship. Black wounds, he said, would be “healed by the balm of equality and their tears wiped away by the protecting hand of liberty.” A Haitian emigrant to South Carolina, Silvain Simonisse, returned to his country to bolster free black settlement and joined its Emigration Bureau. Rev. Loring Dewey, a Presbyterian minister and agent for the ACS, observed abolitionists’ opposition to colonization: “Among the Colored People themselves, a preference of Hayti over Africa was frequently expressed, and among the whites there was not only an opposition to colonization in Africa manifested by many, but an assurance given of their ready aid to promote emigration to Hayti.” Dewey entered into correspondence with Boyer as an “ardent friend to the injured sons of Africa,” and as a result the New York colonization society disowned him. He visited Haiti on a fact-finding mission in 1824 and published a plan for gradual emancipation, encouraging black women especially to emigrate so that their children might be born free.

Black abolitionists headed Haitian emigration societies as they had the African Institutions. Paul visited Haiti as a Baptist missionary, as did Williams. Rev. Samuel Cornish, who opposed colonization, was a proponent of Haitian emigration. Richard Allen’s son John traveled to Haiti and reported favorably on conditions there. Allen, who led the Haitian Emigration Society in Philadelphia, wrote to Boyer that while the United States was a land of oppression for people of African descent, Haiti represented black freedom and equality. In his letter of 1824 from Haiti, Paul said the island was “the best and most suitable place of residence which Providence has hitherto offered to emancipated people of colour, for the enjoyment of liberty and equality with their attendant blessings.” Composed of “active and brave men, who are determined to live free or die gloriously in the defense of freedom,” Haiti “must possess advantages highly inviting to men who are sighing for the enjoyment of the common rights and liberties of mankind.”

Boyer sent an agent, Jonathan Granville, to the United States to meet with black leaders and promised to defray the costs of transportation and grant land to all emigrants. The Haitian secretary of state, Gen. Balthazar Inginac, wrote to Allen that Haiti was “grateful to you for the trouble you give yourself to reunite the great family, those of your compatriot descendants of African blood.” Hezekiah Grice of Baltimore, the founder of the black convention movement, migrated to Haiti in 1832 and became director of public works in Port-au-Prince. Cuffe’s namesake and son, a seafarer like his father, visited Haiti, “peopled by free blacks” and “having a republican form of government.” He described the “commanding aspect” of Boyer and his “superbly dressed and equipped” bodyguard.16

Abolitionists, as noted, preferred Haitian emigration to colonization. In Massachusetts the abolitionist John Kenrick corresponded with Inginac. When George Flowers, an English farmer and confidante of the abolitionist feminist Frances Wright, faced his neighbors’ ire for leading a black communitarian society in Illinois, he transported twenty black men to Haiti in 1823. Led by Aaron Coffin, the manumission society of North Carolina transported over a hundred freed slaves to Haiti in 1826, and the Society of Friends in North Carolina transported seven hundred more to get around the state’s antimanumission laws. The Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lundy was a champion of Haitian emigration and twice escorted black emigrants from North Carolina and Maryland to Haiti. Lundy founded the Baltimore Emigration Society in 1825 with his fellow abolitionist Daniel Raymond. He published his numbers on emigration to Haiti and debated colonizationists in his newspaper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation. Raymond, a political economist, argued that Haiti would grow economically once it became politically stable. Lundy also corresponded with Inginac, suggesting ways to promote emigration to Haiti. The black abolitionist William Watkins, who strongly opposed colonization, upheld the notion of a “movement emanating from a branch of our own people who cannot but have the welfare of the whole race at heart.” Even after the Haitian emigration movement faltered, Lundy published articles on the Haitian republic and “Sketches” of its historic revolution in 1826 and 1827. In 1829 he and his new coeditor William Lloyd Garrison were still publishing advertisements for Haitian emigrants.17

The American Convention enthusiastically endorsed Haitian emigration. In its report of 1823, the convention reasoned that “it appears that the Haytians, have made a progress in Civilization and intellectual improvement, nearly if not altogether unparalleled in the history of nations.” Haiti should interest all “friends of African rights,” as it refuted “prejudices against the Blacks” and acted as a “refuge for those Coloured persons who may be unwilling to endure the degradation they are doomed to suffer in other countries.” The PAS resolved to take no action on Haitian emigration, and while it did not take a stance against colonization, it did not endorse the ACS. The NYMS actively encouraged Haitian emigration, opening up a correspondence first with Christophe and then with Boyer and Inginac. It rejected colonization and helped found the Society for Promoting the Emigration of Free Persons of Colour to Hayti. Its standing committee, which had assisted slaves in their quest for freedom, became involved in Haitian emigration in the 1820s. It requested information from the Haitian government on what it would do for the black emigrants and kept a list of emigrants and their families. People of color in New York, the committee observed, deeply felt their oppression and were willing to migrate to Haiti to avail themselves of the privileges of citizenship.18

African Americans’ ideological identification with the black republic could not withstand differences in language, culture, and religion, the hardships emigrants encountered, and the withdrawal of funding by the Haitian government. Most emigrants returned to the United States. Unlike colonization, however, abolitionists’ promotion of Haitian emigration was based on a vindication of black equality.


Abolitionists in the middle period paved the way for the second wave. One of the most important was the Quaker reformer Elias Hicks, many of whose followers joined the abolition movement. Echoing earlier abolitionist Quakers, Hicks condemned not just slavery but all wealth making and market society. Like Woolman, he traveled extensively and left a journal of his ministry. In 1811 Hicks published his Observations on the Slavery of Africans and their Descendants, in which he noted that “custom and education” made many believe that African slavery was consistent with “justice and social order.” But simply because slavery was sanctioned by manmade laws, it could not “alter the nature of justice.” In a series of queries Hicks established that Africans were unjustly deprived of their natural rights and that racism was special pleading, a cloak based on selfish motives to cover unrighteous conduct. Slavery was an act of war upheld by violence and “an avaricious thirst of gain.” Enslaving a person and then taking away all the products of his or her labor was robbery. Calling for the immediate abolition of slavery by law, Hicks felt that gradual emancipation, which was “the best step” yet taken, was not fully consistent with “justice and equity.” He pointed out that while whites attained adulthood early, black people in the North were forced to labor for their masters for a longer time before they were freed. At the very least, slaveholders ought to educate slave children.

Hicks held consumers and purchasers of slave goods just as culpable in upholding slavery. Like Lay, he called on people to abstain from using products produced by slave labor in order to curb the “luxury and excess . . . the gain of oppression” of slaveholders. Hicks’s ideas and the British Quaker example of a boycott of goods made by slave labor became the basis of the free produce movement led by Quakers and African Americans in Philadelphia, an abolitionist precursor to modern consumer activism. Hicks called on free blacks, “fellow citizens,” who knew from experience how “hateful the oppressor is,” to lead the movement on behalf of their “oppressed countrymen.” He was also a founder of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) on Long Island, where his abolitionist daughter, among others, continued assisting fugitives. Radical Hicksites sympathized with communitarian movements, workingmen’s rights, and Wright’s feminism. Hicks’s preaching led to a split among Quakers in 1827–28, when orthodox Quakers tried to read him out of the Society of Friends. Later, even Hicksite followers of George F. White came to oppose abolitionists in favor of quietism.19

Early voices of abolition deserve a larger space in the history of antislavery than they currently occupy. At a time of relative quiescence, Jarvis Brewster of New Jersey, the English-born Presbyterian minister George Bourne in Virginia, Kenrick, and Torrey published notable abolitionist books. In Exposition of the Treatment of Slaves in the Southern States (1815), Brewster explained that he was compelled to write when comparing the growing prosperity of white Americans with “the most painful and miserable slavery” of blacks. He argued that laws protecting slaves passed at this time, what historians have called the domestication of southern slavery, were “disregarded and trampled under foot with impunity,” and the South not only recognized slavery in principle but enforced it with a “cruel and unrelenting hand.” While justice demanded “total emancipation,” Jarvis called for protecting the rights of slaves. He communicated that slaves continued to be ill clad, underfed, and “driven like beasts to the field of labor.” He wrote about cruel overseers and inhuman masters, of slave women and children, the aged and the young being treated in a brutal manner, of whippings, and the domestic slave trade. Jarvis appended a petition to the legislatures of the southern states to establish a “SLAVES’ COURT OF APPEAL” to prevent abuses.20

The abolitionist Theodore Weld republished Jarvis and Bourne in his American Slavery As It Is. Hounded out of Virginia for his abolitionism, Bourne published The Book and Slavery Irreconcilable in 1816. He discarded all talk of moderation, condemning not just the slave trade but slavery itself as man stealing. Slavery was an abomination in the sight of God, and slaves were justified in fleeing from it and resisting their kidnappers. He asked all good Christians to assist them, as the Gospel could not be reconciled with slavery. A human being could not be reduced to “an article of traffic.” The motto of all slaves and their allies must be, “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.” Bourne reserved his special ire for the hypocrisy of religious leaders, especially the elders and ministers of his church, whose abuse of slaves he had witnessed, and the villainy of politicians, who held “declarations of Independence” in one hand and whips in the other. He pithily concluded, “Slavery is the climax of cruelty.” In its unsparing condemnation and appeal to a higher law, Bourne’s book anticipated antebellum abolition. He became a founding member of the New York Anti Slavery Society, and the black abolitionist David Ruggles published his works. He died in 1845.21 A Baptist clergyman, Kenrick, who converted to Quakerism, also lived long enough to join the Garrisonians. He published the speeches of Wilberforce and Fox, among others, and excerpts from Clarkson’s history of the abolition of the slave trade in his Horrors of Slavery (1817). Kenrick also reprinted Cowper’s poems, the writings of Brissot and Abbé Raynal, and American abolitionists such as David Rice, David Barrow, and Jarvis. Kenrick’s pamphlet was mainly a compilation of abolitionist opinion from across the world directed at shaming American slaveholders into action. The long title of his pamphlet encapsulated immediatist rhetoric: “Demonstrating that slavery is impolitic, antirepublican, unchristian and highly criminal: and proposing measures for its complete abolition through the United States.” He became the president of the New England Anti Slavery Society (NEASS) and died at the age of seventy.22

Torrey’s A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery in the United States, also published in 1817, was conciliatory in tone, asking slaveholders in the interest of self-preservation to abolish slavery. Disavowing that he was for “unconditional emancipation,” Torrey asked masters to become patrons and guardians to their slaves, to educate them, and convert them into tenants and indentured servants. He appended the proceedings of the initial meetings of the ACS to his book. Torrey’s gradualism and advocacy of colonization belied the content of his book. He enumerated desperate instances of black resistance to the domestic slave trade and his own attempts to free kidnapped African Americans, for which Thomas Shipley, the president of the PAS, commended him. Garrison also recommended his book as an effective indictment of southern slavery.23

During these years the American Convention met biennially, at times adjourning for a year to meet again so that it met nearly every year. These meetings were hardly desultory, ineffective gatherings. Tactics debated by abolitionists of the middle era anticipated second-wave abolition. The most important of these was the convention’s rejection of colonization as impracticable and injurious to the people of color and not a path to general emancipation. This was noteworthy because in 1816 the convention itself had proposed emancipation and settlement of African Americans in the western territories in a memorial to Congress. It had also corresponded with the African Institution in London to discuss black emigration. With the founding of the ACS, it resolved that “the gradual and total emancipation of all persons of colour, and their literary and moral education, should precede colonization.” A year later, after inviting Forten to speak on colonization, it issued a report criticizing it and appended the anticolonization resolutions of black Philadelphians.

In 1821 the convention proposed a plan for the “general emancipation of the slaves” of the United States, arguing, “We owe to the injured race an immense debt, which the liberation of their bodies alone would not liquidate.” Slaves should be attached to the soil like the serfs of Russia, educated, not be liable to sale or arbitrary punishment, given land for which they would pay rent, and receive wages for work performed for their masters. It also issued passionate condemnations of the domestic slave trade and the kidnapping of free blacks, and it continued to make black education and uplift a priority, issuing addresses to state societies urging the establishment of schools and apprenticeship of African Americans into skilled trades. By 1829 the American Convention halfheartedly endorsed colonization, but only if it expedited emancipation in the South. On behalf of the committee considering gradual abolition, Thomas Earle of the PAS said they “do not look to the transportation of the whole colored population, at any period. Emancipation will be effected without it. But partial emigration may aid the cause; particularly in its early stages, by preparing the way for the repeal of the laws against education and against voluntary emancipation.”24

While the NYMS, now led by Cadwallader D. Colden, Theodore Dwight, and Peter Jay, the son of John Jay, and the PAS, led by William Rawle, Earle, Robert Vaux, and Shipley, continued to dominate the American Convention, new abolition societies emerged in the upper south. At this time only the Kentucky Abolition Society (KAS), founded by David Barrow in 1808, was active in the South. Antislavery evangelicals such as Barrow and Carter Tarrant had founded the Baptists Friends of Humanity in 1805, a loose association of antislavery congregations which, according to “Tarrant’s Rules,” barred all slaveholders from fellowship. Barrow, who attended the convention, condemned the idea of perpetual slavery as an “unnatural and devilish usurpation.” The KAS languished after his death because of slaveholder opposition and the migration of abolitionist clergymen to the North. Kentucky abolitionists such as David Rice and Barrow visualized an end not just to slavery but also to racial differences, predicting that a mixed race was destined to inhabit America. Besides the KAS, the Delaware Abolition Society (DAS) continued to send representatives to the convention.

In 1815 Charles Osborne, a North Carolina Quaker who migrated to Tennessee, helped found the Tennessee Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves (TMS). In its inaugural address to the “free men” of the state, it called attention to “the iron hand of oppression” and the “various kinds of misery, hardship and distress” that slaves “daily groan under.” Its most active member was another Quaker, Elihu Embree. His father, Thomas, was a Pennsylvania Quaker who had issued a public letter to the new state of Tennessee in 1797 calling for the gradual abolition of slavery. Embree, a clerk of the TMS, was responsible for two memorials, signed by him and the president of the society, James Jones, to the state legislature in 1817 asking for an end to the separation of slave families and the slave trade. He published an abolitionist newspaper, the Manumission Intelligencer in 1819, and its successor, the Emancipator, in 1820. Embree made clear that his newspaper was devoted to the cause of “equal rights to the now neglected sons of Africa” and the “love of African liberty.” The paper published excerpts from Clarkson’s history and the constitution, memorials, and various addresses of the manumission society. Embree sent his newspaper to the governors of Georgia and Alabama, who returned their package unopened. He was forced to pay return postage for the opened package sent to the governor of North Carolina and for a letter from Gov. George Poindexter of Mississippi accusing him of being a meddling northern abolitionist. After his death, the paper ceased publication. By 1823 the TMS reported to the convention that it had twenty branches with over six hundred members.25

The American Convention encouraged the formation of new state abolition societies, and southern Quakers responded to its call. The Coffin, Swaim, and Mendenhall families of Guilford and Randolph counties in North Carolina founded the North Carolina Manumission and Colonization Society (NCMS) in 1816. The NCMS had a strong colonizationist contingent, but abolitionists managed to prevent the society from becoming an auxiliary of the ACS and dropped the word colonization from its title in 1824. In its address of 1826 to the convention, the NCMS laid out its principles of gradual emancipation and recounted that after nearly falling apart in 1823 it had shown signs of growth and vigor in the past two years. Antislavery Quakers like Samuel Janney and Benjamin Hallowell, among others, most of them identified with Hicksites, founded the Benevolent Society of Alexandria for Ameliorating and Improving the Condition of the People of Color in 1827. Janney wrote a number of antislavery essays recommending gradual emancipation and colonization and corresponded regularly with the convention. The society picked up on the work of defunct local abolition societies in Virginia despite state laws “abolishing the Abolition societies,” restricting freedom suits, and manumissions. It built on the work of its predecessor, the Quaker-dominated Alexandria Society for the Relief and Protection of Persons Illegally Held in Bondage, founded in 1795. This society had represented slaves in the courts and opened a school for black children. It had sixty-two members in 1797, received twenty-six complaints of illegal enslavement, pursued freedom suits in Virginia and North Carolina, and secured the support of the PAS. After Gabriel’s rebellion, the society, unable to withstand persecution, held its last meeting in 1801. By 1827, however, there were 106 antislavery societies in the upper south, and 9 in Virginia and the District of Columbia had over three hundred members each.

Yet antislavery was overtaken by colonization sentiment and proved to be relatively short-lived in the upper south states. The Benevolent Society of Alexandria ceased all activity owing to a conservative backlash after Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831. The NCMS also ceased to meet after 1834, as did the TMS. Upper south antislavery was stillborn, but it produced a cadre of committed abolitionists such as Bourne, James Duncan, who moved from Kentucky to Indiana, Levi Coffin, who moved from North Carolina to Indiana, and John Rankin, who moved from Tennessee and Kentucky to Ohio. Coffin and Rankin became famous for their daring activism in the UGRR. Most abolitionists and Quakers emigrated out of the slave states to the old northwest. Janney remained in Alexandria and resumed his antislavery advocacy in the 1840s on hearing the abolitionist feminist Hicksite minister Lucretia Mott. Besides developing a free labor critique of slavery, he responded to southern clergymen’s biblical defense of slavery. He was indicted for inciting a slave insurrection in 1849 and, though not convicted, gave up public advocacy.26

Antislavery organization in the border states received a boost with the emergence of societies—most with the words humane, benevolent, and protection in their names—to prevent the kidnapping of free blacks and the sale of northern term slaves to circumvent gradual emancipation laws. By 1819 at least eight local Union Humane Societies from Ohio sent two delegates, President Thomas Genin and Henry Crew, to the convention. These societies reported that they had “done something towards liberating those improperly held in bondage; some are engaged in considerable lawsuits in relation thereto.” One of the first female antislavery societies, the Female Association of Cincinnati for the Benefit of Africans, was also founded in 1817. The next year Elisha Tyson, one of the founders of the defunct MAS, called for the formation of the Protection Society of Maryland. His nephew and biographer John S. Tyson led the new society. State governments also acted, New York passing its law of 1817 freeing all slaves by July 4, 1827, thanks to the work of the NYMS’s Jay, Colden, and Governor Tompkins. Between 1813 and 1820 nearly all free states bordering the slave South passed antikidnapping laws calling for severe punishment of convicted kidnappers. African Americans who brought freedom suits against illegal enslavement generally received a sympathetic hearing in northern courts at this time. Even so, the explosive growth of slavery led to hundreds, if not thousands, of free blacks being kidnapped and sold into Deep South slavery, a development that galvanized border state abolitionism. It breathed new life into the activities of the PAS and NYMS.27

In his address of 1818 to the Union Humane Society of Mt. Pleasant, Genin said that only when “the fire of avarice” and the “gloom of prejudice” lessened would blacks be emancipated. Though a gradualist, he repudiated colonization as a scheme to “perpetuate and extend” rather than “contract the empire of slavery.” Tracing the history of the “iniquitous thralldom of the Africans” in the New World, he devoted his entire speech to dismantling racist ideas designed to justify slavery. In Haiti, he pointed out, “emancipated slaves pursue a better course of moral instruction and civil legislation” and “were abundantly diligent in defending their acquirements, and preventing new aggressions.” Genin argued that freed slaves should be “formed for good citizens” of the American Republic. Long before Lincoln did, he predicted, quoting the Bible, “A kingdom divided in itself shall fall.”28

The man most responsible for the emergence of border state abolition was Lundy, a John the Baptist to Garrison’s Christ in the eyes of devout abolitionists. Like most Quaker abolitionists, Lundy was of humble origins, a saddle maker by profession. Born in New Jersey, he was converted to abolition when he witnessed the sale of slaves in Wheeling, Virginia, an important depot in the domestic slave trade. Inspired by Osborne, who now published an antislavery reform newspaper, the Philanthropist, in the Quaker stronghold of Mt. Pleasant, he founded a Union Humane Society in neighboring St. Clairsville in 1816 and became an agent, writer, and assistant editor for Osborne’s newspaper. While Quaker reformers such as Elisha Bates, who took over the Philanthropist, made antislavery one among many concerns, Lundy made it his primary one. He began publishing the Genius in Mt. Pleasant and moved the newspaper to Greenville in eastern Tennessee after Embree’s death in 1821. Lundy represented the TMS at the American Convention of abolition societies, which recommended his newspaper to the various abolition societies. The PAS supported it financially by taking out a number of subscriptions.

The Genius quickly became the preeminent abolitionist newspaper in the United States in the 1820s. In the first issue published in Tennessee, Lundy wrote that his paper would rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Embree’s Emancipator. He declared that “domestic slavery is the hot bed of tyranny, and those districts in which it is tolerated are the nurseries of aristocracy and despotism.” In 1824 Lundy moved again with his newspaper to Baltimore, Maryland. He assiduously published the addresses of the NCMS, TMS, KAS, and the Benevolent Society of Alexandria, the speeches and proclamations of Haitian leaders and British abolitionists, Sancho’s letters; he made his newspaper a clearinghouse for antislavery information and communication. Sharply critical of ACS leaders like Bushrod Washington, who sold fifty-four of his slaves, and Clay, who, he wrote, wanted black people to remain “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” Lundy felt that southerners would accept emancipation only if coupled with emigration.29

Despite the failure of emancipation in the South, Lundy took heart at the progress of global antislavery: black “self government in St. Domingo, under so many disadvantages, the abolition of slavery in several of the South American provinces, and recently in Mexico, and the efforts of the British,” as the American Convention put it. In 1823 a national society devoted to the mitigation and gradual abolition of slavery was formed in London. An aged Wilberforce retired and Thomas Fowell Buxton and Lord Brougham now led the parliamentary fight for abolition. A new generation of British abolitionists, some of them, like James and George Stephen, children of those involved in the slave trade crusade, reinvigorated the movement. A slew of pamphlets, among them Wilberforce’s appeal on behalf of West Indian slaves, Clarkson’s on emancipation, and investigations of colonial slavery by James Stephen and Macaulay, were published between 1823 and 1826. In 1825 the Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter began publication. By the 1830s a successful lecturing agency system and well over a thousand local antislavery societies were formed. Massive petition campaigns once again pushed abolition to the forefront of politics. Most abolitionists adopted the cause of parliamentary reform in 1832, and even the English radical William Cobbett, a critic of Wilberforce, voted for emancipation a year later.30

The American Convention published extensive material from the London Antislavery Society, parliamentary proceedings, and the petition campaign. In its address of 1828 to the convention, the National Anti Slavery Tract Society, founded by Lundy to reprint British antislavery literature, hailed the power of the press and predicted that the “doom of British West Indian Slavery is sealed.” Lundy tried to bring British tactics to the United States, launching a mass petition campaign for the abolition of slavery and slave trade in the District of Columbia. Colonizationists distanced themselves from Lundy’s campaign, but the convention endorsed it. Lundy also supported the free produce movement led by Quakers. Inspired by Hicks and British women’s boycott of slave-grown produce, abolitionists in Philadelphia founded a Free Produce Society, and the convention, starting in 1827, admitted delegates from free produce societies at its meetings. Hicksite women such as Mott and Lydia White and African American women in Philadelphia formed female free produce associations. White ran a store that sold only goods produced by free labor.

In 1835 Isaac Hopper published all of Charles Marriott’s free produce writings and letters from the 1820s in a pamphlet addressed to the Society of Friends. To Marriott, the consuming of products of slave labor was participating in its robbery, and he compared it to the unjust trade embargo against Haiti. (Hopper, Marriott, and Hopper’s son-in-law James Gibbons would be disowned for their radical abolitionism by the New York monthly meeting at George White’s behest.) The following year the Philadelphia Female Anti Slavery Society (PFASS) published Elizabeth Heyrick’s call for a boycott of goods produced by slave labor. Two years later abolitionists such as Garrison and Gerrit Smith participated in the founding of the American Free Produce Association by the Requited Labor Convention in Philadelphia to search for alternatives to slave-grown products. Its address to abolitionists pinpointed the love of money as the root of the evil of slavery and products of slave labor as stolen goods. In 1846 Philadelphia abolitionists published the Non-Slaveholder devoted to free produce. In the decades before the Civil War, the Quaker abolitionist George Taylor, Quaker free produce associations in the northwest, and Elihu Burritt’s newspaper kept the movement alive even as most abolitionists gave up on its efficacy.31

Women played a crucial role in the Anglo-American turn to immediatism. Laura Townsend formed the first female antislavery society in Birmingham, England, and by 1833 there were seventy-three antislavery ladies’ associations in Britain initiating petition campaigns and the boycott of slave-produced goods. In 1824 Elizabeth Heyrick anonymously published three pamphlets: her defense of the slave rebels in the British colony Demerara, her landmark Immediate not Gradual Abolition, and the lesser-known No British Slavery, all of which pushed gradualist antislavery leaders to adopt immediatism. In 1826 she published yet another pamphlet advocating the “prompt extinction” of British slavery. A prolific writer, Heyrick published two pamphlets in 1828 pressing British women to boycott slave-produced goods and defending their antislavery activism. Heyrick’s abolitionism, like Clarkson’s, was of a Jacobin stripe and included the advance of workingmen’s rights. In her most famous pamphlet on immediate abolition, which was republished in New York in 1825, Heyrick charged that British attempts to stop the slave trade were hypocritical as long as the nation “rivets the chains upon her own slaves.” Rejecting the post nati American model of gradual emancipation, Heyrick wrote, “There is something unnatural, something revolting to the common sense of justice, in reserving all the sweets of freedom for those who never tasted the bitter cup of bondage . . . when public sympathy is diverted . . . from the living victims of colonial bondage to their unborn progeny.” With much greater reason, a workingman, “whose only property is his labour,” may demand protection more than the “West Indian capitalist.” She pointed out that it was the slaves rather than the slaveholders who were owed compensation for their years of unpaid labor. Most women’s antislavery organizations endorsed immediatism before the male-dominated societies did. In 1830 a revamped national Anti-Slavery Society in Britain committed to immediatism.32

The American Convention praised the growing presence of women in abolition: “We cannot withhold the tribute of our respect and admiration from those patriotic females who have associated for this purpose in England and America, and heartily, recommend their example, as one worthy of universal imitation.” Lundy serialized Immediate and not Gradual Abolition in his newspaper and raised a subscription to republish Heyrick’s pamphlet of 1826. He also published the Quaker abolitionist Elizabeth Margaret Chandler of Philadelphia. Chandler became known for her antislavery poems “The Slave Mother” and “The Kneeling Slave.” Sarah Mapps Douglass, a teacher and founding member of the PFASS, thanked Chandler for “her beautiful writings on behalf of my enslaved brethren and sisters.” In 1829 Chandler started managing the ladies’ department of Lundy’s paper and published Wheatley’s poems. In “An Appeal to the Ladies of the United States” on behalf of “our African slave population,” Chandler insisted that abolition was the responsibility of American women. Responding to censures of women’s antislavery advocacy, she averred that antislavery did not violate “feminine propriety” but made women act in a manner true to religion and on behalf of female slaves. Slavery, she wrote in one of her numerous antislavery essays, corrupted the female character and made women prone to fashion, vanity, and materialism. An advocate of female education and the free produce movement, she asked women not to use slave produce in their households. In her “Letters on Slavery,” she again maintained that the “female sex [have] a duty to perform for the advancement of abolition.” In 1830 Chandler migrated to Michigan and founded the state’s first antislavery society with the Quaker abolitionist and teacher Laura Haviland. She died there in 1834. According to Lundy, who wrote Chandler’s memoir, “She was the first American female author that ever made this subject [abolition] the principal theme of her exertions.”33

Lundy combined a gradualist temper with immediatist tactics and goals. In this sense, he was truly a transitional figure in the history of American abolition. He attacked the expanding domestic slave trade, especially its premier practitioners in Baltimore, the slave-trading Woolfolk family. In 1826 he wrote of a failed slave mutiny aboard a Woolfolk slaver, the Decatur. The slaves had planned to escape to Haiti, but as they sailed toward the island the Decatur was overtaken by another ship and brought to New York. Most of the rebels escaped, but William Hill (alias Bowser) was caught and hanged. Angered by the article, which praised Bowser’s demeanor and criticized him, Austin Woolfolk assaulted Lundy. In the resulting case for battery, the proslavery judge castigated Lundy and fined Woolfolk one dollar. Embarking on a lecture tour of the North in 1828, Lundy inspired future leaders of immediatism, including James and Lucretia Mott in Philadelphia, Arthur Tappan, an evangelical merchant in New York who bankrolled the abolition movement, William Goodell, a reform-minded editor in Providence, Rev. Simeon Jocelyn of New Haven, who ministered to a black congregation, the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and the young journalist Garrison in Boston. In Garrison, Lundy “discovered a disciple” and “the antislavery movement would never be quite the same again.”34

Lundy experimented with radical reform, aiding the freethinking Wright in her goal of marrying abolition with feminism, communitarian, and workingmen’s movements. Wright, one of the first women in abolition to speak publicly, was influenced by Robert Owen, who was known for his model textile factory in New Lanark, Scotland, and the communitarian settlement New Harmony in Indiana. Her compatriot Robert Dale Owen, Robert’s son, attributed his socialist beliefs to his father, who stood up to British “cotton lords” who were exploiting child labor, and his abolitionism to a memorable meeting with Clarkson. He recalled that Lord Brougham had come to his father’s defense when mill owners attacked him. Dale Owen and Wright founded an interracial commune modeled after New Harmony in Nashoba, Tennessee, in 1825 to prepare slaves for freedom. Flowers joined this experiment in interracialism, cooperative labor, and abolition, but it failed amid charges of sexual impropriety and foundered as well on a lack of resources. Dale Owen pronounced it a “pecuniary failure,” and Wright came under fire for her unconventional views on marriage, sex, labor, and property. Most incendiary was her advocacy of interracial unions based on mutual respect and affection, which would create a new race to “undermine the slavery of color existing in the North American republic.” Eventually Wright emancipated the thirty-odd slaves in Nashoba and accompanied them to Haiti. Wright and Dale Owen also edited the radical, freethinking newspapers the New Harmony Gazette and, later, the Free Enquirer in New York, where they became proponents of educational reform, birth control, and workingmen’s rights along with the land reformer George Henry Evans and Thomas Skidmore. Skidmore not only advocated the equal distribution of property but also women’s rights and abolition.

Abolitionists like Lundy were swayed by the communitarian movement and flirted with radical critics of an emerging bourgeois order. He corresponded with Owen and Wright, published her accounts of Nashoba, and defended her against conservative critics. He complained of the “want of gallantry” displayed by American editors toward Wright, who coined the term Fanny Wrightism to lampoon her unconventional and Jacobinic views of workingmen’s and women’s rights. Lundy praised Nashoba’s “more especial object, the protection and regeneration of the race of color, universally oppressed and despised in a country self-denominated free,” although he did not agree with Wright’s views on religion and marriage. He also proposed founding a cooperative community of freed slaves in the South. One of Lundy’s former editors, a Hicksite named Amos Gilbert, helped Dale Owen and Wright edit their paper. The NYMS’s Colden was among the trustees of Nashoba to whom Wright entrusted her property when she left the country. Dale Owen returned to New Harmony and was elected a Democratic congressman from Indiana. In his public letters to Lincoln during the Civil War, he urged emancipation. He became a Radical Republican and an advocate of black citizenship.35 Transnational radicalism intersected with abolitionism, a pattern reinforced with the rise of Garrisonian abolition.


Partisan political controversies also gave a fillip to northern antislavery. After Jefferson’s election and the Louisiana Purchase, New England Federalists attempted to introduce a constitutional amendment to repeal the three-fifths clause. Federalist opposition to the Embargo and the War of 1812 centered on the national political dominance of Republican slaveholders, particularly what was called the Virginia dynasty. While Republicans tarred the antiwar Hartford Convention of 1814 with the brush of treason for contemplating disunion, New England Federalists criticized Republican War Hawks for launching an unprovoked war against the British as well as for their treatment of Native Americans and enslaved Africans. Federalist criticism of the war gave birth to the American peace movement and denunciations of slavery. Quakers also linked their peace testimony to antislavery. Antiwar sentiment birthed state peace societies. William Ladd, who founded the American Peace Society in 1828, was a staunch critic of the War of 1812.

Federalist politicians such as the Massachusetts congressman Josiah Quincy and the abolitionist clergymen Elijah Parish and Nathan Perkins connected the tyranny of racial slavery with the political domination of the North by southern slaveholders, the Slave Power. Perkins saw the war as divine punishment for sundry sins, especially the “national crime” of slaveholding. Parish asked New Englanders to resist southern tyrants. Let them, he argued, “be satisfied by inflicting the bloody lash on more than ten hundred thousand African slaves.” Elijah P. Lovejoy, the abolitionist editor murdered while defending his press, was named after this fiery Federalist cleric. Theodore Dwight Weld also bore the name of his Federalist abolitionist ancestor Theodore Dwight. Quincy, who retired from politics to become president of Harvard University, wrote against the extension of slavery during the Missouri Crisis and on the Slave Power well into the 1850s. His son Edmund Quincy joined Garrison, as did the Federalist John Phillips’s son, Wendell Phillips. Abolitionists who later identified with the Democratic Party, Joshua Leavitt, and the editor William Cullen Bryant had Federalist antecedents. As a printer’s apprentice at the Federalist Newburyport Herald in 1818, Garrison absorbed their views.36

By the end of the decade the Federalist critique of slavery resonated even with northern Republicans. Despite abolitionist protest, southern slave states entered the Union without much opposition—Louisiana in 1812, Mississippi in 1817, and Alabama in 1819. The conflict over the expansion of slavery took place in the northwest, in areas where Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance specifically prohibited slavery. In local struggles over the recognition of slavery, Republicans in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois condemned slavery as an aristocratic, unrepublican institution that devalued democracy and competed with free labor. In Ohio the initiative to gain short-term recognition of slavery in the Virginia Military District set aside for revolutionary soldiers from that state failed miserably, and it entered the Union as a free state in 1803. In Indiana the battle was more drawn out, mainly because of Gov. William Henry Harrison’s efforts to overturn Article VI and the strength of proslavery forces in the neighboring territory of Illinois. An antislavery majority in Indiana repealed indentured servitude laws that allowed slaveholders to retain their human property, and in 1816 it entered the Union as a free state with Article VI as part of its state constitution. Two important state supreme court decisions in 1820 and 1821 in freedom suits brought by black women outlawed slavery and indentured servitude in Indiana. Illinois joined the Union as a free state in 1818, but proslavery residents retained servitude laws and tried to legalize slavery. Its antislavery governor, Edward Coles of Virginia, who had freed and settled his slaves in Illinois, thwarted such attempts, as did Congress’s determination to implement the slavery restriction clause of the Northwest Ordinance. In 1824 the state constitutional convention voted down the attempt to make Illinois a slave state, but servitude laws remained in force.

Northern migrants and southern “migrants against slavery” managed to officially defeat proslavery forces in the old northwest, but all three states passed “black laws” restricting the entry and rights of African Americans. Political antislavery could subsume abolitionism with racist attempts to keep the west free of a black presence. The northwest, however, also attracted genuine abolitionists, Quakers, southern antislavery evangelicals, fugitive slaves, free blacks, and antislavery politicians like Coles. These were the men and women who fought to keep the area free of slavery in the face of the relentless national expansion of slavery and a remote federal government. Southerners who migrated with their slaves, who used unfree labor in mines, and who welcomed vacationing slaveholders and their “servants” in hotels kept slavery alive even as it was in retreat. In the old northwest, a succession of federal proslavery appointees and the use of enslaved labor by the government and army bolstered the persistence of slavery in an area designated free.37

The sectional conflict over the admission of Missouri as a slave state in 1819, then, was not, in Jefferson’s words, a sudden “firebell in the night” but the high point of a broader struggle over the status of slavery in the west. A year earlier Arthur Livermore, a New Hampshire Republican, had proposed a constitutional amendment to bar the entry of slave states into the Union. The eventual admission of Missouri as a slave state energized proslavery forces in Illinois. The first major political controversy over slavery expansion, the Missouri Crisis, revealed that free soilism, or efforts to restrict the expansion of slavery, was far more popular in the North than abolition and that slaveholders would not accept any restriction on slavery. The Republican representative James Tallmadge, who had introduced New York’s immediate emancipation law and opposed the admission of Illinois into the Union because its constitution was not sufficiently antislavery, put forward the amendment to prohibit the entry of slaves to Missouri and provide for the gradual emancipation of slaves already there. Tallmadge’s amendment set off a sectional debate in Congress, with most northerners speaking for the restriction of slavery and southerners adamantly opposed. His colleague from New York, John Taylor, attempted to introduce a similar slavery restriction clause to the Arkansas territory bill but failed when Clay broke a tie to open it to slavery.

The Missouri controversy boosted northern antislavery. Speeches by such northern Republicans as Tallmadge and Taylor and by Federalists like Rep. John Sergeant of Philadelphia and Sen. Rufus King of New York gave voice to abolitionist ideas as well as to arguments for the superiority of free soil and free labor. The northern demand for slavery restriction was not just a Federalist plot, as Jefferson argued, but he was probably right to blame his old enemies for first raising the slavery issue in national politics. In defending his amendment, Tallmadge clarified that he was not an abolitionist but interested in a “great and glorious cause, setting the bounds to a slavery, the most cruel and debasing the world has ever witnessed.” Others highlighted the constitutional and political authority for slavery restriction. Taylor, who reintroduced the amendment after Tallmadge left Congress, emphasized that Missouri was in the “same latitude” as Indiana and Illinois. Sergeant evoked the precedent of the Northwest Ordinance and the constitutional power of Congress to stipulate conditions while admitting new states. The power to establish slavery, he pointedly concluded, was not “essential to the character of a free republican state.” King best articulated the constitutional position of northern restrictionists. He alluded to the long-standing Federalist criticism of the three-fifths clause, a “concession” to the “slaveholding states,” which, he argued, should not apply beyond the original thirteen states. He noted that “the existence of slavery impairs the industry and power of the nation” and was therefore against the general welfare, security, and interest of the Union. Barring slavery from the trans-Mississippi west would extend and strengthen “the principles of freedom,” not an empire for slavery. King also voted against discriminatory property-holding qualifications for black voters at New York’s constitutional convention in 1821. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams expressed his disgust at the “flagrant . . . inconsistency” of “Southern slave-holding Republicans.” While slaveholders professed to be antislavery, the Missouri Crisis, he wrote, had “betrayed the secret of their souls.” In the last years of his life, John Adams, who admired King’s speeches, supported nonextension.38

On the other hand, William Smith of South Carolina, who was incensed by the writings of Kenrick and Torrey, articulated the increasingly popular “positive good” theory of slavery. Led by the Old Republicans, including John Randolph of Virginia, southerners used states’ rights theory to defend slavery. Whether they argued for the superiority of slave labor like some lower south planter politicians or for the diffusion of slavery like upper south slaveholders, the result was the same, an ironclad commitment to the spread of slavery. Randolph, who had enough qualms about slavery to free his slaves on his death, was furiously opposed to the alleged intervention of the federal government into slavery. Even southern nationalists such as William Lowndes of South Carolina began spouting states’ rights theory. The Missouri Crisis, thanks to men like Randolph, Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, and the Virginian John Taylor of Caroline, who predicted civil war in his pamphlets against federal “consolidation,” forever linked states’ rights with the defense of slavery. Southerners resorted to threats of disunion if Missouri was not admitted as a slave state. Abolitionists in Delaware, the only slave state legislature to vote for slavery restriction, and in pockets of Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia represented antislavery sentiment in the upper south rather than the functionally proslavery states’ rights diffusionists, whose ranks included men like Jefferson, Randolph, Monroe, and the influential Thomas Ritchie, the editor of the Richmond Enquirer. They touted diffusion as an antislavery plan to spread and thin out slavery and championed colonization of free blacks.39

Restrictionists lost Missouri to slavery, but the crisis revealed the potential of sectional controversy to rally northern public opinion. The compromise of 1820, introduced by Sen. Jesse Thomas of Illinois, passed in an antirestrictionist Senate and in two separate acts in the mostly restrictionist House of Representatives, thanks to the political skills of Clay. It allowed the entrance of Missouri as a slave state but prohibited slavery north of its southern boundary at latitude 36°30 in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase. The compromise, as southerners realized to their chagrin, recognized the authority of the federal government to legislate on slavery in the territories. In a separate bill, Maine entered the Union as a free state, retaining the balance between free and slave states. Missouri’s constitution, which barred the legislature from passing an emancipation law and required it to prohibit the entry of free blacks, thereby violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution, rekindled the crisis. But after another round of debates it was resolved in 1821 by another compromise proposed by Clay, which required Missouri to declare that it would pass no law that violated the Constitution. The Missouri legislature did so but in such defiant terms as to undermine its acquiescence.

The privileges of citizenship for African Americans continued to be whittled away. Most northwestern states already required them to post bond on entering, and the harsher Missouri clause, which emulated other slave states’ prohibition of the entry of free blacks, was allowed to stand. In Randolph’s phrase, a few doughfaces, northern men with southern principles, combined with a solid South to pass the compromise. Missouri had squeaked into statehood by only three votes in the House in 1820, with a handful of northerners abstaining or voting with the South. By 1821 many more northern Republicans, including restrictionists like Taylor, who was now Speaker of the House, stood behind compromise and the Union. But sectional polarization on slavery did not completely disappear. In 1824 Ohio’s legislature passed resolutions recommending gradual emancipation and colonization in the South, resolutions that were endorsed by eight northern states. The reaction in the lower south, especially in South Carolina, was vociferous.40

Abolitionists, who had promoted slavery restriction in the territories long before the controversy, viewed it as a godsend. In 1818 the American Convention sent a memorial to Congress asking for the prohibition of slavery in all the territories and new states entering the Union. Lundy, who named one of his sons after Tallmadge, traveled to Missouri, unsuccessfully attempting to rally antislavery sentiment there. Elias Boudinot organized an antislavery meeting in Burlington, New Jersey, to urge northern legislatures to take a firm stance against slavery extension. In Baltimore, Elisha Tyson helped organize an anti-Missouri meeting, which sent a memorial to Congress with thousands of signatures. In Massachusetts, Josiah Quincy and Daniel Webster, among others, led a free soil meeting that asked Congress to prohibit slavery in all new states admitted into the Union. The PAS rallied against slavery in Missouri and pro-slavery forces in Illinois. It noted with pleasure the “decided opposition made by a majority of the representative branch of Congress, to the admission of new States into the Union, whose constitution of government shall not prohibit slavery among them.” The DAS deemed it “of the highest national importance to . . . prescribe limits to the future extension of slavery” and issued a lengthy report vindicating the constitutionality of the power of Congress to restrict slavery in the territories. The NYMS published Tallmadge’s speech and praised him and Taylor for their “manly and persevering efforts . . . to prevent the further extension of the evils of slavery.” Both men responded, hoping for the “full accomplishment” of its “humane and benevolent objects.”

The American Convention presented yet another remonstrance to Congress against the admission of slave states and published a thousand copies of the speeches of Taylor, Tallmadge, King, the DAS report, and a letter from John Jay to Boudinot asserting the constitutionality of congressional restriction of territorial slavery. It prepared an anti-Missouri memorial “to prevent the introduction of Slaves, and to guard the rights of the free people of colour” and coordinated antislavery strategy with Sergeant, who led the opposition to Missouri’s constitution in the House. The TMS’s Embree wrote that “hell is about to enlarge her borders and tyranny her domain” on Missouri’s admission as a slave state. Despite their failure, Lundy praised restrictionists for having “stepped forth so boldly and plead the cause of liberty so manfully.” By the end of the decade, he had written a lengthy report on the superiority of free to slave labor for the convention, drawing examples from areas where slavery had been abolished, Mexico, Latin America, and Haiti. The report absorbed the northern Republican critique of slave labor and represented an abolitionist response to proslavery writers who maintained that the abolition of slavery would lead to economic collapse.41

Historians of the Missouri Crisis have failed to explore abolitionists’ influence on restrictionists and their critique of southern diffusionists. In The Missouri Question (1819) Raymond called slavery “an enormous, and an alarming evil” and effectively demolished the diffusion theory, exposing its proslavery results. Slaveholders admitted for the most part that slavery was a curse but “at the same time adopt measures calculated to increase and perpetuate it to the latest generations.” He said they had done nothing but magnify, perpetuate, and extend all its horrors. Raymond predicted that the spread of slavery would not end the institution but have the contrary effect of preventing the South from ever getting rid of it. He asked rhetorically, “Who ever heard that increasing the demand for an article, was the means of diminishing its quantity or preventing its increase?” The mischief would be “heightened ten fold. . . . This would be establishing the slave trade in our country with a vengeance.” Raymond also criticized their advocacy of colonization. The idea that the ACS “under any circumstances, [can] have any perceptible effect in eradicating slaves from our soil, is chimerical.” A year later, in his book-length pro-labor pamphlet on political economy, Raymond concluded, “Diffusion is about as effectual a remedy for slavery as it would be for the small pox, or the plague.” Going beyond restriction, he suggested that southern states emulate Maryland in liberalizing their manumission laws. In his speeches Sergeant used Raymond’s ideas that diffusion was a disguise for the perpetuation of slavery and the expansion of the domestic slave trade. Raymond argued that the introduction of slavery was an infringement of a republican form of government, the only constitutional stipulation for the admission of new states. Northern congressmen repeated his argument on the constitutional guarantee of republican government during the Missouri debates.42

Restrictionists like Tallmadge and Robert Walsh of Philadelphia also reacted to foreign antislavery criticisms of America. In the aftermath of the conservative triumph at the Congress of Vienna of 1815, they wished to hold up their experiment in republicanism against Europe’s absolute monarchies, but slavery, they asserted, robbed the American example of its potency. Theodore Dwight’s New York Daily Advertiser and Walsh’s National Gazette and Literary Register played an important role in molding northern public opinion. In 1819 Walsh published a book defending the American Republic from criticism by British abolitionists and a pamphlet advocating the restriction of slavery in Missouri. He avowed that in America slaves were treated better than they were in the West Indies. But in his pamphlet Walsh quoted Wilberforce and acknowledged that the presence of “negro-slavery” gave the nation’s “revolutionary creed . . . an air of imposture or infatuated selfishness.” He insisted that the founders had deemed slavery “a great political and moral evil” and that “slavery could find no shelter under the constitution.”

Similarly, Joseph Blunt, in his An Examination of the Expediency and Constitutionality of Prohibiting Slavery in the State of Missouri, held that the “enlightened Europeans, who are well inclined towards our republic, are continually shocked at the glaring inconsistency of our conduct and principles.” He decried “local prejudices” and “local interests” that sacrificed national welfare and called slavery “repugnant to the fundamental principles of the republic.” Blunt put forth the Republican case against slavery. He argued that colonization, though well intended, would not solve the problem, and the only solution lay in the “emancipation and instruction” of the slaves. Only when slavery was destroyed could the United States truly boast of its “free institutions.” Hezekiah Niles of Baltimore also expressed skepticism about colonization and published plans for gradual emancipation in a series of articles titled the “Mitigation of Slavery” in his influential Register. William Duane of the Jeffersonian newspaper Aurora in Philadelphia, who had been educated in Ireland and had been an editor in India, criticized slavery and advocated its restriction in Missouri. Like other northern Republicans beholden to a southern-dominated party, Duane saw his views on slavery swing like a pendulum from proslavery to antislavery and back again. Earlier, James Sloan, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, had been consigned to political oblivion for his antislavery views.43

The Missouri controversy revived northern Federalist criticisms of southern slavery. In his Crisis essays on Missouri, James Hillhouse, who had opposed the Louisiana Purchase and joined the Hartford Convention, called slavery a “disgrace to the American name” and a “blot on the human character.” Slavery was not only “pernicious as it is immoral and unjust but it is totally inconsistent with the principles and security of a republican government,” and a “blush of shame” should “tinge the countenance of every citizen of the United States.” Hillhouse wrote that “those who justify African slavery deny the truth of God” and the unity of humankind. He warned that a new interracial population “will never suffer the degradation of their mothers” and would lead a Haitian-style slave rebellion. Hillhouse’s satirical pamphlet Pocahontas was a mock proclamation by Virginian slaveholders “to the people of the nonslaveholding states” issued in the “imperial City of Richmond.” It denounced what it called the treason of the state of New York to Virginia in asking for slavery restriction. Finally, it proclaimed that in the west, “slave dealers, kidnappers, and negro drivers shall run to and fro through the land, and greatly multiply.” Bucking the trend, Tench Coxe underwent a transformation from antislavery Federalist stalwart of the PAS to a racist Republican defending slavery. Coxe recognized the centrality of slave-grown cotton to national economic development and married the Federalist promotion of manufactures with the Republican drive for western expansion. During the Missouri Crisis, he referred to all people of color as the helots of America and declared them ineligible for citizenship. Coxe, who had once championed black citizenship, now recommended colonization for free blacks and repudiated abolition. The northern free labor argument against slavery ran up against the economic reality of the enormous profitability of slave-grown cotton and its centrality in the nation’s economy.44 Before the Civil War, cotton was the largest item of export from the United States, and its value exceeded the value of all other items of export from the country.

In the aftermath of the crisis, the nationalism of antislavery constitutional theory fed off the southern states’ rights position. Long before the birth of free soilism and the Republican Party, abolitionists had demanded that the federal government separate itself from slavery and stand for freedom. The American Convention began sending memorials to Congress in the 1820s asking it to act against slavery where it constitutionally could—restricting slavery in Florida and other federal territories, abolishing slavery in Washington, and regulating and prohibiting the interstate slave trade. The convention even charged representatives from the nonslaveholding states with ignoring the wishes of their constituents and being recreant to their duty to act against slavery. It investigated economic or free labor arguments against slavery and welcomed the Delaware Free Labor Society to its ranks. Dwight also became a proponent of free labor. The abolitionist championing of free labor grew out of a republican producer ideology that lauded the dignity and independence of labor rather than out of a bourgeois justification of wage labor.

Men who had taken the lead in the Missouri debates became prominent in abolition. Sergeant was a PAS delegate and was elected president of the American Convention in 1825. Raymond joined Lundy in founding the Maryland Antislavery Society in Baltimore that year. They backed both the efforts of Rep. Charles Miner of Pennsylvania, a member of the PAS, to end slavery in the District of Columbia and a plan proposed by King to use a portion of the revenues from the sale of public lands to finance emancipation. As early as 1826 Miner offered resolutions for the abolition of slavery in the district. Like Quincy, Miner published pamphlets against slavery extension well into the 1850s. Raymond ran unsuccessfully for the Maryland legislature as an antislavery candidate. He and Lundy helped make Baltimore, for a few years, the center of the abolition movement. The American Convention met there in 1826 and in an adjourned session in 1828, and Lundy published its proceedings. Lundy later moved to Washington, where he helped form a “respectable anti-slavery society.” At his prompting, the convention met in the nation’s capital in order to pursue the strategy of pressuring the federal government to act against slavery. Under its auspices Lundy orchestrated the first mass petition campaign against slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia in 1827–29. Thousands of abolitionists in Pennsylvania and other northern states signed these petitions. Buoyed by the campaign, Miner asked for an investigation into the slave trade in the district. In his speech Miner documented the kidnapping of free blacks and the rendition of fugitive slaves, which had torn apart black families. Recounting the story of a slave woman who was separated from her free husband and three children, he said she was “more heart-broken than any creature” he had ever seen. There were, he said, many such cases “of equal cruelty.” His was a lone voice for abolition in Congress.45

Not only would immediatists continue the strategy of criticizing slavery and the slave trade in the nation’s capital with the petition campaigns of the 1830s, but political antislavery reemerged with a vengeance in the free soil campaigns of the 1840s and 1850s. Hardly just a footnote in the history of antislavery, abolitionists in the middle, supposedly neglected period inaugurated many of the tactics and ideas used by their successors in the antebellum period. The history of abolition is marked as much by continuity as by disjuncture.

Early Quaker Abolitionists

Benjamin Lay

John Woolman

Anthony Benezet

Early Black Antislavery Figures

Phillis Wheatley

Olaudah Equiano

Absalom Jones

Lemuel Haynes

British Abolition

Granville Sharp

Thomas Clarkson

William Wilberforce

Cross-Section of the slave ship Brooks

Interracial Immediatism

James Forten

Samuel Cornish

William Lloyd Garrison, painted by the black abolitionist artist Robert Douglass Jr., c. 1835

Theodore Dwight Weld

The Abolitionist Petition Campaign

Abolitionists sent thousands of petitions to Congress and northern state legislatures. This is one of more than three thousand antislavery and anti-segregation petitions sent to the Massachusetts General Court: the Great Massachusetts Petition of 1843 demanding the severing of all connections between the Commonwealth and laws upholding slavery after the Latimer case. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Archives; digitized by Harvard University)

Black Abolitionists

William Whipper

James W. C. Pennington

Charles Lenox Remond

Robert Purvis

James McCune Smith

Martin R. Delany

William Cooper Nell

Alexander Crummell

Women Abolitionists

Lucretia Mott

Angelina Grimké

Abby Kelley Foster

Sojourner Truth

Lucy Stone

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper


Wendell Phillips

Samuel J. May

Henry C. Wright

Lydia Maria Child

Maria Weston Chapman

Evangelical and Political Abolitionists

Lewis Tappan

William Jay

Gerrit Smith

William Goodell

Joshua Leavitt

Alvan Stewart

James G. Birney

Slave Resistance and the Making of American Abolition

Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution

Sengbe Pieh, painted by Nathaniel Jocelyn, brother of Simeon Jocelyn

Jonathan Walker’s branded hand, SS for “Slave Stealer”

Cartoon depicting abolitionists Isaac Hopper and David Ruggles of the New York Committee of Vigilance, and Barney Corse of the New York Manumission Society confronting John Darg, a Virginian slaveholder

The Christiana Uprising in Pennsylvania

The Abolitionist Underground

Levi Coffin

Thomas Garrett

John Rankin

Henry Bibb

Jermaine W. Loguen

Harriet Tubman

Laura Haviland

Theodore Parker

William Still

John Brown

This popular rendition of John Brown encountering a slave mother and her child on the way to his execution reflected his wish that a slave mother rather than a proslavery minister preside over his funeral.

Antislavery Politicians

John Quincy Adams

Joshua R. Giddings

Salmon P. Chase

Charles Sumner

William H. Seward

Thaddeus Stevens

Owen Lovejoy

The Civil War

This lithograph depicts abolitionists with antislavery politicians and other popular antislavery figures. Clockwise from the top: John Quincy Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, Joshua R. Giddings, Cassius M. Clay, Benjamin Lundy, Owen Lovejoy, Gerrit Smith, William Cullen Bryant, Henry Ward Beecher. Center: John Greenleaf Whittier (top), Wendell Phillips (left), Charles Sumner (right)

Black Reconstruction Leaders

This lithograph traces the black protest tradition from early leaders to prominent black abolitionists to black officeholders. Top: Robert B. Elliot (left), Blanche K. Bruce; center: Frederick Douglass; clockwise from top: William Wells Brown, Richard T. Greener, Richard Allen, Joseph H. Rainey, Ebenezer D. Bassett, John Mercer Langston, P. B. S. Pinchback, Henry Highland Garnet

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