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Article

John Gilmore

The term can be applied either to the ending of slavery, or to the ending of the slave trade, but in British historical writing the former is more usually referred to as emancipation.

While there are earlier examples of individuals who had doubts about the legality or morality of both the slave trade and slavery, serious public questioning of these institutions only began in Britain in the third quarter of the 18th century, with the attention focused on legal cases such as those of Jonathan Strong and James Somerset (see Somerset case). The first group of people who collectively questioned the legitimacy of the slave trade were the Quakers, who formed a Committee on the Slave Trade in 1783 and were also prominent in the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade also referred to as the Society for the Abolition of the ...

Article

Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, David Feeny, Dharma Kumar, Howard Temperley, Jan S. Hogendorn, Peter Blanchard, and Robert P. Forbes

[This entry comprises seven articles that discuss the premises and practices of abolition and anti-slavery in major regions around the world from the eighteenth century to the twentieth:

Africa

India

Southeast Asia

Britain

Continental Europe

Latin America

United States

For particular discussion of the role Christianity played in the abolition ...

Article

Brenda E. Stevenson

O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! No longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties.

(Maria Stewart, 1831)

Article

Richard S. Newman, Paul Finkelman, and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with abolitionism from the late seventeenth century through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in1865. The first article discusses the definition of abolitionism as differentiated from antislavery activism and its forms including Garrisonian and non Garrisonian abolition The second article describes ...

Article

During the three decades that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Most historians use the term abolitionism to refer to antislavery activism between the early 1830s, when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, and the American Civil War (1861–1865). The term also refers to the antislavery crusade that mobilized many African Americans and a small minority of whites, who saw their goal realized during the Civil War. Historians also commonly distinguish abolitionism, a morally grounded and uncompromising social reform movement, from political antislavery—represented, for example, by the Free Soil or Republican parties—which advocated more limited political solutions, such as keeping slavery out of the western territories of the United States, and was more amenable to compromise.

Abolitionists played a key role in setting the terms of the debate over slavery and in making it a compelling moral issue Yet abolitionists ...

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From 1841 to 1847 Frederick Douglass 1818 1895 who had escaped bondage in 1838 lectured on the evils of slavery as part of his work with William Lloyd Garrison s American Anti Slavery Society Douglass eventually differed with Garrison s revolutionary and arguably condescending tactics preferring instead a practical approach that preserved the core values of the republic The speech excerpted below delivered in October 1841 in Lynn Massachusetts contains the seeds of that conflict within the abolitionist movement Douglass states bluntly his concerns that Northerners are out of touch with the slaves experiences and that while their work to end slavery is admirable racism remains a problem even among the most determined abolitionists As an example he points out the irony of the Southern laws that prohibited teaching a slave to read While many Northerners believed that blacks were not smart enough to gain anything from education he states ...

Article

Karen Backstein

dancer and arts administrator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Julius J. Adams, a journalist who rose to managing editor of the New York Amsterdam News, and Olive A. Adams, an accomplished pianist. Her parents cultivated in her a deep appreciation of the arts, as well as a legacy of social activism that stayed with Adams throughout her life—both during her career as a dancer and after her retirement from the stage, when she helped found community-based arts centers for children in Harlem. The dance writer Muriel Topaz described the Adamses' home as a “center of social and political activity,” and noted that the Global News Syndicate, an organization of black newspapers, was founded in their small apartment (Topaz, 30).

When she was eight years old Adams entered New York s progressive Ethical Culture School an institution dedicated to the moral as well ...

Article

Toward the end of his long life, the congressman John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), son of John and Abigail Adams, was notorious for his militant stands against slavery and its expansion in the Republic that his parents had helped found. It is possible to argue that he absorbed many of his views from his mother, who told her husband that she had doubts about southerners and their commitment to liberty. On 31 March 1776 Abigail Adams wrote in a letter to her husband,

I have sometimes been ready to think that passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain, that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principle of doing unto others as we would that others do unto us.

(Withey, p. 81)

In fact ...

Article

Robert H. Gudmestad

John Adams was born in Massachusetts in 1735 and grew up in relatively humble circumstances. After graduating from Harvard, he passed the bar and began his legal career. Adams's law practice was steady but unspectacular at a time of growing tension with England. He was a reluctant Revolutionary, even defending the British troops who fired on the crowd for unclear reasons in the Boston Massacre, but served faithfully in the First and Second Continental Congresses. Adams is well known for his insistence on a formal declaration of independence.

He remained in public service as a wartime diplomat to France and Holland and was instrumental in negotiating the treaty that ended the American Revolution. Adams continued his work overseas as ambassador to the English court before returning to the United States, where he was chosen as George Washington s vice president Adams then succeeded Washington as president and faced a ...

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Charles Henry Langston (1817–1892) was the first African American enrolled at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the state of Ohio. Langston used his experience at the school to become a prominent member of the movement, helping to organize the 1848 Colored National Convention in Cleveland, working to promote the antislavery newspaper the North Star, and serving as the principal of a school for African Americans in Columbus. Perhaps his most famous act, however, was the role he played in helping the fugitive slave John Price escape to Canada after he had been arrested by slave catchers, an incident that became known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Langston was one of two rescuers who were charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But thanks to his eloquent speech delivered in Cleveland on 12 May 1859, the judge reduced the sentence to twenty days.

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A former slave and soldier identified as Dr Harris delivered the following speech before the Congregational and Presbyterian Anti Slavery Society in Francestown New Hampshire Though little is known about his personal life Harris was apparently one of nearly ninety blacks recruited to fight with the First Rhode Island Regiment during the Revolutionary War Harris appears to mention here the Battle of Rhode Island in which his segregated unit withstood several British advances as well as volleys from warships of the Royal Navy He also mentions the Dorr War 1841 1842 an insurrection that the state s black soldiers helped to quell several months earlier Understandably Harris connects the service of black veterans with the greater cause of emancipation If his speech seems optimistic for one delivered in 1842 it may be because Rhode Island was far ahead of most states regarding civil rights Slavery was formally abolished around this ...

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The Baptist minister and abolitionist Nathaniel Paul c 1793 1839 delivered the speech excerpted below on 5 July 1827 following the abolition of slavery in the state of New York The state had gradually worked toward emancipation starting with a 1799 law allowing for slaves born after that year to be freed after a long period of service twenty eight years for men twenty five for women Though it represented progress it was not bold enough for the increasingly popular Methodist church which pushed for a more comprehensive emancipation statute In 1817 Governor Daniel D Tompkins signed a law mandating freedom for slaves within ten years Paul s speech is memorable for its hopeful yet cautious tone and for its biting critique of the hypocrisy of a supposedly free country that still practices slavery This contradiction he says stain s the national character and renders the American republic a by ...

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Though he devoted his adult life to the abolitionist cause—harboring fugitive slaves, participating in political conventions, calling for boycotts on slave-produced goods—Henry Highland Garnet (1815–1882) gained notoriety for an 1843 speech reproduced below. At the National Negro Convention held in Buffalo, New York, the clergyman issued a “Call to Rebellion,” directly rebuking the more measured and pragmatic approach favored by Frederick Douglass (1818–1895). Douglass was quick to criticize the tone of the speech, and the convention narrowly defeated Garnet’s resolution, but the overall message gained traction within the abolitionist movement, influencing more militant leaders such as John Brown (1800–1859).

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Richard Allen (1760–1831), the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), converted to Methodism at the age of seventeen. He earned his freedom three years later, and became such an effective preacher that he even converted his former master. Later, he began an unpaid ministry for African Americans at St. George’s Church in Philadelphia, but left the church when white congregants demanded that the seats be segregated. As a result, Allen raised funds to build St. Thomas African Episcopal Church of Philadelphia, the first independent black church in North America and the precursor to AME. The new ecclesial organization became a focal point of abolitionist activity, through which Allen promoted education, petitions to the government, and abolitionist conventions. The sermon below is from The Life, Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen published posthumously in 1833 although the sermon was most likely delivered around 1820 ...

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Article

Since Methodism first emerged in colonial America, it has consistently attracted African American adherents. According to religious scholar Alfred J. Raboteau, “the direct appeal, dramatic preaching, and plain doctrine of the Methodists, their conscious identification with the ‘simpler sort,’ and especially their antislavery beliefs” drew blacks to the church. Indeed, African Americans had been members of New York City's John Street Methodist Church since its founding in 1768. By 1793 black membership increased to 40 percent of John Street's congregation.

Still, African Americans within the John Street Church—and within American Methodism in general—were treated as second-class citizens. They were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews, and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion table. Frustrated by such treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams, and William Miller, founded the African Chapel in 1796 The chapel was later ...

Article

John Marinelli

teacher and abolitionist, said in a letter of protest to the Hartford Courant that he was born to enslaved parents, but their names are unknown. Slavery was not formally abolished in New York State until 1827, and the census of 1820 recorded 518 slaves in New York City. One source suggests that Africanus was born in New York City in 1822; it is possible that he may have been connected to the brothers Edward Cephas Africanus and Selas H. Africanus, who taught at a black school in Long Island in the 1840s. Africanus is now remembered only through his few published writings and journalistic documentation of his actions; the earliest records of his activity in Connecticut date from 1849 when he attended a Colored Men s Convention and a suffrage meeting His most notable publication was the broadside he created to warn Hartford African Americans about ...

Article

Caroline M. Brown

aviation mechanic and pilot, was born in Quitman, Wood County, Texas, the youngest of three children; both of his parents were teachers. Allen's father died when Thomas was three months old. His mother, Polly, continued to teach school and to run the family farm.

Allen became interested in flying in 1918, when an airplane made a forced landing in a pasture. The pilots paid the two young Allen brothers to guard the plane overnight so that its fabric and glue would not be eaten by cows. From this experience, Thomas Allen decided to become either an aviator or a mechanic.

In 1919 when Allen was twelve the family moved to Oklahoma City where his mother resumed teaching school Allen often bicycled to a nearby airfield In his teens he persuaded the field owner to take a $100 saxophone as partial trade for flying lessons He worked off the ...

Article

Penny Anne Welbourne

William G. Allen was born in Virginia. In his autobiographical pamphlet The American Prejudice against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into an Uproar, he described himself as “a quadroon, that is, I am of one-fourth African, and three-fourths Anglo-Saxon.” Both his parents were free, his mother a mulatto, his father white. In 1838 Allen was accepted to the newly opened Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York, where he began to make connections with many leaders of the abolitionist movement. Following his graduation, Allen studied law in Boston, Massachusetts, under the abolitionist lawyer Ellis Gray Loring and then edited the National Watchman, based in Troy, New York, from 1842 until it ceased publication in 1847. Many of the antislavery ideas he developed during this period were later published in a series of letters he wrote to Frederick Douglass' Paper between 1852 ...

Article

Kerima M. Lewis

The long and illustrious history of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church dates back to the eighteenth century. The founder Richard Allen, a former slave who had been able to purchase his freedom and was an ordained Methodist minister, was assigned to Saint George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where he was allowed to preach to blacks. When in November 1787 several black church members, including Absalom Jones, were pulled from their knees while praying, all the black worshippers left Saint George's to form a church of their own. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Philadelphia in 1793 and opened in July 1794. In 1816 Richard Allen united black Methodist congregations from the greater Philadelphia area founding the African Methodist Episcopal Church he was elected the first bishop during the new church s first General Conference The Book of Discipline Articles of Religion ...