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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

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 ...

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

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

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 ...

Article

José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is best known for helping Brazil achieve independence in 1822. It is less often recognized that the year after independence he authored a plan for “the slow emancipation of the blacks.” In this plan he argued: “It is time, and more than time, for us to put a stop to a traffic so barbaric and butcherlike, time too for us to eliminate gradually the last traces of slavery among us, so that in a few generations we may be able to form a homogeneous nation, without which we shall never be truly free, respectable, and happy.”

Andrada e Silva argued that slavery was morally wrong and economically inefficient a violation of God s laws and the laws of justice and a corrupt influence over Brazil s inhabitants Slave labor he believed resulted in the slaveholders idleness and gave ordinary Brazilians little incentive to ...

Article

Richard S. Newman

Frederick Douglass was perhaps the perfect embodiment of the American antislavery movement. As a young slave on a large Maryland plantation, he rebelled both physically and psychologically against bondage. When he escaped in 1838 Douglass used the Underground Railroad to make his way north. As a fugitive slave in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Douglass formally joined the abolitionist movement, quickly becoming one of the best-known speakers at antislavery meetings. With his two antebellum autobiographies, Douglass helped pioneer the genre of the slave narrative. His final postwar autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, epitomized the successful reminiscences of abolitionists. He also edited three important abolitionist newspapers through antebellum society's most tumultuous years.

During the Civil War which resulted in the emancipation of nearly four million slaves Douglass advocated abolition as strenuously as ever and recruited black soldiers for the famous Fifty fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment the Union s first African ...

Primary Source

Originally known as the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage the organization that would come to be more commonly called the Pennsylvania Abolition Society was founded in Philadelphia on 14 April 1775 Widely recognized as the earliest American antislavery organization as well as the inspiration and institutional model for subsequent groups of its kind the Pennsylvania Abolition Society petitioned government for a redress of the grievance created by the institution of chattel slavery in the name of those who were allowed no such right One such petition that presented here reached the first Congress in 1790 and touched off an early debate concerning the morality and sustainability of slavery in the young nation Urging the Congress to promote Mercy and Justice towards this distressed Race and Step to the very verge of the Powers vested in you for discouraging every Species of Traffick in the ...

Article

Clifton H. Johnson

clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Jehiel C. Beman, a clergyman. Nothing is known of his mother. He grew up and received a basic education in Middletown, Connecticut, where his father was pastor of the African church. A Wesleyan University student, L. P. Dole, volunteered to tutor Beman after the university refused his application for admission because he was an African American. Dole and Beman suffered ridicule and harassment from other students, and an anonymous threat of bodily harm from “Twelve of Us” caused Beman to give up the effort after six months. He went to Hartford, where he taught school for four years, and around 1836 he briefly attended the Oneida Institute in New York.

Beman was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1839. At about this time he married a woman whose name is not known. In 1841 ...

Article

Sean Patrick Adams

James Gillespie Birney was born in Danville, Kentucky, to a slaveholding family. He attended Transylvania University in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, and eventually graduated from Princeton University in 1810. After admittance to the bar, Birney returned to Danville to practice law and soon married into an influential Kentucky family. By the time he moved to Madison County, Alabama, in 1818, he already owned several slaves.

Following a brief stint in Alabama's General Assembly and some financial difficulties, Birney relocated to Huntsville, Alabama, to begin a law practice. After selling many of his slaves, he became involved with the colonization movement and supported the idea of restricting the internal slave trade. By 1832 Birney was an active agent for the American Colonization Society and made a lecture circuit around the South supporting the idea of emancipating slaves and transporting them to the new African colony of Liberia He ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Aaron Burr's legacy to African Americans is mixed. He supported the eventual end of slavery in his home state of New York but was unwilling to confront the issue on the national stage.

Burr was born into a distinguished family of clerics that included his uncle, Jonathan Edwards, the great New England theologian and an early questioner of the morality of slavery Burr s mother Esther Edwards Burr married Aaron Burr Sr who was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Newark New Jersey and the president of the fledgling College of New Jersey later Princeton While Jonathan and other members of the family were ardent opponents of slavery the Burr household owned several His mother once complained to a friend about her servants Exceedingly busy expect company and our Negroes are gone to seek a master Really my dear I shall be thankful if I can get ...

Article

Charlton W. Yingling

abolitionist and black rights activist, was born to a woman of African descent, probably named Eugenie, who was from French Saint‐Domingue (later Haiti). He was allegedly the unrecognized son of Aaron Burr, U.S. Senator from New York and the third vice president of the United States, and he was likely not the only child of this relationship. John P. Burr was also known as Jean‐Pierre Burr, which was probably his birth name. His mother was, by all accounts, a governess for the Burr family who was hired to care for their children during their stay in Saint‐Domingue. The majority of sources indicate that Burr–s mother was Caribbean‐born and of African descent, though one later source says she was originally from Calcutta. John P. Burr may have been born in New Jersey, and he was described as being very fair‐skinned.

By 1818 Burr had made his home in Philadelphia ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

antislavery activist and Underground Railroad conductor, was born in Kent County, Delaware. Nothing is known of his father. Little is known of his early years except that his mother was a free woman of color, and that as a young adult he moved to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area, became a farmer, married, and started a family. No information about his wife and children is available. In the mid-1840s he became involved in the antislavery movement and began assisting slaves who were attempting to make it to freedom. Burris welcomed fugitives into his home, hid them for a day or two, supplied them with food and water, and sent them on their way. He became friends with leading abolitionists, including Charles Purvis, one of the founders of-the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833), and William Still, best known for his post–Civil War book titled The Underground Railroad a Record ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

underground railroad conductor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of David and Elizabeth Hicks Bustill (sometimes known as Mary). His grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, had been born enslaved, and married only after securing his freedom and opening his own bakery. Charles Hicks Bustill was born into the third generation of a growing family that was free, with a leading place in the “Old Philadelphia” elite among residents of African descent.

Like his father, David, and his brother, Bustill made his living as a plasterer while also active as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. His home was a frequent stopping place for self‐emancipated men and women on their way north. In 1849 he was one of the original incorporators of the Lebanon Cemetery of Philadelphia, authorized by an act of the Pennsylvania legislature that year.

Working with Ralph Smith a non black abolitionist who served as the first ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Social reformer and active fighter for the abolition of slavery. Thomas Fowell Buxton was born at Castle Hedingham, Essex, to an Anglican family. Despite this, his mother was a member of the religious Society of Friends, and Buxton soon became acquainted with Quakerism. Through the Society of Friends he became closely connected to the Gurney family, who were Quakers, and later married one of the Gurney daughters, Hannah. The Quakers were renowned for their social reformation campaigns, and Buxton became heavily involved in many of these movements, most notably with one of the Gurney daughters, Elizabeth Fry, to whom he provided financial support for her prison reform work. In 1818 he was elected member of Parliament for Weymouth and worked, within the House of Commons, for the abolition of the slave trade. He helped William Wilberforce with the founding of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual ...

Article

Russell Duncan

abolitionist and Georgia politician, was born free in Middlebrook, New Jersey, the son of John Campbell, a blacksmith, and an unknown mother. From 1817 to 1830 he attended an otherwise all-white Episcopal school in Babylon, New York, where he trained to be a missionary to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Rebelling against his training and calling himself “a moral reformer and temperance lecturer,” Campbell moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, converted to Methodism, joined an abolition society, and began to preach against slavery, colonization, alcohol, and prostitution. He joined Frederick Douglass on speaking tours and participated in the Colored Convention Movement, a new nationwide organization that aimed at racial uplift and black voting rights.

From 1832 to 1845 Campbell lived and worked in New York City as a steward at the Howard Hotel Later for an undetermined period he worked at the Adams House ...

Article

John Gilmore

Campaigner against the slave trade and slavery. Clarkson was educated at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1783, but remained to continue his studies in preparation for becoming an Anglican clergyman. In 1785 he decided to enter a university contest for a Latin essay. His aim was simply academic prestige, but the topic, set by the university's Vice‐Chancellor, Peter Peckard, was Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare? [‘Is it lawful to make men slaves against their will?’]. Clarkson won the prize, but he was so disturbed by what he learnt in preparing his essay that he decided to devote his life to the anti‐slavery cause. A revised and enlarged version of his essay was published in English in 1786 under the title An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African and this went through several editions Clarkson dismissed ...