Modern American abolitionism Essay

In 1780’s, associations had been created to combat slavery in the USA. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Paine, and the Marquis de Lafayette, became one of those numerous abolitionist organizations that helped slaves to find freedom. Notably, many African American from the North were actively participating in freeing of slaves called “abolitionism”.

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The modern American abolitionism appeared in 1830s as a by-product of spiritual revivalism generally known as the Second Great Awakening. Revivalist tenets led abolitionists to perceive slavery as the result of personal sin and to insist on emancipation as the price of regret. Abolitionists recognized that slavery had ethical support from racial intolerance, and they did their best to eliminate traditional racial prejudice. (Parson 1998)

African Americans activists had been an important part in the new campaign. Some had substantial experience in public involvement and were closely related to the colonization movement and to racial intolerance in the North. Sojourner Truth, William Still, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglas were just few of the African Americans who were building up the way to freedom. Helpenstell defines the role of African Americans as “such that under no circumstances can be questioned or doubted since they took an active part in actually giving a hand to the whole society and world community in general” (p.98)

For the many African Americans who lived in the Slave States before and during the American Civil War, the Underground Railroad gave them the chance and support for escaping slavery and finding freedom. There is still not much information on the Underground Railroad due to the lack of official organization. There is either no precise data on when it was initiated, but there were a number of recorded cases of assistance provided to runaways at the turn of the 18th century. By the early nineteenth century, there were set flights to freedom. Quaker abolitionists in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were the first to provide such assistance. (Parson 1998)

Commonly spread refusal of the antislavery program made abolitionists to reconsider their moral suasion tactics. Many people took as a leader the Boston abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and stopped visiting churches, considering them to be terribly corrupted by slavery. By the early 1830’s Lewis and Arthur Tappan and Theodore Weld created the American Anti-Slavery Society and in the same year the Tappan brothers founded Oberlin College, open to blacks and whites alike. (Williamson 1995)

Among the first female abolitionists, the Grimke sisters were the first women to speak publicly against slavery, a significant political issue. Taking criticism from church and others that they were putting in jeopardy the role of a woman they continued their mission. In 1830’s, Angelina became the first female to address authorities when she spoke to the Massachusetts State Legislature on women’s rights.

Despite its final victory abolitionism has never been a reform movement of a unified North. Regardless of the fact that abolitionists generally originated from the North, most Northerners were not abolitionists. Furthermore, most white American abolitionists, while combating the slavery, still did not treat African Americans as their equal partners. Immediatists such as Garrison were taken, even among other abolitionists, as wild fanatics. Other reform movements associated with abolitionism, such as the women’s emancipation, further divided abolitionist leaders.


Helpenstell, M. (2000). Abolitionist Movement. New York: Pocket Books

Parson, G. (1998). American History. Chicago: Chicago Publishing

Williamson, E. (1995). Slavery in American History. Chicago: Chicago Publishing

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