The abolition Essay

Slavery and slave trade was a common practice in many parts of the world especially in Europe and American continent.  To and until 1800, slavery was still being practiced in many of these regions. Although uprisings against slavery were enhanced mostly in the 19th century, cases of individuals slaves revote against slavery were witnessed as early as 15th century[1]. Due to the cruelty in which slaves were handled, slaves at times sought to kill their captures or even commit suicide. As a result of encroachment of Christianity, American and French revolutions in the mid 19th century, and change in economic environment, people became enlightened on matters of human rights and freedom. At the same time, human trade and bondage was flourishing with Britain and United States of America having the large number of slaves’ traders, trade holders and captives mainly from the black race[2].

Due to the brutality and inhuman nature of slave trade and slavery, there were sporadic and sometimes violent black resistances to the practice. Consequently, this provided an impetus to resist slave trade and slavery that were believed to be dehumanizing, brutal and archaic by the antislavery individuals. As a result, abolition movements were formed in America, Britain and other countries across Europe. These movements were formed mainly to fight against slave trade and bring to an end the whole slavery institution[3]. In the late centuries therefore, many groups came up to campaign against slavery and slave trade with an aim of ending it all together. In the United States of America, several such groups were formed as part of these movements.

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In 1817, the American colonization society was formed and led revolts against slavery at the time. Later in 1833, a leading anti slavery activist known as William Lloyd Garrison, who had earlier published antislavery newspaper (liberator in 1832) lured other abolitionists proponents to form the American antislavery society (AASS),[4] which brought together Quakers, Christians who were against slavery and slave trade, as well as pro abolitionists from new England region to campaign for the cease of slavery. Other leaders of the society were Arthur Tappan and Frederick Douglass. It also brought together a hoist of other famous antislavery activist of the time who included Theodore Weld, Lewis Tappan James Binney, Lydia Maria Child, Abby Lerry Stephen Symonds Foster James Froten, and Robert Purvis among others[5].  According to Harold, Differences in the society however led to breakages with those who broke away forming different groups, though with similar goal.

In 1840, Lewis Tappan led a group of evangelical abolitionists from both white and black race to form the American and foreigners antislavery abolition that was supposed to carry out anti slavery campaigns in churches across the United States[6] . At the same time some leaders who were previously in the American antislavery society joined politics and formed the liberty party. Within the liberty party there were the radical political abolitionists of New York who maintained that slavery was an unlawful practice everywhere and urged northerners to tour the south and aid slaves to escape and also the more numerous liberty group stationed in Cincinnati and maintained that the northerner must concentrate on bringing to an end slavery within its jurisdiction (Columbia) while encouraging the formation of abolitionist groups in the south. In addition Theodore Weld later on encouraged students to form antislavery societies which also undertook campaign to bring slavery to an end in the United States of America[7]. Apart from the antislavery societies across the US there were several prominent abolitionists who played significant roles in the abolition movements. Among these individuals are two prominent female orators Harriet Tabman and sojourner truth. In addition, novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe in her novel live among the lonely also contributed massively to the abolition movement since it had the very antislavery theme[8]. According to Jordan Lake, Stowe was a very strong abolitionist.

Before the sprouting of the abolition movement, individuals only attempted to free them through well organized escape or organized to kill their captures irrespective of the dangerous consequences that came with such acts. The successful escapees then grouped themselves in to maroons with an objective of protecting themselves from being taken back to slavery[9] . These groups at times organized attacks on slave holders in an attempt to free other captives. These captives’ only goal was to free themselves from bondage and not to fight the act of slavery and slave trade. When abolition movements came in, their primary goal was to fight slave trade[10]. In the United States, the movement succeeded in achieving this objective when a law banning slave trade was included in the constitution in 1807. After the enactment however, slave trade was stopped but slavery still range on in the country with individuals still holding slaves[11] This show the movement’s goal shift to not only fighting slave trade but also spirited towards ending slavery in totality. By 1888, they had succeeded in that slave trade had ceased in the United States. Having achieved this, the objective now turned to fighting the establishment of social stratification a system that sought to bring in the caste system with the existence of the elite class obviously blacks. In addition the movement intended to fight racial segregation, oppression of the black race by the white, labor discrimination and child labor[12]. This was characterized by the active roles of pro black activists like martin Luther king junior in the late 19th century especially in his famous speech I have a dream. To date, the war about racialism has not been completely won.

The role or religion in the abolitionism movements in the United States cannot be underestimated. The famous leaders such as Theodore weld and Lyman Beecher played an important part in the success of the movements. First they were strong abolitionists who had firm membership in the garrison’s American anti- slavery association. As an evangelical minister at the time they joined hands with Robert Purvis and Garrison to form AASS in 1833. In 1834, weld encouraged a group of students to form a student’s antislavery association. A move that president Lyman Beecher attempted to block without much success. In addition weld’s role as writer, editor speaker and organizer was very significant in the American abolition movements[13]. He also together with Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a novel (American slavery as it is: a testimony of a thousand witnesses) that is believed to have the second best influence on the abolition movement. [14] Weld’s commitment in the movement remained until slavery ended by the thirteenth amendment of American constitution in 1885.  Indeed the work of Theodore Weld was so greatly felt that many believed that he was the greatest figure in the movement rated even higher than Lloyd Garrison. He contributed massively in the campaign against racism through the schools that he established in New Jersey and Massachusetts in 1954 and ten years later respectively that admitted student irrespective of their races and sexes[15] .

The Quakers formed another group whose role and impact had a great significance on the American abolition movement. It was a group of social friends that had strong roots in the Christian religion and subscribed greatly to the religion. As a result, they believed that all people were equal before the supreme God irrespective of the body color[16] . As a result they were the first whites to rise against the blacks’ oppression and slavery saying that slavery as an institution was dehumanizing and went against human rights in as early as 1600s. Then, the Quakers formed antislavery movements, “society of friends” that preached against slavery though they took no action about it[17] . According to[18], The Quakers were so opposed to slave trade that the dismissed it as a sin against humanity and persuaded fellow Quakers to release slaves.  They also joined hands with other abolitionists in America to campaign against slavery. When their objective to end slave trade among fellow Quakers was finally achieved in 1760, they went ahead to expel those among the group who were still holding slaves. Being a group of mainly whites their impact on antislavery movement was great.

 Since it was the black race that was mostly affected by slave trade, there were many free blacks that were in the forefront of the abolition movement. Among the most famous blacks who were on the frontline of the antislavery movement in the United States were Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tabman and Sojourner Truth. As a free black, Douglass teamed up with the like of Lloyd Garrison in the abolition movement which fought to end slavery in the United States. While serving as the adviser of the president Abraham Lincoln during the civil war he championed and fought for constitutional amendments that gave the blacks right to vote and guarantee them civil freedom[19]. According to Robert, Douglass is also respected for his contribution in the fight against racial discrimination in America in the 19th century.

During her 19 trips in the underground rail road, Harriet Tabman helped to free 300 slaves. His work in the antislavery movement was so great that when the slave’s fugitive law was enacted, rewards were offered to facilitate her capture. Being an exceptional orator, Tabman was not only a great campaigner against slavery but also an advocate of gender justice. Sojourner truth too was a leading abolitionist in America. Her speeches were known for her campaigns against slavery and women’s suffrage. After the civil war she was the leading helper of the newly freed slaves mainly via the freeman’s relief association and freeman’s hospital both of which she had played a major role in their establishment[20]. [21]Also describes the role of sojourner truth as significant in the success of the antislavery movement in America in the United States.  Through her antislavery literature, novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe contributions to the abolition movement were remarkably great. Her novel uncle tom’s cabin sensitized people against slavery and black oppression so much that it is attributed to the subsequent revolts and uprisings in opposition of slavery not only in America but also in other parts where slavery was introduced. Upon her introduction to President Lincoln as the author of the famous novel, he couldn’t believe that she was the root of massive revolts of antislavery groups through the great influence of her literature[22] .

The abolition movement however was not well received in all parts of United States. The whites, especially in the south and which was notorious for slave trade attempted to resist the antislavery movement. The southerners resisted change by use of the gag rule- suppressing the abolitionists and seditious libels prosecutions while dismissing them as fanatics alleging foreign involvement and trying to suppress all discussions on slavery and argued that such discussions would lead to servile insurrection[23] .  According to the latter, the southerner argued that abolitionism threatened the security of the nation through inciting the slaves to revolt and undermining the compact peace held by the nation altogether. The proslavery southerners argued that the southern state would breach the peace of the place which they claimed was the source of their prosperity and happiness. The southerners advocated for complete elimination of abolitionists.[24]   They therefore used partisan politics loophole on the definition of national security to curtail the freedom of antislavery movements. The greatness achievement of the abolition movements was bringing slave trade to an end. They also succeeded in enlightening the masses about human rights as well as thwarting the attempts by whites to establish social classification system based on castes. However, they failed to end racism, comparative system of labor exploitation as well as human labor [25]

Work Cited

Davis, B, The Problem of Slavery in Western Cultures New York: Oxford University Press; 1966 291, Retrieved April 11, 2009 from

Harold, Stanley. The Rise of Aggressive Abolitionism: Addresses to the Slaves. University Press of Kentucky, 2004

Jordan-Lake, Joy. Whitewashing Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe, Vanderbilt University Press, 2005

Robert H., Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld ; the Dilemma of Reform New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Zilversmit, A, The First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1968. 55-61

[1] Zilversmit A, 1968
[2] Jordan-lake J, 2005
[3] Robert H, 1980
[4] William lee(1995)
[5] Harold S, 2004
[6] Zilversmit A, 1968
[7] Harold S, 2004
[8] Jordan-Lake J, 2005
[9] Davis B, 1966
[10] Zilversmit Arthur, 1968
[11] Zilversmit.A,1968
[12] Harold S, 2004
[13] Robert H, 1980
[14] Jordan -lake, 2005
[15] Robert H, 1980
[16] Davis B, 1966
[17] Abbott et al, 2003
[18] Davis (1966)
[19] Robert H, 1980
[20] Harold S, 2004
[21] William lee(1995)
[22] Jordan- Lake, 2005
[23] Zilversmit A, 1968
[24] Harold S, 2004
[25] Harold S, 2004