Presentation on theme: "The Abolitionists. The spirit of reform that swept the United States in the early 1800s included the efforts of abolitionists, reformers who worked."— Presentation transcript:
The spirit of reform that swept the United States in the early 1800s included the efforts of abolitionists, reformers who worked to abolish, or end, slavery. By the early 1800s, Northern states had ended slavery, but it continued in the South. The religious revival of the early and mid-1800s gave new life to the antislavery movement. For instance, many of the leading abolitionists came from the Quaker faith.
The 1 st large-scale antislavery effort was not aimed at abolishing slavery but at resettling African Americans in Africa or the Caribbean. The American Colonization Society, formed in 1816 by a group of white Virginians, worked to free enslaved workers gradually by buying them from slaveholders and sending them abroad to start new lives. Some went to the west coast of Africa, where the society had acquired land for a colony called Liberia, which is Latin for “place of freedom.”
In 1847 Liberia became an independent country, and some 12,000-20,000 African Americans settled there between 1822 and 1865. These efforts did not halt the growth of slavery, though as the society could only resettle a small number of people. Furthermore, most African Americans did not want to go to Africa. Many were from families that had lived in America for several generations, and they wanted to be free in American society.
Reformers realized that the gradual approach to ending slavery had failed. Moveover, the number of enslaved persons had sharply increased because the cotton boom in the Deep South made planters increasingly dependent on slave labor. For example, William Lloyd Garrison, a journalist frustrated with the moderate position that many abolitionist newspapers took, founded his own paper, The Liberator, in Boston in 1831. Sarah and Angela Grimke, sisters who had been born into a wealthy, slaveholding South Carolina family, gained a following writing and lecturing against slavery.
African Americans, especially those who were free in the North, played a major role in the abolitionist movement as well. Frederick Douglass, the most widely known African American abolitionist, was born enslaved in Maryland. After teaching himself to read and write, he escaped from slavery in 1838 and settled in the North where he used his powerful voice to make speeches and edit an anti-slavery newspaper called the North Star. Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth when she gained freedom after slavery was banned in New York. She spent the rest of her life working in the movements for abolitionism and women’s rights.
Some abolitionists risked prison (even death) by secretly helping African Americans escape from slavery through a network of escape routes from South to North that became known as the Underground Railroad. No trains or tracks, people escaped on foot in the night and followed the North Star, rivers, and mountain chains, even feeling for moss growing on the north side of trees. Songs such as “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd” served as codes for how to escape. The Big Dipper constellation which points to the North Star resembles a hollowed-out gourd used to dip water for drinking.
During the day runaways rested at “stations” – barns, attics, churches, or other places where “conductors,” those who were helping them to freedom, could hide them. After her escape from slavery, Harriet Tubman became the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She even became known to the hundreds she helped escape as “Moses.” Unfortunately, the Underground Railroad helped only a fraction of the enslaved population as it was much more difficult to escape from the Deep South where much of the slavery was concentrated.
Southern slaveholders and even those who did not have slaved opposed abolitionism because they believed it threatened the South’s way of life which depended on enslaved labor. Even in the North, abolitionists never numbered more than a small fraction of the population. Many feared the abolitionists could bring about a war between North and South, while others did not like the idea of African Americans being integrated into white society. People in both regions said freed slaves would take jobs from white people. Some abolitionists were violently attacked and their newspaper offices burned to the ground in response.
Southerners fought abolitionism by mounting arguments in defense of slavery. They claimed slave labor was essential to the economy of the South. Some even argued that slaves were better off than free African Americans working in the North since they not only had to work long hours but they also had to pay for food and shelter which were provided for slaves. Some based their argument on racism saying that the black race was inferior, and they needed to be looked after by the whites.