By Zak Charette

The Introduction To Slavery

Since the American Civil War began in 1861, slavery has been a main source of energy in many societies stretching back a whole millennia. Many different cultures all over the world have used the institution of slavery in some form or another for thousands of years, but it all began to change when it reached the United States of America in the early 17th century. Dutch traders brought African American slaves to use for labor instead of indentured servants because they were becoming too expensive. From the first days of introduction in Jamestown, Virginia, slavery only became more and more known and used across the colonies, into states, and finally stretching from the eastern border all the way to California. Slavery wasn't necessarily a legal act until after the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where slavery was officially made legal for consumption and usage. From this point on, many agrarian farmers owned slaves to help cultivate their tobacco and various crop fields and were a very helpful and almost necessary thing for many people. According to the source “King Cotton” by Gene Dattel, slavery hit its biggest boom in 1793 when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. From here on the demand for slavery was high and began to form the economic base of the South.

The North

At the same time the northern states began to urbanize and create a more industrialized civilization by constructing many buildings, bridges, roads, and canals to meet the northern societies demands. As the north began to industrialize and create more jobs for the poorer and middle class individuals, northern people began to become more socially mobile by being virtuous and working hard on their own which caused the demand for slaves to decrease more and more as time went on in the northern states. People in the North not only moved farther and farther away from slavery because of their industrializing change in culture, but they also began to realize the moral issues with slavery and began doing things to help free slaves. According to “The Whole North Is Not Abolitionized” by James J. Gigantino II, in 1804 the Gradual Abolition Act was passed by New Jersey which granted freedom to children born of slaves. As a boy you were freed at the age of 25 and as a girl you were freed at the age of 21. From here on out in New Jersey and a few other states across the country recognized slavery only as a term for slaves born in the U.S. The abolition of slavery was a very slow process in the United States and didn’t become formally known as the abolition movement until after the Second Great Awakening when people began to support emancipation of slaves on religious grounds. Abolitionist ideas increasingly took place in the 1830s throughout northern culture as it spread into churches and politics.


When the abolition movement began in the late 18th century its popularity and effort towards ending slavery grew gradually during the antebellum period all the way up to the Civil War with larger and larger forms of abolition that wouldn’t of happened without the brilliant ideas thought of by the leading groups and people in the movement.

Early Abolitionism

Before the abolition of slavery became a larger movement and carried on by white Americans, there were many forms of early abolitionism that contributed to antislavery movement. According to A People and a Nation, individual blacks had their own ways of resisting slavery. Slaves sometimes would slack off when they weren’t being watched to make their working conditions less harsh. Many women slaves contributed to ending slavery in a more harsh way by poisoning their owners. One story of, “A woman named Ellen, hired as a cook in Tennessee in 1856, quietly put mercury poison into a toasted apple for he unsuspecting mistress,” (page 272 A People and a Nation). Women slaves also tried to control their pregnancies to improve their physical conditions. Many slaves ran away up north and into the woods to try and escape slavery as well. But if slaves were to do something the most to try and help their cause it would be to violently rebel.

Slave Rebellions

Every day slaves would attack their owners at very high price of possibly death. Many slaves tried to form together and start a rebellion against the slaveholders, one of the most famous being Gabriel’s Rebellion of 1800. According to A People and a Nation, Gabriel was an enslaved Virginia blacksmith who saw benefits from fighting for freedom and equality from whites, as the recent slave revolt in 1793 at St. Dominique was seen as successful. Gabriel began visiting black Congregational and Methodist churches to spread his word. He gained many followers and the group of revolters planned to attack Richmond on the night August 30, 1800 where they would set fire to the city, seize the capital, and capture governor, James Monroe. The plan of the rebellion was put off due to heavy rain and the word soon got out causing many of the rebels to be hung and jailed, so Gabriel’s Rebellion was never able to take place. Gabriel’s Rebellion put fear into many southerners and motivated number and numbers of slaves to get out and do something to help them achieve freedom. Day after day slaves worked hard for their slaveowners and did whatever it took to enhance their freedom and movement towards immediate emancipation, but it was not enough. It seems as though what slaves were doing was helping their individual selves more so than helping the whole cause, so slaves had to take in account new strategies to help them towards freedom, and possibly combine these strategies with another race to get the Abolition Movement onto its long and gradual path. Before black communities began to combine their ideas with whites, they took a little more action themselves.


African American Societies

After the legal introduction of slavery from the Constitutional Convention of 1787, many slaves began their rebellious ways of poisoning, slacking off in the fields, controlling pregnancies, and acting with violence against heir owners which would and did not end slavery, so slaves needed to think of new ways to better their situations as slaves and keep the abolition on its gradual path. African American slaves began to build their own societies that would meet together and help end slavery. From reading The Struggle Against Slavery, one of the largest societies was the African Benevolent Society created in 1808. This society was made to meet the needs of the free black community. This society included a constitution to show white Americans that blacks could act as citizens in American life. This society and many others were looking to show the whites that they had their own sense of autonomy and were able to control their own institutions. As the work toward ending slavery enlarged with the new free black societies, it still wasn’t enough to really help its cause. They soon needed help from another source to broaden the abolition movement. This next form of abolition came out of help from the white race.


The White Race Step In

According to the “Abolitionist Movement” by, in the 1820s powerful religious movements from evangelical people came about because they wanted to end sinful practice in order to hold God’s will in society. Many call this movement the Second Great Awakening which gave will to many different reform movements including the abolishment of slavery. Evangelical reformers spread the word of abolitionism and had major effect on the following names: William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore D. Weld, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and Elizur Wright Jr. who sought immediate emancipation. These people would soon collaborate to create something that set the Abolition Movement on an even more upward path towards fighting the institution of slavery.

William Lloyd Garrison

After evangelical reformers spread the word of abolitionism through their powerful religious movements, it took its toll on one guy who put the start on the Abolition Movement to its large and powerful path all the way to the Civil War. According to “Abolitionist Movement” by, Mr. William Lloyd Garrison was one of the largest faces in the antislavery movements and he first contributed to the Abolition Movement in 1831 by writing in his newspaper in Boston, Massachusetts known as the Liberator. Garrison wrote in the Liberator expressing his many views on slavery and why it was morally wrong, which were widely supported by the free black population. In the year of 1833, Garrison, the Tappans, and 60 other delegates of both races met in Philadelphia to form one of the largest antislavery societies of the era. In December of 1833, the American Anti-slavery Society was formed, which accepted anyone no matter what race, class, or gender they may have been. This society saw slavery as a sin and promoted non-violence, immediate emancipation, and disapproval of racial prejudice. According to A People and a Nation, the American Anti-Slavery Society had reached its peak in 1838 when it had over 2,000 affiliates and 300,000 members. Abolitionist Movement by provides other information to show that the northern free black community was richly involved in this society as it provided a large portion of its moral and financial support. The society contributed to the Abolition Movement in other ways by producing many antislavery pieces of literature, and sending agents and petitions into Congress for the repeal of slavery. The American Anti-Slavery Society has contributed to the advancement and gradual growth in the antislavery movement due to its brilliant, abolitionist founders.

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Abolition and Politics
The abolition movement soon finds its way into politics when the U.S. House of Representatives issued the “gag rule” which banned the consideration of antislavery petitions in Congress. From here many northerners became fearful of their liberties and began voting on antislavery politicians to help their cause. The American Anti-Slavery Society soon split due to personal morals causing the formation of the Liberty Party who nominated an abolitionist presidential candidate, which helped majorly in the spread of antislavery ideology across the whole country.

Largest Forms of Abolitionism

The Abolition movement continued to grow when many abolitionist colleges were founded in the mid 1840’s including Oberlin College, and the Oneida Institute. Leading up to Abraham’s Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the Abolition movement went through it’s largest forms of resistance. In 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe portrays the sufferings and humanities of slavery, which went around the nation and touched millions of people. During the 1850’s one of the biggest things that freed slaves was the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad freed thousands of slaves into the northern states. In affiliation with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, was a former slave who helped with the freeing of slaves and freed over 300 total. There were many societies, colleges, pieces of literature, etc. that gradually strengthened the Abolition Movement over time, and especially between the 1830s and all the way up to the Civil War that were greatly influenced by the start of brilliant individuals and ideas to help fight the terrible institution of slavery.

So What?

The support of the Abolition Movement gradually expanded during the Antebellum period all the way up to the Civil War with bigger and better forms of abolition that wouldn’t of happened without the brilliant minds groups behind it all. The antislavery movements first began with small movements that were more apt to helping a single black’s cause vs. every slave in the South by slacking of during working hours, the controlling of pregnancies, running away, and violence towards their owners. The abolition movements began to grow even more when people of the free black community began to gather together and build their own societies that further helped their independence in the U.S. and when abolitionist ideas were among the white race, in which began when evangelical thinkers began powerful, religious reform movements that included the abolishment of slavery. Evangelical reformers affected a specific group of individuals largely that would put the Abolition Movement on an even larger path towards fighting slavery. Many white individuals began posting newspapers and building powerful societies to fight against slavery, which then led its way into politics and into colleges that were under the influence to fight against slavery. Before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the American Civil War, both the Underground Railroad and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, were two of the largest faces of abolitionism that topped off the movement. The Abolition Movement was one of the most powerful movements in all of United States history and lasted for over 60 years, so there must be underlying reasons for this. The reasons are up for many thoughts and interpretations, but they mainly lie behind the minds that started the strong movement through their transformative ideas.

Find Out More About the Abolition Movement

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