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Anti-Slavery Society

Anti-Slavery Society

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Committees were chosen to draft a constitution for a national Anti-Slavery Society, nominate a list of officers, and prepare a declaration of principles to be signed by the members. Dr. A. L. Cox of New York, while these committees were absent, read something from my pen eulogistic of William Lloyd Garrison; and Lewis Tappan and Amos A. Phelps, a Congregational clergyman of Boston, afterwards one of the most devoted laborers in the cause, followed in generous commendation of the zeal, courage, and devotion of the young pioneer. The president, after calling James McCrummell, one of the two or three colored members of the convention, to the chair, made some eloquent remarks upon those editors who had ventured to advocate emancipation. At the close of his speech a young man rose to speak, whose appearance at once arrested my attention.

I think I have never seen a finer face and figure; and his manner, words, and bearing were in keeping. "Who is he?" I asked of one of the Pennsylvania delegates. "Robert Purvis, of this city, a colored man," was the answer. He began by uttering his heart-felt thanks to the delegates who had convened for the deliverance of his people.

He spoke of Garrison in terms of warmest eulogy, as one who had stirred the heart of the nation, broken the tomb-like slumber of the Church, and compelled it to listen to the story of the slave's wrongs. He closed by declaring that the friends of colored Americans would not be forgotten. "Their memories," he said, "will be cherished when pyramids and monuments shall have crumbled in dust. The flood of time, which is sweeping away the refuge of lies, is bearing on the advocates of our cause to a glorious immortality."

A list of officers of the new society was then chosen: Arthur Tappan, of New York, president, and Elizur Wright, Jr., William Lloyd Garrison, and A. Cox, secretaries.

A beautiful and graceful woman, in the prime of life, with a face beneath her plain cap as finely intellectual as that of Madame Roland, offered some wise and valuable suggestions, in a clear, sweet voice, the charm of which I have never forgotten. It was Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia. The president courteously thanked her, and encouraged her to take a part in the discussion.

Since I wrote you a week since I have been upon the go-go-go. Have spoken ten times, been mobbed thrice, once most rousingly. On Saturday last I went to Hartford in this county. Stopped at the tavern and found it full of men who had come to mob me. I talked with them some, got my dinner and at two o'clock the bell rung. I went and found a respectable number of decent orderly intelligent people commingled with about 20 white savages. I kept talking amidst great confusion for about three quarters of an hour when I found myself unable, to be heard and told them if any one of them would speak I would give way but we could not all talk at once. One of them commenced an oration when the audience moved an adjournment to a private house. Then we formed a abolition society of about 40 members. The mob swearing we should never have a society. We then appointed another meeting for the evening. When we were disturbed as before. Whenever I commenced speaking they commenced singing and thus alternated for some time until finally we adjourned to the schoolhouse for a prayer meeting. I was told by the leader that I could not speak in Hartford. I replied that I would try it next Monday at one o'clock.

Monday morning the ruffians began to assemble, only, having been warned out the day previous, every one with his cudgel in his hand. About 300 of them were assembled by eleven o'clock. The veriest savages I ever saw. At the hour of meeting a fearless, noble band of women assembled but we were delayed in commencing and the women went to praying that the Lord would make the wrath of men to praise him. The meeting-house was on the opposite side of the Square of the town.

The mob was in the vicinity of the house where I was, when I made my appearance they commenced their ribaldry and

shouts, pushing each other upon me, etc. They then made a rush ahead of me for the house. I finally got in, took my stand on the seat of the pulpit and made an effort to be heard. Succeeded in pronouncing one sentence so as to be

heard and then confusion, curses, cries of drag him out, kill him, etc., accompanied with brandishing of clubs succeeded. Finally their Captain General got as near to me as he could and with his club raised proposed terms to me.

They were that in twenty minutes I should leave town never to return or lecture there again. I told them that I was an American citizen and could not so far forget my duty and my rights as such as to render obedience to their direction. By this time I had opened the door of the room thinking that a retreat to the open air would give me a better field for action. One of the mobocrats in obedience to the cry, drag him out, aided me in my design, as he seized me by the left arm and pulled away with all his might to drag me from the pulpit.

I finally got out of doors. About a half dozen of the men had hold of me in the public square for a half hour. A man has just called for me - it is most sundown and I must go five miles and lecture tonight. Suffice it to say that the Lord delivered me out of their hands and that evening I lectured four miles distant and formed a society. Farewell, dear wife. The Lord is my protection. Have no fears on my account.

A beloved friend from New Bedford prevailed on Frederick Douglass to address the convention. He came forward to the platform with a hesitancy and embarrassment, necessarily the attendants of a sensitive mind in such a novel position. After apologizing for his ignorance, and reminding the audience that slavery was a poor school for the human intellect and heart, he proceeded to narrate some of the facts in his own history as a slave, and in the course of his speech gave utterance to many noble thoughts and thrilling reflections.

I shall never forget his first speech at the convention - the extraordinary emotion it excited in my own mind. I think I never hated slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly, my perception of the enormous outrage which is inflicted by it, on the godlike nature of its victims, was rendered far more clear than ever.

It was at once deeply impressed upon my mind, that, if Frederick Douglass could be persuaded to consecrate his time and talents to the promotion of the anti-slavery enterprise, a powerful impetus would be given to it, and a stunning blow at the same time inflicted on northern prejudice against a colored complexion.

I had not been quite three years from slavery and was honestly distrustful of my ability, and I wished to be excused. Besides, publicity might discover me, to my master, and many other objections presented themselves. But Mr. Collins was not to be refused, and I finally consented to go out for three months, supposing I should in that length of time come to the end of my story and my consequent usefulness.

Here opened for me a new life - a life for which I had had no preparation. Mr. Collins used to say when introducing me to an audience, I was a "graduate from the peculiar institution, with my diploma written on my back." The three years of my freedom had been spent in the hard school of adversity. My hands seemed to be furnished with something like a leather coating, and I had marked out for myself a life of rough labor, suited to the hardness of my hands, as a means of supporting my family and rearing my children. Young, ardent, and hopeful, I entered upon this new life in the full gush of unsuspecting enthusiasm. The cause was good, the men engaged in it were good, the means to attain its triumph, good.

In this enthusiastic spirit I dropped into the ranks of freedom's friends and went forth to the battle. For a time I was made to forget that my skin was dark and my hair crisped. I found, however, full soon that my enthusiasm had been entravagant, that hardships and dangers were not all over, and that the life now before me had its shadows also, as well as its sunbeams.

Many came, no doubt from curiosity to hear what a negro could say in his own cause. Fugitive slaves were rare then, and as a fugitive slave lecturer, I had the advantage of being the first one out. Up to that time, a colored man was deemed a fool who confessed himself a runaway slave, not only because of the danger to which he exposed himself of being retaken, but because it was a confession of a very low origin. Some of my colored friends in New Bedford thought very badly of my wisdom in thus exposing and degrading myself.

Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, the first of our injured race were brought to the shores of America. They came not with glad spirits to select their homes, in the New World. They came not with their own consent, to find an unmolested enjoyment of the blessings of this fruitful soil. The first dealings which they had with men calling themselves Christians, exhibited to them the worst features of corrupt and sordid hearts; and convinced them that no cruelty is too great, no villainy, and no robbery too abhorrent for even enlightened men to perform, when influenced by avarice, and lust. Neither did they come flying upon the wings of Liberty, to a land of freedom. But, they came with broken hearts, from their beloved native land, and were doomed to unrequited toil, and deep degradation. Nor did the evil of the bondage end at their emancipation by death. Succeeding generations inherited their chains, and millions have come from eternity into time, and have returned again to the world of spirits, cursed and ruined by American Slavery.

The propagators of the system, or their immediate ancestors very soon discovered its growing evil, and its tremendous wickedness and secret promises were made to destroy it. The gross inconsistency of a people holding slaves, who had themselves "ferried o'er the wave," for freedom's sake, was too apparent to be entirely overlooked. The voice of Freedom cried, "emancipate your Slaves." Humanity supplicated with tears, for the deliverance of the children of Africa. Wisdom urged her solemn plea. The bleeding captive plead his innocence, and pointed to Christianity who stood weeping at the cross. Jehovah frowned upon the nefarious institution, and thunderbolts, red with vengeance, struggled to leap forth to blast the guilty wretches who maintained it. But all was vain. Slavery had stretched its dark wings of death over the land, the Church stood silently by—the priests prophesied falsely, and the people loved to have it so. Its throne is established, and now it reigns triumphantly.

Nearly three millions of your fellow citizens, are prohibited by law, and public opinion (which in this country is stronger than law), from reading the Book of Life. Your intellect has been destroyed as much as possible, and every ray of light they have attempted to shut out from your minds. The oppressors themselves have become involved in the ruin. They have become weak, sensual, and rapacious. They have cursed you—they have cursed themselves—they have cursed the earth which they have trod. In the language of a Southern statesman, we can truly say "even the wolf, driven back long since by the approach of man now returns after a lapse of a hundred years, and howls amid the desolation of slavery.

When I first went to the Northern States, which is about ten years ago, although I was free as to the law, I was made to feel severely the difference between persons of different colours. No black man was admitted to the same seats in churches with the whites, nor to the inside of public conveyances, nor into street coaches or cabs: we had to be content with the decks of steam-boats in all weathers, night and day, - not even our wives or children being allowed to go below, however it might rain, or snow, or freeze; in various other ways, we were treated as though we were of a race of men below the whites.

But the abolitionists boldly stood up for us, and through them things are much changed for the better. Now, we may sit in any part of many places of worship, and are even asked into the pews of respectable white families; many public conveyances now make no distinction between white and black. We begin to feel that we are really on the same footing as our fellow citizens. They see we can and do conduct ourselves with propriety, and they are now admitting us in many cases to the same standing with themselves.

During the struggles which have procured for us this justice from our fellow-citizens, we have been in the habit of looking in public places for some well-known abolitionists, and if none that we knew were there, we addressed any person dressed as a Quaker; these classes always took our part against ill usage, and we have to thank them for many a contest in our behalf. We were greatly delighted by the zealous efforts and powerful eloquence in our cause of George Thompson, who came from our English friends to aid our suffering brethren. He was hated and mobbed by bad men amongst the whites; they put his life in great danger, and threatened destruction to all who sheltered him. We prayed for him, and did all we could to defend him. The Lord preserved him, and thankful were we when he escaped from our country with his life.

At that time, and ever since, we have had a host of American friends, who have laboured for the cause night and day; they have nobly stood up for the rights and honour of the coloured man; but they did so at first in the midst of scorn and danger. Now, thank God, the case is very different Mr. William Lloyd Garrison, who was hunted for his life by a mob in the streets of Boston has lately been chairman of a large meeting in favour of abolition, held in Fanueil Hall, the celebrated public hall of Boston, called "the Cradle of Liberty."

The slave system is one of constant danger, distrust, suspicion, and watchfulness. It debases those whose toil alone can produce wealth and resources for defense to the lowest degree of which human nature is capable, to guard against mutiny and insurrection, and this wastes energies which otherwise might be employed in national development and aggrandizement.

In states where the slave system prevails, the masters directly or indirectly secure all political power and constitute a ruling aristocracy. In states where the free-labor system prevails, universal suffrage necessarily obtains and the state inevitably becomes sooner or later a republic or democracy.

The two systems are at once perceived to be incongruous - they are incompatible. They never have permanently existed together in one country, and they never can. Hitherto, the two systems have existed in different states, but side by side within the American Union. This has happened because the Union is a confederation of states. But in another aspect the United States constitute only one nation. Increase of population which is filling the states out to their very borders, together with a new and extended network of railroads and other avenues, and an internal commerce which daily becomes more intimate, is rapidly bringing the states into a higher and more perfect social unity of consolidation. Thus, these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results.

The educated and wealthy class despise the Negro because they have robbed him of his hard earnings or, at least, have got rich off the fruits of his labor; and they believe if he gets his freedom, their fountain will be dried up, and they will be obliged to seek business in a new channel.

The lowest class hate him because he is poor, as they are, and is a competitor with them for the same labor. The poor, ignorant white man, who does not understand that the interest of the laboring classes is mutual, argues in this wise: "Here is so much labor to be performed, that darkey does it. If he was gone, I should take his place."

Through 240 years of indescribable tortures, slavery has wrung out of the blood, bones, and muscles of the Negro hundreds of millions of dollars and helped much to make the nation rich. At the same time, it has developed a volcano which has burst forth, and, in a less number of days than years, has dissipated this wealth and rendered the government bankrupt!

Maine History Online

Images from Maine Historical Society

Maine's organized anti-slavery efforts began in 1833 with the formation of the first Maine Anti-Slavery Society, which followed the William Lloyd Garrison approach of immediate abolition and moral suasion.

Despite the Garrisonian rejection of political action to stop slavery, some of the Anti-Slavery Society leaders did support political parties and their efforts as did some other Mainers who opposed slavery. They worked through the Liberty, Free Soil and Free Democratic parties.

But Maine as a whole was ambivalent about abolitionism. The Anti-Slavery societies generally did not receive broad support from the press or the public. The groups sought to educate the public and rouse interest in their cause through lectures from notable abolitionists, meetings, and traveling agents.

The response often was unenthusiastic. Austin Willey, an agent for the Liberty Party and later editor of anti-slavery newspapers in the state, met considerable resistance when he traveled around to speak about the evils of slavery. In some communities, no one wanted to provide him housing. In others, he was refused a meeting place and faced angry crowds.

But the lack of response did not deter the anti-slavery advocates. The Portland Anti-Slavery Society, revived in 1850 after several earlier efforts, had an ambitious program of speakers and activities, including support of a mission in Canada that took in fugitive slaves.

The Portland group had black and white members, men and women, somewhat unusual for an anti-slavery society, most of which had separate men's and women's groups.

The reasons for Maine's ambivalence are many. One obstacle to gaining support was economic. Maine relied on shipping, especially along the east coast and into the West Indies. Ships from Maine did business with concerns that relied on slave labor. Cotton mills in Biddeford and Saco, Lewiston, and Waterville bought cotton grown by slaves on Southern plantations.

Churches and other organizations with national bodies often were reluctant to denounce slavery and, hence, their Southern members. Therefore, many Maine churches declined to get involved in the abolitionist movement.

In 1844, the Portland Anti-Slavery Society minutes noted that efforts to find a church willing to host its lectures had turned up only one church for one evening: the Baptist Church on Free Street.

Even the City of Portland was reluctant to let the Anti-Slavery Society used public facilities at City Hall. In 1844, people were assembled at City Hall for a meeting, then turned away because "there were some speakers present of whom no mention had been made to the mayor." The city passed a resolution that the group not be permitted to use city facilities in the future, because William Lloyd Garrison and other speakers "have been known to use the language the most vile and abusive of our best men and our best institutions."

The group again requested the use of city facilities in 1850 when it became active again and invited speakers to talk about slavery. It held Lyceum lectures at least through 1851 and reported no problems in securing meeting locations.

Other groups besides the Anti-Slavery societies in various communities also advocated for the abolitionist cause. Religious Antislavery Conventions that began in about 1844 urged churches to support the cause, providing religious arguments against slavery. Some of the same people who were involved in the Maine and local Anti-Slavery Societies worked with the Religious Antislavery Conventions.

Samuel Fessenden of Portland, speaking in 1845, said, "are slave laws binding upon us, or are they void as opposed to the Law of God, and to the principles of eternal justice?" He urged participants to obey God, which might include protecting fugitive slaves.

Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802-1837), a native of Albion and graduate of Waterville College, advocated against slavery in a newspaper he published in Alton, Illinois. His printing press was thrown in the Mississippi River and, in November 1837, while he and supporters were installing new presses, a mob that gathered tried to set fire to the building and ultimately destroyed the press and shot Lovejoy and others.

Lovejoy became known as a martyr to the cause of abolition. Maine abolitionists certainly knew about his efforts and his death and probably were inspired by them. Lovejoy's brother, The Rev. Joseph C. Lovejoy, who lived in Massachusetts, frequently came to Maine to support the antislavery cause here.

Support of slavery -- or lack of support for anti-slavery took many forms. In 1855, a section of Biddeford became known as "Nebraska." The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act that Congress passed repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed people in Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery.

Maine Democrats split into "Nebraska" and "anti-Nebraska" factions, the former supporting the spread of slavery and the latter opposing it.

Several residents of an area in Biddeford were reportedly quite outspoken in their support of the pro-slavery Nebraska faction. A man advertised in a Biddeford newspaper in 1854 that he wanted to sell his house to emigrate to "Nebraska," referring to the neighborhood in Biddeford. The name of the area stuck.

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Portland's Anti-Slavery Society, which was active in the 1840s and 1850s, worked to educate the public about the evils of slavery and the need for immediate abolition.

Age of Reform

Worcester played an innovative leadership role in the Age of Reform. Because of its central location in the Northeast, Worcester was a hub of numerous railroad and stage lines. This made Worcester relatively easy to get to, and its many hotels and meeting halls could accommodate large groups.

As a result, it was a routine stop on lecture circuits and hosted a steady stream of conventions. Noted abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who resided in Worcester in the 1850s, enthusiastically described Worcester as a “seething centre of all the reforms.”

The reform spirit caught a range of social, moral, intellectual, and political issues in its net. The Lyceum movement focused on intellectual stimulation and debate. Hydropathy, or water cures, drew national attention. Sylvester Graham introduced a new diet void of meat and spirits. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. Dorothea Lynde Dix improved treatment of the insane. Phrenology-the study of the head to determine a person’s character-gained wide popularity. Some took up the cause of dress reform for women (the fashion of tight corsets to create “wasp” waists actually broke women’s ribs. Citizen’s formed Peace Societies. Missionaries traveled far and wide to save souls in foreign lands. Bronson Alcott and others established utopian communities to escape the commercializing and industrial world around them. Horace Mann initiated major education reform. Young women for the first time gained access to higher education with the founding of Mount Holyoke College in 1837. Everywhere people were working to make a better world.

Of all the reform movements, three stand out either for their large following or for their long-term impact on American society and culture-temperance, abolition, and women’s rights.


Anti-Slavery in Worcester

Worcester’s citizens were, on the whole, vehemently against slavery. The Free Soil (anti-slavery) Party was founded here in 1848. The Butman riot in 1854 is another example of the strong sentiment of the times. Asa O. Butman was a slave hunter, paid to find fugitives in the North. Through deceit he managed to gain custody of two fugitive slaves in Boston and, despite violent mob protest, he was successful. As a participant later related: Crowds assembled from every quarter, the Court House was chained up to keep them out, the United States military guarded the prisoners, and they were sent back to slavery at an expense of about $15,000. Word got out that Butman was coming slave hunting in Worcester. The Massachusetts Spy posted notices that Butman, the kidnapper was in town and citizens formed a vigilance committee to watch the Temperance Hotel where he was staying. In fear of the mounting rage, Butman pulled a pistol out of his pocket, whereupon a warrant was issued and he had to appear in court the next day. By morning the crowd was huge and furious. Fearing for his life, Butman asked for protection. It was granted, after he promised never again to come to Worcester. As anti-slavery men escorted him out of town, he suffered punches, kicks and a lot of well-deserved verbal abuse and assault with eggs and other objects. This was the last attempt to execute the Fugitive Slave Law in Massachusetts.

Moral Reform

Social Welfare

Worcester’s population quadrupled between 1828, when the Blackstone Canal opened, and 1850, increasing from roughly 4,000 to more than 17,000. Beginning with Irish canal workers, successive waves of European immigrants, as well as swarms of young people from the countryside, came to the city in search of opportunity. In the unregulated economy of the times, families often found the line between financial well-being and dislocation thin indeed. In response to instability, insecurity, and increasing levels of poverty, local men and women from the middle and upper ranks established institutions to address social welfare issues (then known as moral reform). Mission Chapel and Worcester Children’s Friend Society were both experiments, the first spearheaded by a man, the second by a woman. Both provided assistance to the poor, but with different underlying philosophies and with dramatically differing results. Mission Chapel was established to”To give to the poor and neglected a place of worship free . . .” and to “furnish the destitute inhabitants of our own country the means of Christian instruction and moral improvement.” The Chapel was funded and designed by Ichabod Washburn and included facilities for industrial schools. Mission Chapel stands today this day at the corner of Summer and Bridge Streets. Worcester Children’s Friend Society was established “. . . for the purpose of providing for the support and education of indigent children . . .” Anstis K. Miles, established the Worcester Children’s Friend Society to provide a safe home for orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children. While they appointed men to serve as advisers and provide financial backing, the Society was entirely managed by women. By virtue of their gender, women were economically, politically, and legally dependent. But together, these women exerted moral influences “bestowed” upon their gender and made a lasting difference. In 1902, its leadership discontinued the orphan’s home, instead placing children in private homes or providing counseling in a family setting. This shift, which aroused controversy at the time, enabled the Society to provide care for many more children. The agency continues to add services as need arises. As in the past, helping to keep families together motivates their work as Children’s Friend, Inc.


Women's Rights

The woman’s rights movement began at Seneca Falls in 1848. That meeting spurred interest in forming a national movement. In May of 1850, women from the Seneca Falls meeting who were attending an anti-slavery convention in Boston got together to plan a National Woman’s Rights Convention. Nine met, with seven of them chosen to do the work. They selected Worcester as the location. Paulina Wright Davis wrote the call to the convention, presided over it, created the first permanent woman’s rights organizations, and founded the first woman’s rights newspaper. The convention, held on October 23 & 24, 1850, attracted approximately 1,000 people. Of this number, 268 “declared themselves” which meant they could vote. Of that number, 84 were from Worcester. In 1851, the second National Woman’s Rights Convention was also held in Worcester. Historians believe it probably had more to do with geography than the political climate of the city. But at the same time, Worcester was, as Reverend Higginson said, a seething centre of all the reforms, a sympathetic place to hold a convention on such a radical topic as equal rights for women. To learn more about the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850, please visit Worcester Women’s History Project.


Temperance Reform in Worcester

In longevity and membership, the crusade against strong drink was by far the largest reform movement of the early 1800s. Calvinist clergy spearheaded the movement, but it soon attracted a diverse collection of supporters, more so than any other reform. They ranged from pious church women to militant feminists, from freethinkers to fundamentalists, from the high and mighty to the lowly and degraded. By 1834 there were roughly 5,000 state and local temperance societies. While the movements was strongest in the usual havens for reform-New England, New York and among transplanted New Englanders in the Midwest-it also made headway in the South and West. Temperance support factionalized and declined by the later 1830s. However, after the financial panic of 1837, it revived under new leadership and with a new agenda. Workingmen had come to associate inebriation with poverty. They formed Washington Temperance Societies, names after the first president of the country, and worked to convert men of their own ranks to abstinence. Temperance had a large following in Worcester, but hardly unanimous support. When industrialist and philanthropist Ichabod Washburn proposed to build a new house in 1829 without supplying the usual barrels of rum, he found it difficult to assemble a work crew. He explained in his autobiography:I went around to see if enough men could be found in the neighborhood for the raising with such fare as I would furnish, namely: lemonade, crackers and cheese, and small beer. Among my own workmen at the shop, I could find only a few willing to help. At a Town Meeting, March 23, 1835, a vote was taken on the motion: That the Town advise the Selectmen to withhold their approbation for License to sell ardent Spirits from all Retailers and Innholders, exdepting for manufacturing and medicinal purposes. It passed, but voters were nearly evenly divided, with 325 yeas and 272 nays. Local hotel proprietors protested by taking down their signs and closing for several days, to the consternation of stage travelers. The temperance issue so polarized citizens that violent public confrontations erupted between respectable gentlemen.

Timeline of Reform

Key Dates in History

1819First Worcester County Anti-Slavery Convention held at Court House

1830First Worcester County Temperance Society organized at Old South Church

1833State Lunatic Asylum opened on Summer Street, first in the nation

1837Ministers’ Convention Against Slavery held at Town Hall

1838Worcester County Anti-Slavery Society formed, North & South divisions Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Convention held at Brinley Hall, first in Massachusetts

1839Worcester Anti-Slavery Sewing Circle formed

1839Whigs held first state convention at the Unitarian Church

1844Convention protesting the admission of Texas as a slave state held at Town Hall

1846Peace Convention held at Brinley Hall

1848Free Soil Party, a new national political party, organized at City Hall

1849 Children’s Friend Society founded

1850 First National Woman’s Rights Convention held at Brinley Hall

1851 Second National Woman’s Rights Convention held at Brinley Hall

1854 Mass meeting to protest passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill at City Hall

1855 Mission Chapel dedicated

1857 Children’s Temperance Festival held at Mechanics Hall

What Is the Anti-Slavery Society? (with pictures)

The American Anti-Slavery Society was an abolitionist group, established in 1833 for the purpose of outlawing slavery, which at the time was legal in the United States. In fact, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 ensured slavery’s survival and growth for the foreseeable future. Local abolition organizations existed, but they weren’t very successful. The American Colonization Society (ACS), which advocated “repatriating” freed slaves to Africa, enjoyed some support but was controversial. On the other hand, the violent slave rebellions like Nat Turner’s 1831 uprising only killed people and strengthened the determination of the South to impose stern discipline on those of its slaves who revolted.

It was in this unsettled political climate that the Anti-Slavery Society was launched as a national organization by a convention of abolitionists in Philadelphia. Two Americans prominent in abolitionist circles, William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan, are generally credited with starting the Society. Garrison wrote the founding declaration, which essentially characterized slavery as a sin and called for its abolition without consideration or recompense for the slaveholders. Compensating slaveholders for freed slaves would recognize them still as property with only economic value, Garrison reasoned. The declaration went on to criticize the ACS’ aims as “delusive, cruel and dangerous.”

Highly successful in its stated goals of establishing chapters nationwide, at its peak the Anti-Slavery Society had over 1300 local chapters and a quarter-million members nationwide. Frederick Douglass, who had escaped from slavery as a young man and himself had become a pre-eminent leader of the abolition movement, was a leader of the Society and frequently addressed its meetings. Other freed and escaped slaves were members of the Society, but the bulk of its membership was drawn from the ranks of philanthropy and religious circles. The Anti-Slavery Society's aims, though, were very controversial, and its meetings were sometimes disrupted, and some of its offices and printing presses destroyed.

In 1834, anti-abolitionist riots, sometimes called the Farren Riots, moved through the streets of New York City for four days. The causes of these riots are generally held to be a basic misunderstanding of the Society’s goals. After the riots, some members of the Society, including Tappan, felt compelled to issue a statement clarifying those goals. They insisted that they were not promoting intermarriage between the races, for example, nor were they encouraging lawlessness or federal usurpation of states’ rights.

Tensions escalated within the Society. Garrison took the radical position of denouncing the US Constitution as legitimizing slavery. In addition, he and those in his camp supported the assumption of significant roles in the Society by women, another radical position which led a handful of anti-feminists to leave the Society.

In 1839, Tappan and his more moderate supporters split from the Society, forming the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. They were oriented toward working within the system, using such tools as moral suasion and political activity to accomplish their goals. In 1840, they formed the Liberty Party for the purpose of putting up abolitionist candidates for public office.

The schism within the abolitionist movement didn’t slow the growth of anti-slavery sentiment, however. Slavery became a greater issue in local elections and ultimately in national elections as well, with the formation of the Free-Soil and Republican Parties. The election of 1860 put Abraham Lincoln in the White House and set in motion a series of events that led to the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution. These amendments not only ended slavery as an institution in the US, they officially made the freed slaves citizens of the US with all attendant rights and privileges.

The fact that full civil rights wouldn’t be accorded freed slaves, or their children, or even their grandchildren, for another century or so, didn’t diminish the work of the Anti-Slavery Society and the different groups it spawned. Their goals had largely been accomplished. Slavery had been outlawed in the US, the former slave-owners were not compensated, and the expatriation of freed slaves was not pursued as official policy subsequent to emancipation. Thus, in 1870, the Anti-Slavery Society declared victory and disbanded itself.

Among the abolitionist movement’s most prominent spokesmen was the Massachusetts activist and publisher William Lloyd Garrison, who started the newspaper The Liberator in 1831. Garrison had nothing but contempt for gradual emancipation, a policy he called “pernicious,” and would brook no compromise on the issue. His newspaper was widely influential, since larger papers reprinted its articles. Some Southerners believed it was no coincidence that the Nat Turner rebellion, a famous slave insurrection in which fifty-five whites perished, took place the same year that Garrison began his paper.

There was no evidence that Turner had heard of Garrison or The Liberator. But the connection did not need to be that direct. Many Southerners were shocked at the tone of abolitionist literature, which seethed with loathing for the entire South and at times seemed to urge violent resistance to slavery. Such rhetorical assaults on an entire region only served to discredit local anti-slavery activity in the South. As of 1827, there were more than four times as many anti-slavery societies in the South as in the North. The abolitionist movement, in peppering their message with belligerent and vitriolic anti-Southern rhetoric, made it all but impossible for Southern anti-slavery activists not to be viewed with suspicion. Massachusetts senator Daniel Webster, no friend of slavery, blamed the abolitionists of the North for having contributed in no small measure to Southern obstinacy.

Sectional conflict was further aggravated by the Wilmot Proviso, which was introduced in Congress in 1846 by Congressman David Wilmot, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. The proviso was attached to an appropriations bill authorizing funds for the Mexican War, then under way. Its premise was simple: Slavery would be prohibited in any territory acquired from Mexico in the war. Wilmot was outlining a point of view that became known in American history as the “free-soil” position, according to which slavery would remain undisturbed in the states in which it already existed but would be prevented from expanding into
new territories, such as those that might be added to the American domain as a result of the war with Mexico. Although it never became law (it passed the House numerous times but failed in the Senate), the proviso contributed greatly to the tension between North and South.

Henry Bibb Speaks Out Against Slavery

Henry Bibb, a formerly enslaved person, spoke out about the horrors of slavery. After freeing himself, he urged enslaved people to “break your chains and fly for freedom.” Henry was born enslaved in Kentucky in 1815. His mother was enslaved and his father was his enslaver&hellip Read More

Raiders from Kentucky come to Young’s Prairie in Cass County and try to kidnap at least nine formerly enslaved people.

One thought on &ldquo Abolitionist Brooklyn (1828 &ndash 1849) &rdquo

A Center for Brooklyn History, Weeksville Heritage Center & Irondale Ensemble Project collaboration

All Content is ©2012-2014 In Pursuit of Freedom. All Rights Reserved

Click here to learn about a consortium of projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program

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17 April 1839

The Anti-Slavery Society is formed by Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Fowell Buxton and other abolitionists to campaign against slavery worldwide.

The Society convened the world’s first anti-slavery convention in London.

Anti-Slavery organised the first ever international slavery convention.

Concerned consumers who care about the products they buy are not just a new phenomenon. In 1850, Anti-Slavery developed ‘slave-free produce’ consumer action groups, promoting alternatives to slave plantation sugar.

We helped establish the Brussels Act, the first comprehensive anti-slavery treaty, which allowed the inspection of ships and the arrest of anyone transporting slaves.

1904 – 1913

Campaigned against slavery practices perpetrated in the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium. The campaign eventually helped bring an end to Leopold’s tyranny.

Nsala of Wala with the hand and foot of his five year old little girl. Photograph taken by Alice Seeley Harris, who documented Belgian Congo abuses for Anti-Slavery Society.

Helped end the indentured labour system in the British colonies after campaigning against the use of Indian and Chinese “coolies”.

Successfully lobbied for the League of Nations inquiry into slavery, which resulted in the 1926 Slavery Convention that obliged all ratifying states to end slavery.

Helped establish the Human Rights Fund for Indigenous People.

An original supporter of the End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking campaign (ECPAT) and helped set up the UK branch.

One of the organisers of the 1998 Global March against Child Labour, which helped lead to the adoption of a new ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182).

Young boy working in a brick kiln in India. Anti-Slavery successfully campaigned for the adoption of the ILO Child Labour Convention

Lobbied the Brazilian government to introduce a National Plan for the Eradication of Slavery.

Successfully lobbied to make trafficking of sexual and labour exploitation a criminal offence in the UK.

Organised a major campaign which resulted in the United Arab Emirates freeing over 3,000 children trafficked to be used as camel jockeys, and UAE, Qatar and Kuwait abolishing the practice.

Child camel jockey in the United Arab Emirates. Thanks to our campaign children have been replaced by robots to ride the camels at the races.

Influenced the development of the Council of Europe Convention against trafficking in human beings, which is the first international standard to guarantee trafficked people minimum standards of protection and support. The convention was ratified by the UK government at the end of 2008.

Helped push for the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

We successfully campaigned to criminalise slavery in Mauritania (2007).

The United Nations’ decision to create a new Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. They will report directly to the UN Human Rights Council on measures that governments need to take to tackle slavery practices in their respective countries. This is the first new UN mechanism on slavery in over 30 years.

We supported a former slave, Hadijatou Mani in international ECOWAS (the Economic Community Of West African States) court that found the state of Niger guilty of failing to protect her from slavery . The ruling set a legal precedent for Niger and all other ECOWAS countries to protect people from slavery.

In 2008, Anti-Slavery International helped Hadijatou Mani to win a landmark case against the state of Niger for failing to protect her from slavery.

Our Home Alone campaign played a big part in persuading the International Labour Organization to adopt a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in June 2011, which secures the rights of millions of domestic workers across the globe.

We successfully campaigned for the UK government to sign up to a new EU anti-trafficking law, providing legal basis for protection and justice for trafficking victims.

We campaigned for the UK Government to sign up to the EU trafficking law that set the basis for protection of slavery victims in the UK.


Following persistent campaigning by Anti-Slavery, the UK Government introduced the Modern Slavery Act in July 2015. The Act introduced some victim protection measures, in particular for trafficked children and a requirement on businesses to report on efforts to tackle slavery in their supply chains.


A landmark case brought by Anti-Slavery and its Mauritanian partner, SOS-Enclaves, saw the conviction of two slave-owners. This was only the second ever such conviction in Mauritania and first resulting in a jail sentence. This represented a big step forward to Mauritania and a sign that the authorities and moving beyond promises and holding slave owners to account. It offers hope to other victims of slavery and acts as deterrent to exploiters.


Forced marriage was included in latest estimates of people in slavery by the ILO. Anti-Slavery has advocated for this recognition for years – forced marriage represents a fundamental denial of rights to millions of women and girls. Ending it is critical to advancing and promoting the rights of women and girls and hence in ending slavery.

Visit: 239 South Lundy Mail: 208 South Broadway Ave Salem Ohio 44460

Salem, Ohio was founded by Zadok Street, a clockmaker from New Jersey, and John Straughan (pronounced Strawn), a Pennsylvania potter, on April 30, 1806. The city was named after Salem, NJ, where Zadok Street originally immigrated. The word 'Salem' comes from the word 'Jerusalem' which means 'city of peace' and many of the early townspeople belonged to the Religious Society of Friends, known as the Quakers. Salem was incorporated in 1830.

Salem was a major hub in the American Underground Railroad and was the headquarters for the Ohio American Anti-Slavery Society, later known as the Western Anti-Slavery Society that published THE ANTI-SLAVERY BUGLE. These papers were printed in Salem and are available for research at the Salem Historical Society.

In April 1850, Salem hosted the first Women's Rights Convention in Ohio, the second such convention in the United States.

Over its history, Salem thrived on an industrial-based economy, advantageously located between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. For several decades, the largest corporations located in Salem included American Standard, Eljer, Mullins Manufacturing, Deming Pump, and Salem China.

The Salem Historical Society and Museum

The Salem Historical Society was formed in 1947, with Roy W. Harris as president.

In December, 1971, W. Ray Pearce donated the first museum, Pearce Building, at 208 South Broadway Avenue in memory of his wife, Elizabeth. The corner brick building, Schell Building, was purchased in 1974 and the two were then connected. In 1979 a meeting room was added in the back of the Schell Building with a grant from the Salem Community Foundation.

Freedom Hall was built in 1987 as a replica of Liberty Hall, a carpenter shop once used by abolitionists to have secret meetings in an upstairs room above the shop.

Our newest addition, The Dale Shaffer Research Library, was the dream of Dale Shaffer, noted Salem historian and author. He helped to plan the design and then left his entire estate to the Historical Society to ensure its construction. It was dedicated August 7, 2012.

Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Prior to the American Civil War, activists in northern cities formed anti-slavery organizations to promote the abolitionist cause. Detroit’s Anti-Slavery Society was founded on April 26, 1837, the same year Michigan became a state. The new state constitution included a ban on slavery. Abolitionists organized to fight the institution of slavery in the South and to agitate against northern newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press, which ran ads for the recapture of escaped slaves despite a ban on the practice.

Prominent black citizens Robert Banks, William Lambert and Madison J. Lightfoot helped form the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society, which included well-known whites like Edwin W. Cowles, Robert Steward, George F. and A.L. Porter, as well as Shubael Conant, the Society’s first president and for whom the Conant Gardens Historic District is named. The Society not only demanded the abolition of slavery, but also focused attention on “the elevation of our colored brethren to their proper rank as men.” Despite a brief existence, the precedent set forth by the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society gave rise to more abolitionist groups – some public, some secret – that often employed more radical means of aiding their cause.

Following in the footsteps of the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society, the Colored Vigilant Committee of Detroit was formed on December 20, 1842 by prominent black residents of Detroit, including George DeBaptiste and William Lambert. This organization helped more than 1,500 fugitives escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad during the 1850s. Following passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, such activities opened sympathizers to legal repercussions.

Another highly secretive organization founded by William Lambert, the African-American Mysteries (also known as The Order of the Men of Oppression), employed more clandestine means of operation to support fugitive slaves escaping through Detroit. These and other abolitionist efforts, by both groups and individuals, assisted thousands of fugitives on their travels on the Underground Railroad in Michigan.

Once the former slaves had been delivered to freedom in Canada, they had opportunities and support there as well. The Refugee Home Society, founded on May 21, 1851, worked to provide donated goods to refugees on both sides of the border and organized a stock company to buy land for formerly enslaved persons attempting to start new lives. Josiah Henson, the model for the well-known character “Uncle Tom,” formed the Dawn Settlement in 1842, offering refugee slaves the opportunity to purchase land, work, and become involved in a community of other refugees. Similar settlements in Essex and Puce, Ontario, were formed in the same spirit, to give refugee blacks a chance to live in communities of their own in their new homeland.

Beginning with the voice of the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society, the abolitionist cause in Michigan and across the Detroit River found influential and outspoken advocates in the years leading up to the Civil War. The Society’s early example provided a precedent for other organizations, which in turn made Detroit a primary “last station” on the road to freedom.

Watch the video: The Abolitionist Movement (May 2022).