Grimke Sisters: Early and Prominent Activists for Abolition and Women’s Rights

 

Editor’s Note:  This entry is a composite of content from three sources:  The National Park Service’s Women’s Rights History, the National Women’s History Museum, and Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

 

Early Years: Two early and prominent activists for abolition and women’s […]

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Abolitionism in the United States was the movement before and during the American Civil War to end slavery in the United States. Historian James M. McPherson defines an abolitionist “…as one who before the Civil War had agitated for the immediate, unconditional and total abolition of slavery in the United States.” He does not include antislavery activists such as Abraham Lincoln or the Republican Party, which called for the gradual ending of slavery. In the Americas and Western Europe, abolitionism was a movement to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. In the 17th century, English Quakers and evangelical Protestants condemned slavery as un-Christian. By that time, most slaves were Africans, but thousands of Native Americans remained enslaved.

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On December 2, 1859, John Brown was executed by Virginia authorities in Charles Town for his ill-fated raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry. Soon after word of his death reached Boston, William Lloyd Garrison, the leading abolitionist in the United States at the time, gave this stirring tribute to Brown.

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Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler

On February 20, 2016 By

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

by Jenny L. Presnell

Published in American National Biography

Introduction: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (9 Aug. 1757-9 Nov. 1854), statesman’s wife and charity worker, was born in Albany, New York, the second daughter of Philip Schuyler, a revolutionary war general, and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. Schooled at home, […]

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Kelley, Abby

On February 19, 2016 By

Abigail (Abby) Kelley was an influential Quaker anti-slavery reformer and a women rights activist who provided inspiration and courage to the women who organized the 1848 Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention. Her activism in Seneca Falls led to the formation of the Wesleyan Methodist Congregation with their public anti-slavery stance and free speech commitment.

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Brown, John

On February 18, 2016 By

John Brown was a controversial figure who played a major role in leading the United States to civil war. He was a devout Christian and lifelong abolitionist who tried to eradicate slavery from the United States through increasingly radical means. Unlike most abolitionists, Brown was not a pacifist and he came to believe that violence was necessary to dislodge slavery. He engaged in violent battles with pro-slavery citizens in Kansas and Missouri, and led a raid on the federal munitions depot at Harper’s Ferry.

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In 1854, William Lloyd Garrison gave a speech in which he opened with: “I am a believer in that portion of the Declaration of American Independence in which it is set forth, as among self-evident truths, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Hence, I am an abolitionist. Hence, I cannot but regard oppression in every form-and most of all, that which turns a man into a thing–with indignation and abhorrence. Not to cherish these feelings would be recreancy to principle. They who desire me to be dumb on the subject of slavery, unless I will open my mouth in its defense, ask me to give the lie to my professions, to degrade my manhood, and to stain my soul. I will not be a liar, a poltroon, or a hypocrite, to accommodate any party, to gratify any sect, to escape any odium or peril, to save any interest, to preserve any institution, or to promote any object. Convince me that one man may rightfully make another man his slave, and I will no longer subscribe to the Declaration of Independence.”

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Garrison, William Lloyd

On February 18, 2016 By

At the age of 25, Garrison joined the anti-slavery movement, later crediting the 1826 book of Presbyterian Reverend John Rankin, Letters on Slavery, for attracting him to the cause. For a brief time he became associated with the American Colonization Society, an organization that promoted the resettlement of free blacks to a territory (now known as Liberia) on the west coast of Africa. Although some members of the society encouraged granting freedom to slaves, others considered relocation a means to reduce the number of already free blacks in the United States. Southern members thought reducing the threat of free blacks in society would help preserve the institution of slavery. By late 1829–1830, “Garrison rejected colonization of blacks in Africa, publicly apologized for his error, and then, as was typical of him, he censured all who were committed to it.

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This Society was formed at Washington, near the last of December, 1816. Though the objects proposed by the Society had, for a considerable time previous to its origin, occupied the thoughts of several enlightened and benevolent individuals, still the Institution owes its origin mostly to the philanthropic efforts of Rev. Dr. Finley of New Jersey, aided by Rev. Samuel J. Mills, and a few others of a kindred spirit. The object to which the attention of the Society is exclusively directed, is to colonize, with their own consent, on the Coast of Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem expedient, the people of colour in our country, already free–and those others, who may hereafter be liberated by the humanity of individuals, or the laws of the States.

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The ten sections of the 1807 act were designed to eliminate all American participation in the trade. Section 1 set the tone. After January 1, 1808, it would “not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such [person] … as a slave, to be held to service or labour.” The act provided an enormous penalty — up to $20,000 — for anyone building a ship for the trade or fitting out an existing ship to be used in the trade.

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