Reformers realized that the gradual approach to ending slavery had failed. Moreover, the numbers of enslaved persons had sharply increased because the cotton boom in the Deep South made planters increasingly dependent on slave labor. Beginning in about 1830, the American antislavery movement took on new life. Soon it became the most pressing social issue for reformers.
William Lloyd Garrison
Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison stimulated the growth of the antislavery movement. In 1829 Garrison left Massachusetts to work for the country's leading antislavery newspaper in Baltimore. Impatient with the paper's moderate position, Garrison returned to Boston in 1831 to found his own newspaper, The Liberator.
" I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now that I was Tree ... I felt like I was in heaven."
—Harriet Tubman, on her escape from slavery, 1849
Is American Slavery Compassionate or Cruel?
More than any other factor, slavery isolated the South from the rest of the United States. While abolitionists cried out to bring the cruel practice to an end, Southern slaveholders defended the only way of life they knew.
Sojourner Truth, former slave, 1851
Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! ... I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?
I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Jeremiah Jeter, Southern slaveholder, c. 1820
I could not free them, for the laws of the State forbade it. Yet even if they had not forbidden it, the slaves in my possession were in no condition to support themselves. It was simple cruelty to free a mother with dependent children. Observation, too, had satisfied me that the free negroes were, in general, in a worse condition than the slaves. The manumission [setting free] of my slaves to remain in the State was not to be thought of. Should I send them to Liberia? Some of them were in a condition to go, but none of them desired to. If sent, they [would] be forced to leave wives and children belonging to other masters [on nearby plantations], to dwell in a strange land.
Learning From History
1. Why do you think Sojourner Truth was an effective speaker?
2. Why didn't Jeremiah Jeter just free his slaves?
3. Do the two excerpts contradict each other? In what way?
Garrison was one of the first white abolitionists to call for the "immediate and complete emancipation [freeing]" of enslaved people. Promising to be "as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice," he denounced the slow, gradual approach of other reformers. In the first issue of his paper he wrote: "I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD."
Garrison was heard. He attracted enough followers to start the New England Antislavery Society in 1832 and the American Antislavery Society the next year. The abolitionist movement grew rapidly. By 1838 the antislavery societies Garrison started had more than 1,000 chapters, or local branches.
The Grimke Sisters
Among the first women who spoke out publicly against slavery were Sarah and Angelina Grimke. Born in South Carolina to a wealthy slaveholding family, the sisters moved to Philadelphia in 1832.
In the North the Grimke sisters lectured and wrote against slavery. At one antislavery meeting, Angelina Grimke exclaimed,
“As a Southerner, I feel that it is my duty to stand up ... against slavery. I have seen it! I have seen it!”
The Grimkes persuaded their mother to give them their share of the family inheritance. Instead of money or land, the sisters asked for several of the enslaved workers, whom they immediately freed.
Angelina Grimke and her husband, abolitionist Theodore Weld, wrote American Slavery As It Is in 1839. This collection of firsthand accounts of life under slavery was one of the most influential abolitionist publications of its time.
African American Abolitionists
Although white abolitionists drew public attention to the cause, African Americans themselves played a major role in the abolitionist movement from the start. The abolition of slavery was an especially important goal to the free African Americans of the North.
Most African Americans in the North lived in poverty in cities. Although they were excluded from most jobs and were often attacked by white mobs, a great many of these African Americans were intensely proud of their freedom and wanted to help those who were still enslaved.
African Americans took an active part in organizing and directing the American Antislavery Society, and they subscribed in large numbers to William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator. In 1827 Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm started the country's first African American newspaper, Freedom's Journal. Most of the other newspapers that African Americans founded before the Civil War also promoted abolition.
Born a free man in North Carolina, writer David Walker of Boston published an impassioned argument against slavery, challenging African Americans to rebel and overthrow slavery by force. "America is more our country than it is the whites'—we have enriched it with our blood and tears," he wrote.
In 1830 free African American leaders held their first convention in Philadelphia. Delegates met "to devise ways and means for the bettering of our condition." They discussed starting an African American college and encouraging free African Americans to emigrate to Canada.
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 Maryland in 1838 and settled first in Massachusetts and then in New York.
As a runaway, Douglass could have been captured and returned to slavery. Still, he joined the Massachusetts Antislavery Society and traveled widely to address abolitionist meetings. A powerful speaker, Douglass often moved listeners to tears with his message. At an Independence Day gathering he told the audience:
“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham ... your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless . . . your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery.”
For 16 years, Douglass edited an antislavery newspaper called the North Star. Douglass won admiration as a powerful and influential speaker and writer. He traveled abroad, speaking to huge antislavery audiences in London and the West Indies.
Douglass returned to the United States because he believed abolitionists must fight slavery at its source. He insisted that African Americans receive not just their freedom but full equality with whites as well. In 1847 friends helped Douglass purchase his freedom from the slave-holder from whom he had fled in Maryland.
"I was born a slave in Ulster County New York," Isabella Baumfree began when she told her story to audiences. Called "Belle," she lived in the cellar of a slaveholder's house. She escaped in 1826 and gained official freedom in 1827 when New York banned slavery. She eventually settled in New York City.
In 1843 Belle chose a new name. "Sojourner Truth is my name," she said, "because from this day I will walk in the light of [God's] truth." She began to work in the movements for abolitionism and for women's rights.
Reading Check Explaining Why did Frederick Douglass return to the United States?
Student Web Activity
Visit tarvol1 .glencoe.com and click on Chapter 14—Student Web Activities for an activity on the abolitionist movement.
The Underground Railroad was neither "underground" nor a "railroad." It was a secret organization to help African Americans escape from slavery. The escape of Henry Brown is one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the Underground Railroad.
Henry Brown Henry "Box" Brown escaped slavery by having himself sealed into a small box and shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia. Although "this side up" was marked on the crate, he spent a good part of the trip upside down. When news of his escape spread, he wrote an autobiography and spoke to many antislavery groups.
"It all seemed a comparatively light price to pay for liberty."
—Henry "Box" Brown
---After his wife and children were sold to a slaveholder in another state, Brown was
determined to escape.
---Another man transported the crate, with Brown in it, to a shipping company in Richmond, Virginia.
---From there, the crate was sent to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Office.
---Twenty-six hours later, the top of the crate was pried off and Brown emerged, a free man.
The Underground Railroad
Some abolitionists risked prison—even death —by secretly helping African Americans escape from slavery. The network of escape routes from the South to the North came to be called the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad had no trains or tracks. Instead, passengers on this "railroad" traveled through the night, often on foot, and went north—guided by the North Star. The runaway slaves followed rivers and mountain chains, or felt for moss growing on the north side of trees.
Songs such as "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" encouraged runaways on their way to freedom. A hollowed-out gourd was used to dip water for drinking. Its shape resembled the Big Dipper, which pointed to the North Star.
“When the river ends in between two hills,
Follow the drinkin' gourd,
For the Ole Man's waitin' for to carry you to freedom.
Follow the drinkin' gourd.”
During the day passengers rested at "stations"—barns, attics, church basements, or other places where fugitives could rest, eat, and hide until the next night's journey. The railroad's "conductors" were whites and African Americans who helped guide the escaping slaves to freedom in the North.
In the early days, many people made the journey north on foot. Later they traveled in wagons, sometimes equipped with secret compartments. African Americans on the Underground Railroad hoped to settle in a free state in the North
or to move on to Canada. Once in the North, however, fugitives still feared capture. Henry Bibb, a runaway who reached Ohio, arrived at "the place where I was directed to call on an Abolitionist, but I made no stop: so great were my fears of being pursued."
After her escape from slavery, Harriet Tub-man became the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Slaveholders offered a large reward for Tubman's capture or death.
The Underground Railroad helped only a tiny fraction of the enslaved population. Most who used it as a route to freedom came from the states located between the northern states and the Deep South. Still, the Underground Railroad gave hope to those who suffered in slavery. It also provided abolitionists with a way to help some enslaved people to freedom.
The antislavery movement led to an intense reaction against abolitionism. Southern slaveholders—and many Southerners who did not have slaves—opposed abolitionism because they believed it threatened the South's way of life, which depended on enslaved labor. Many people in the North also opposed the abolitionist movement.
---Refer to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC The Underground Railroad map on page 423 in your textbook.
“I sometimes dream that I am pursued, and when I wake, I am scared to death.”
—Nancy Howard, 1855
Many enslaved African Americans escaped to freedom with the help of the Underground Railroad.
1. Movement. Which river did enslaved persons cross before reaching Indiana and Ohio?
2. Analyzing Information. About how many miles did an enslaved person travel from Montgomery, Alabama, to Windsor, Canada?
Opposition in the North
Even in the North, abolitionists never numbered more than a small fraction of the population. Many Northerners saw the antislavery movement as a threat to the nation's social order. They feared the abolitionists could bring on a destructive war between the North and the South. They also claimed that, if the enslaved African Americans were freed, they could never blend into American society.
Economic fears further fed the backlash against abolitionism. Northern workers worried that freed slaves would flood the North and take jobs away from whites by agreeing to work for lower pay.
Opposition to abolitionism sometimes erupted into violence against the abolitionists themselves. In the 1830s a Philadelphia mob burned the city's antislavery headquarters to the ground and set off a bloody race riot. In Boston a mob attacked abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and threatened to hang him. Authorities saved his life by locking him in jail.
Elijah Lovejoy was not so lucky. Lovejoy edited an abolitionist newspaper in Illinois. Three times angry whites invaded his offices and wrecked his presses. Each time Lovejoy installed new presses and resumed publication. The fourth time the mob set fire to the building. When Lovejoy came out of the blazing building, he was shot and killed.
The South Reacts
Southerners fought abolitionism by mounting arguments in defense of slavery. They claimed that slavery was essential to the South. Slave labor, they said, had allowed Southern whites to reach a high level of culture.
Southerners also argued that they treated enslaved people well. Some Southerners argued that Northern workers were worse off than slaves. The industrial economy of the North employed factory workers for long hours at low wages. These jobs were repetitious and often dangerous, and Northern workers had to pay for their goods from their small earnings. Unlike the "wage slavery" of the North, Southerners said that the system of slavery provided food, clothing, and medical care to the workers.
Other defenses of slavery were based on racism. Many whites believed that African Americans were better off under white care than on their own. "Providence has placed [the slave] in our hands for his own good," declared one Southern governor.
The conflict between proslavery and antislavery groups continued to mount. At the same time, a new women's rights movement was growing, and many leading abolitionists were involved in that movement as well.
Reading Check Explaining Why did many Northerners oppose the abolition of slavery?
SECTION 2 ASSESSMENT
Checking for Understanding
1. Key Terms Write a short paragraph in which you use these key terms: abolitionist, Underground Railroad.
2. Reviewing Facts Describe the American Colonization Society's solution to slavery.
3. Individual Action What role did Harriet Tubman play in the antislavery movement?
4. Comparing Compare the arguments of Northerners with Southerners who opposed abolitionism.
5. Organizing Information Use a diagram like the one below to identify actions that abolitionists took to free enslaved people.
6. Geography Skills Study the map of the Underground Railroad on page 423. Why do you think more enslaved people escaped from the border states than from the Deep South?
Informative Writing Research the life of an abolitionist. Write a one-page biography that describes important events in his or her life.
The Women's Movement
Guide to Reading
Women reformers campaigned for their own rights.
Taking Notes As you read the section, use a chart like the one below to identify the contributions these individuals made to women's rights.
Read to Learn
• how the antislavery and the women's rights movements were related.
• what progress women made toward equality during the 1800s.
Groups and Institutions Women in the 1800s made some progress toward equality.
Preview of Events
1837 Mary Lyon establishes Mount Holyoke Female Seminary
1848 First women's rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York
1857 Elizabeth Blackwell founds the New York Infirmary for Women and Children
Women who fought to end slavery began to recognize their own bondage. On April 19, 1850, about 400 women met at a Quaker meetinghouse in the small town of Salem, Ohio. They came together "to assert their rights as independent human beings." One speaker stated: "I use the term Woman's Rights, because it is a technical phrase. I like not the expression. It is not Woman's Rights of which I design to speak, but of Woman's Wrongs. I shall claim nothing for ourselves because of our sex.... [Me should demand our recognition as equal members of the human family...."
Women and Reform
Many women abolitionists also worked for women's rights. They launched a struggle to improve women's lives and win equal rights. Like many of the women reformers, Lucretia Mott was a Quaker. Quaker women enjoyed a certain amount of equality in their own communities. Mott gave lectures in Philadelphia calling for temperance, peace, workers' rights, and abolition. Mott
Why It Matters
The Seneca Falls Convention
Throughout the nation's history, women had fought side by side with the men to build a new nation and to ensure freedom. Even though the Declaration of Independence promised equality for all, the promise rang hollow for women.
Female reformers began a campaign for their own rights. In 1848 Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention. One of the resolutions demanded suffrage, or the right to vote, for women. This marked the beginning of a long, hard road to gain equal rights.
---Refer to photo Gallery images on page 426 & 427 in your textbook.
Raising the Status of Women
Lucretia Mott (below) and Susan B. Anthony were leaders in the effort to allow women a greater role in American society.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal."
— Declaration of the Seneca Falls Convention, 1848
Gaining the Right to Vote, 1848-1920
The Seneca Falls Convention led to the growth of the woman suffrage movement.
1848 Seneca Falls Convention
1850 First national women's rights convention held in Worcester, Massachusetts
1866 Susan B. Anthony forms Equal Rights Association
1869 Women granted voting rights in Wyoming Territory
1878 Woman suffrage amendment first introduced in U.S. Congress
1884 Belva Lockwood runs for president
1893 Colorado adopts woman suffrage
1896 Utah joins the Union, granting women full suffrage
1910-1918 States including Washington, Kansas, and Michigan adopt woman suffrage
1919 House and Senate pass the federal woman suffrage amendment
1920 Tennessee ratifies the Nineteenth Amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It becomes law on August 26, 1920.
also helped fugitive slaves and organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. At the world antislavery convention in London, Mott met Elizabeth Cady Stanton. There the two female abolitionists joined forces to work for women's rights.
The Seneca Falls Convention
In July 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and a few other women organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. About 200 women and 40 men attended.
The convention issued a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions modeled on the Declaration of Independence. The women's document declared: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal."
The women's declaration called for an end to all laws that discriminated against women. It demanded that women be allowed to enter the all-male world of trades, professions, and businesses. The most controversial issue at the Seneca Falls Convention concerned suffrage, or the right to vote.
Elizabeth Stanton insisted that the declaration include a demand for woman suffrage, but delegates thought the idea of women voting was too radical. Lucretia Mott told her friend, "Lizzie, thee will make us ridiculous." Frederick Douglass stood with Stanton and argued powerfully for women's right to vote. After a heated debate the convention voted to include the demand for woman suffrage in the United States. (See page 617 of the Appendix for excerpts of the Seneca Falls Declaration.)
Maria Mitchell gained world renown when she discovered a comet in 1847. She became a professor of astronomy and the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the first African American woman in the nation to earn a law degree.
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.
Helen Keller overcame the challenges of an illness that left her deaf, blind, and mute to help others with similar disabilities.
Susette La Flesche was a member of the Omaha tribe and campaigned for Native American rights.
The Movement Grows
The Seneca Falls Convention paved the way for the growth of the women's rights movement. During the 1800s women held several national conventions. Many reformers—male and female—joined the movement.
Susan B. Anthony, the daughter of a Quaker abolitionist in rural New York, worked for women's rights and temperance. She called for equal pay for women, college training for girls, and coeducation—the teaching of boys and girls together. Anthony organized the country's first women's temperance association, the Daughters of Temperance.
Susan B. Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton at a temperance meeting in 1851. They became lifelong friends and partners in the struggle for women's rights. For the rest of the century, Anthony and Stanton led the women's movement. They worked with other women to win the right to vote. Beginning with Wyoming in 1890, several states granted women the right to vote. It was not until 1920, however, that woman suffrage became a reality everywhere in the United States.