Abolitionist Movement

 

I. Introduction

Abolitionist Movement, reform movement during the 18th and 19th

centuries. Often called the antislavery movement, it sought to end the

enslavement of Africans and people of African descent in Europe, the

Americas, and Africa itself (see Slavery in Africa). It also aimed to end the

Atlantic slave trade carried out in the Atlantic Ocean between Africa, Europe,

and the Americas.

The historical roots of abolitionism lay in black resistance to slavery. Such

resistance began during the 15th century as Africans enslaved by Europeans

often sought to kill their captors or themselves. By the late 1700s Christian

morality, new ideas about liberty and human rights that came about as a

result of the American and French revolutions, and economic changes led to

an effort among blacks and whites to end human bondage.

Those who employed slave labor in the Americas resisted abolitionist efforts.

First, slaveholders believed that their economic prosperity demanded the

continuation of slavery. In order to work the large plantations in the

Americas, huge amounts of labor were required. African slaves were cheaper

and more readily available than white indentured laborers from Europe, and

because they already had some immunity to European diseases, Africans

were less likely to die from those diseases than were Native Americans.

Second, employers of slave labor feared for their own safety if the slaves

were freed. Due to the large number of slaves brought to the Americas,

several regions had slave majorities. Slave owners worried that if slaves were

suddenly freed, they might take over or exact revenge on their former

masters. Although abolitionism existed in Europe and in the American

colonies of several European nations, the struggle between antislavery and

proslavery forces was most protracted, bitter, and bloody in the United

States.

As a result of the abolitionist movement, the institution of slavery ceased to

exist in Europe and the Americas by 1888, although it was not completely

legally abolished in Africa until the first quarter of the 20th century. While the

abolitionist movement's greatest achievement was certainly the liberation of

millions of black people from servitude, it also reflected the triumph of

modern ideas of freedom and human rights over older social forms based on

privileged elites and social stratification.

 

II. Background

The Atlantic slave trade began in Africa in the mid-1400s and lasted into the

19th century. Initially, Portuguese traders purchased small numbers of

slaves from kingdoms on the western coast of Africa and transported them

for sale in Portugal and Spain. The Atlantic slave trade did not become a

huge enterprise until after European nations began colonizing the Americas

during the 1500s. During the 1600s the Dutch pushed the Portuguese out of

the trade and then contested the British and French for control of it. By 1713

Britain had emerged as the dominant slave-trading nation. In all, the trade

brought more than 10 million Africans to America, and at least another 1

million Africans died in passage.

The brutality of the Atlantic slave trade and of slavery itself played an

important role in the origins of the abolitionist movement. Those subjected

to the trade suffered horribly: They were chained, branded, crowded onto

disease-ridden slave ships, and abused by ship's crews. Many Africans died

on the ships well before they arrived in the Americas. Once in the colonies,

slaves were deprived of their human rights, made to endure dreadful

conditions, and forced to perform backbreaking labor. Despite the horrors of

the slave trade and slavery, white opposition to the institution developed

slowly. The economies of many of the colonies were based on huge

plantations that required large labor forces in order to be profitable. Also,

views of society at the time were very hierarchical, and many people simply

accepted the fact that classes of people they considered lower than

themselves should be enslaved. In addition, the widespread perception that

blacks were culturally, morally, and intellectually inferior to whites contributed

to the longevity of the system. It was not until the early 18th century that

attitudes began to change.

 

III. Early Influences on Abolitionism

Black resistance to enslavement, Christian humanitarianism, economic

change, and intellectual developments all contributed to the rise of

abolitionist movements in European countries—most notably Great

Britain—and in the colonial Americas. Black resistance was the most

important of these factors. Since the 1500s Africans and persons of African

descent had attempted to free themselves from slavery by force. Revolts

were most common in the West Indies and Brazil, where the majority of the

population was black. But there were also uprisings in Mexico, Venezuela,

and the British colonies in North America.

 

A. Maroonage

Until the end of the 18th century, rebellious slaves did not really challenge

the institution of slavery itself. Instead, they simply sought to free

themselves from it. While this rebellion occasionally took the form of slave

revolts or uprisings, more frequently slaves tried to free themselves by

escape. Sometimes, especially in the West Indies and Latin America,

escaped slaves formed maroon communities. These settlements were

located in inaccessible areas, to prevent recapture by the authorities, and

were usually heavily fortified. Maroon communities, many of which endured

for years or decades, became havens for escaped slaves and bases for

attacks on plantations and passersby. In a way, these communities

encouraged antislavery sentiment among whites: The inability of local

authorities to recapture escaped slaves and the periodic violent raids by

members of maroon communities made some whites disturbingly aware of

their vulnerability in a slave society. In addition, whites became more aware

of the inherent cruelty of slavery because slaves were willing to risk severe

punishment and even death to escape from their masters or to rise up

against them. If slaves had submitted meekly to their masters, slavery

would not have been perceived to be oppressive and sinful.

 

B. The Quakers

The first whites to denounce slavery in Europe and the European colonies

were members of the Society of Friends—commonly known as Quakers.

Unlike the prevailing idea of the time that blacks were inferior to whites,

Quakers believed that all people, regardless of race, had a divine spark

inside them and were equal in the eyes of God. These beliefs led them in

the mid-18th century to take steps against slavery in Great Britain and the

British colonies in North America. The first goal of the Quaker abolitionists

was to end slave trading among fellow Quakers because the barbarity of the

buying and selling of slaves was more obvious than that of the institution of

slavery as a whole. It was also generally assumed that if the slave trade was

abolished slavery itself would soon cease to exist. After slave trading among

Friends had been stopped, during the 1760s Quaker congregations began

expelling slaveholders. Under the influence of Quakers in the American

colonies, British Quakers established Britain's first antislavery society, the

London Committee to Abolish the Slave Trade, in 1783.

 

C. Revolutionary Ideas

In the late 18th century an age of revolution began to bring ideas about

equal rights to the forefront, ideas that became a powerful force against

slavery in the Atlantic world. In the past, servitude and slavery had been

taken for granted as part of a class system where the rich dominated the

poor and those of the lower classes were prevented from social

advancement. But the Industrial Revolution, which brought increased

economic opportunity and power to the lower and middle classes, began to

undermine this system. Also, an 18th-century European intellectual

movement known as the Age of Enlightenment asserted that all human

beings had natural rights. The American Revolution (1775-1783) and the

French Revolution (1789-1799), widely seen as revolutions by citizens

against oppressive rulers, transformed this Enlightenment assertion into a

call for universal liberty and freedom.

The successful slave revolt that began in the French colony of

Saint-Domingue in 1791 was part of this revolutionary age. Led by François

Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture, black rebels overthrew the colonial

government, ended slavery in the colony, and in 1804 established the

republic of Haiti, the first independent black republic in the world (see

Haitian Slave Revolt). The revolt frightened slaveholders everywhere,

inspired other slaves and free blacks to action, and convinced religiously

motivated whites that only peaceful emancipation could prevent more

bloodshed.

 

IV. Abolitionism in Europe and the European Colonies

 

A. Eighteenth Century

In Europe, Great Britain had the strongest abolitionist movement. The major

turning point in its development came in 1787 when Evangelical Christians

(see Evangelicalism) joined Quakers in establishing the Society for the

Abolition of the Slave Trade. Led by William Wilberforce, an Evangelical

member of the British Parliament, and Thomas Clarkson, a Quaker skilled in

mass organization, the society initiated petition drives, mass propaganda

efforts, and lobbying in an attempt to end British involvement in slave

trafficking. Although opposed by English merchants, West Indian planters,

and King George III—who equated abolitionism with political radicalism—the

society nevertheless managed to achieve its goal. In 1807 the British

Parliament abolished the slave trade and the British, through diplomacy and

the creation of a naval squadron to patrol the West African coast, began

forcing other European nations to give up the trade as well.

Abolitionism fared less well in continental Europe in the 18th century.

Antislavery societies in continental Europe were narrow, ineffective, elitist

organizations. In France, Jacques Pierre Brissot, a supporter of the French

Revolution, established the Société des Amis des Noirs (Society of the

Friends of Blacks) in 1788, but this group failed in its effort against the slave

trade. Despite its complete lack of success, the French antislavery effort was

the strongest in continental Europe.

 

B. Nineteenth Century

During the 19th century British abolitionism became more radical.

Wilberforce, Clarkson, and their associates had assumed that ending the

slave trade would lead directly to general emancipation (freeing of all slaves).

When it became clear that this would not happen, Clarkson joined with

Thomas Fowell Buxton in 1823 to form the British Anti-Slavery Society, which

at first advocated a gradual abolition of slavery. However, when West Indian

planters refused to make concessions, the abolitionists hardened their

stance, and by the late 1820s abolitionists were demanding immediate slave

emancipation. The great pressure they exerted, combined with continuing

slave unrest, led Parliament to pass the Emancipation Act in 1833. This

enacted gradual, compensated emancipation, which meant that slaves were

freed but were forced to work for their former masters for a period to

compensate them for monetary loss. By 1838 all slaves in the British Empire

were free. Thereafter, British abolitionism fragmented into efforts against the

illegal slave trade, slavery in Africa, and slavery in the United States.

During the 19th century abolitionist societies in other European countries

were far less significant than abolitionist societies in Britain. British

abolitionists influenced The Netherlands and especially France, where they

inspired the creation of Société Française pour l'Abolition de l'Esclavage (French

Society for the Abolition of Slavery) in 1834. This tiny organization had some

success in lobbying the French government. However, it was the overthrow of

the French monarchy and the establishment of a republic in February 1848,

followed three months later by a major slave revolt in the French colony of

Martinique in the Caribbean, that led to the emancipation of all slaves within

the French empire in 1848.

In a similar manner, a domestic revolution and colonial unrest led Spain to

abolish slavery in its colonies of Puerto Rico and Cuba, in 1873 and 1886

respectively. Earlier, negotiations between government officials and planters

had produced emancipation in the Swedish (1847), Danish (1848), and Dutch

(1863) colonies in the West Indies.

 

V. Abolitionism in the United States: Early Movements

Abolitionism in the British colonies in North America developed within the

broader Atlantic antislavery movement. But, unlike the case in Europe,

slavery was a domestic institution in the United States and was primarily

under local (state) control. In addition, slaveholders often dominated the

country's national government.

As elsewhere, black slaves in colonial America encouraged abolitionism by

seeking to free themselves. Although maroon settlements like those in the

Caribbean existed in colonial America, they were much smaller and less

widespread. Slave rebellions, however, were frequent. A major uprising took

place in New York City in 1712, when black and Native American slaves killed

nine whites and wounded seven more. In 1739 a much larger rebellion took

place near Charleston, South Carolina. About one hundred slaves marched

along the Stono River, destroying plantations and killing a few whites.

Slaveholders with the aid of Native Americans put down the rebellion, killing

44 of the rebels.

American Quakers, like their British counterparts, responded to these

uprisings by advocating gradual abolition. By the 1740s Quaker abolitionists

John Woolman and Anthony Benezet were urging other Quakers to cease

their involvement in the slave trade and to break all connections with slavery.

It was not until the American Revolution began in 1775, however, that

abolitionism spread beyond the Society of Friends.

 

A. Revolutionary Abolitionism

The American Revolution invigorated the abolitionist movement. It became

difficult for white Americans, who had fought for independence from Britain in

the name of liberty and universal natural rights, to justify the continuation of

slavery. These ideas, black service in American armies during the revolution,

black abolitionist petitions for emancipation, and the actions of white

antislavery societies, motivated all of the Northern states by 1804 either to

end slavery within their borders or to provide for its gradual abolition. In

1787 Congress had banned slavery in the Northwest Territory (a region

comprising the present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin,

and the eastern part of Minnesota, ceded to the United States by the British

after the American Revolution). Also, during the 1780s and 1790s large

numbers of slaveholders in the Southern states of Maryland and Virginia

freed their slaves.

Despite these early successes, by the mid-1780s the revolutionary

abolitionist movement was in decline. Beyond the freeing of slaves in

Maryland and Virginia, the movement had a negative impact on the South,

where the large majority of American slaves lived. The Haitian Slave Revolt in

1791 and an aborted revolt conspiracy led by the slave Gabriel in Virginia in

1800 convinced Southern whites—who feared they could not control free

blacks—that the slave system had to be strengthened rather than abolished.

Meanwhile, the growth of the cotton industry, fueled by the invention of the

cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793, made slavery a vital part of both the

Southern and the national economies. At the same time, the development of

scientific racism, the idea that blacks were biologically inferior to whites and

were intellectually and morally incapable of self-government, encouraged

state and national legislation that limited the rights of free blacks.

 

B. The Colonization Movement

This deteriorating situation made schemes to colonize black Americans in

Africa, Haiti, and other locations beyond the borders of the United States

attractive to whites and—in the beginning at least—to substantial numbers of

blacks. Massachusetts Quaker Paul Cuffe became the most prominent black

advocate of migration to West Africa. Despite early enthusiasm, by the

1810s most African Americans questioned the justice of mass expatriation,

coming to the conclusion that it was less a movement to emancipate slaves

than an attempt to rid America of its free blacks.

In contrast, white abolitionists during these years supported the program of

the American Colonization Society (ACS), a group established in 1816 in

Washington, D.C., by such prominent slaveholders as Henry Clay and Francis

Scott Key. This organization proposed to abolish slavery gradually in the

United States and relieve white fear of free blacks by transporting

emancipated slaves to West Africa and giving them their own country. Five

years after its founding, the ACS purchased land for a colony in West Africa

and began transporting African Americans there. Named Liberia, the colony

would eventually become the destination for more than 12,000 African

Americans. Faced with increasing black opposition and the insurmountable

logistical difficulties involved in transporting an exponentially rising American

slave population to Africa, the ACS had no chance for success. As these

shortcomings became clear during the late 1820s, Northern abolitionists

formed a more radical movement.

 

VI. Abolitionism in the United States: Later Movements

Two factors account for the radicalization of American abolitionism during the

late 1820s and early 1830s. First, the growing agitation of black abolitionists

and signs of black unrest in the South inspired urgency among white

abolitionists, who feared that maintaining slavery would lead to more

violence. In 1822 free black Denmark Vesey unsuccessfully conspired to lead

a massive slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina; in 1829 David Walker

of Boston published his inflammatory Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the

World; and in 1831 Nat Turner launched a short-lived but bloody slave

uprising in Virginia.

Second, a wave of evangelical revivalism called the Second Great Awakening

inspired a reform spirit in the North. The revivalists argued that America was

in need of moral regeneration by dedicated Christians. They channeled their

fervor into a series of reforms designed to eliminate evils in American

society. These reforms included women's rights, temperance, educational

improvements, humane treatment for the mentally ill, and the abolition of

slavery. Although not all revivalists were abolitionists, during the mid-19th

century the abolitionist movement acquired a new urgency and energy

because of their support.

These two developments influenced the extraordinary career of William Lloyd

Garrison, a white New Englander who became the leading American

abolitionist. Garrison began publishing a weekly abolitionist newspaper called

The Liberator in 1831. In 1833 Garrison, convinced that slavery was a sin

and hoping to avoid more violence, brought together Quaker abolitionists,

evangelical abolitionists, and his New England associates to form the

American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). It aimed at immediate,

uncompensated emancipation and equal rights for blacks. Among early

leaders of the AASS were white abolitionists such as Arthur and Lewis Tappan,

Lucretia Coffin Mott, Theodore Weld, and Lydia Maria Child, and black

abolitionists such as James Forten and Robert Purvis.

Although the so-called immediate abolitionists were never more than a tiny

minority of Americans, the AASS spread rapidly across the North. By 1838 the

society claimed 1,350 affiliates and 250,000 members. It employed

speakers, sent petitions to the U.S. Congress, and mailed abolitionist

propaganda into the South. These efforts produced a fierce reaction. North

and South, angry white mobs opposed changes in race relations. Southern

postmasters refused to deliver antislavery literature, and in 1835 President

Andrew Jackson unsuccessfully petitioned Congress to ban the mailing of

abolitionist pamphlets. The following year, the House of Representatives

passed the gag rule (see Gag Rules), which banned the introduction of

abolitionist petitions in that body. In 1837 abolitionist newspaper publisher

Elijah P. Lovejoy was killed in Illinois while trying to protect his printing press

from a mob.

By the late 1830s, the AASS also faced internal division. Fierce resistance to

abolitionism convinced Garrison and his associates that the entire

nation—not just the South—had to be cleansed of oppression. In addition to

their abolitionist activities, so-called Garrisonians became advocates of

women's rights, denounced organized religion as proslavery, and condemned

all governments for their use of force. It was sinful, Garrisonians contended,

to vote or to hold office. Other abolitionists had a more traditional view of

women, hoped to get the churches to join the abolitionist cause, sought to

engage in politics, and were not entirely opposed to using violent means.

The result was the fracturing of the AASS. While the Garrisonians retained

control of a much-reduced version of that organization, two new groups

emerged. In 1840 Lewis Tappan led evangelical abolitionists of both races in

forming the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society to foster abolitionism

in the nation's churches. The same year, other non-Garrisonians formed the

Liberty Party to nominate abolitionist candidates for public office.

The Liberty abolitionists were themselves divided into two factions. The

radical political abolitionists of western New York, under the leadership of

Gerrit Smith, declared slavery to be illegal everywhere and urged Northerners

to go to the South to help slaves escape. A more numerous Liberty group,

centered in Cincinnati, rejected these provocative tactics. It contended that

Northerners must concentrate on ending slavery where Congress had

jurisdiction—in the territories and the District of Columbia—while encouraging

the formation of abolitionist political parties in the Southern states.

 

A. The Underground Railroad

It was the radical political abolitionists who were most attractive to prominent

black leaders, including former slaves Henry Highland Garnet and—by 1851—

Frederick Douglass. Garnet and Douglass worked closely with the radicals,

especially in their support for the Underground Railroad—the collective name

for a variety of regional semisecret networks that helped slaves escape into

the North and Canada. Many other blacks and whites joined in such work,

among the more famous were Charles T. Torrey, a white Northerner who

helped slaves escape from Virginia and Maryland; John Rankin of Ohio, a

white man who sheltered slaves escaping from Kentucky; and Harriet

Tubman, a former slave who led bands of escapees northward from

Maryland.

The Underground Railroad probably aided around 1,000 slaves per year in

escaping. Its success helped raise awareness in the North about slavery and

pushed supporters of slavery into defensive measures that contributed to

worsening relations between North and South. One of these measures was

the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which made it a crime to help slaves escape

and made it easier for masters to reclaim escapees.

 

B. Territorial Disputes

The annexation to the United States of the slaveholding state of Texas in

1845 and of the Mexican provinces of California and New Mexico in 1848 led

to an irrevocable division between North and South. The question of the

extension of slavery into new territories, not abolition itself, became the

most prominent issue and in 1848 led most Liberty abolitionists to merge

into the larger Free-Soil Party, which opposed the extension. In 1854 the

opening of Kansas Territory to slavery led to the formation of the even larger

Republican Party as the defender of Northern antislavery interests.

Although overshadowed by political developments, abolitionists remained

active. In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe, the daughter of a Connecticut

clergyman, published Uncle Tom's Cabin, a forceful indictment of slavery.

The book quickly became one of the most popular works of the time, and it

was important in spreading antislavery sentiment in the North. At the same

time, black and white abolitionists violently resisted enforcement of the

Fugitive Slave Law. When fighting broke out between proslavery and

antislavery forces in Kansas, abolitionists helped arm the latter group. Most

of them became convinced that slavery could not be abolished peacefully.

Acting on this belief, white abolitionist John Brown led a tiny biracial band in a

raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in October 1859, hoping

to spark a slave rebellion. Although Virginia militia and United States troops

easily thwarted his plan, Brown's actions and his subsequent trial and

execution aroused great sympathy in the North. Along with the victory of

Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Brown's raid and

the Northern reaction to it convinced Southern whites that their proslavery

interests were no longer secure within the United States.

 

C. The Civil War and Emancipation

During the months following Lincoln's election, most of the slaveholding

states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of

America. As the American Civil War began in April 1861, President Lincoln

aimed only to return those states to the Union. From the start of the war,

however, abolitionists pressured him not only to make abolition an objective

of the war but to enlist black troops as well. Military necessity had the most

influence on Lincoln's actions, but abolitionist efforts contributed to his

Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863, which declared the freedom of

slaves within the bounds of the Confederacy.

Meanwhile, Southern slaves used the war as an opportunity to leave their

masters in large numbers. Over 180,000 black men—most of them former

slaves—served in the Union Army, which had conquered the South by the

spring of 1865. The Northern victory and continuing abolitionist agitation led

in December 1865 to the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the

Constitution of the United States, which banned involuntary servitude

throughout the country. With that achievement, the American abolitionist

movement disintegrated, allowing white southerners to replace slavery with a

caste system that persisted for decades. Although technically free, the great

majority of black southerners remained impoverished agricultural workers

well into the 20th century. They faced systematic segregation, inadequate

schools, political disenfranchisement, and lynching.

 

VII. Abolitionism in Latin America

In addition to the Caribbean island colonies of European nations and the

United States, slavery existed throughout Latin America. Local circumstances

varied widely in this vast region. Except in Brazil, formal abolitionist

movements played a minor role in the emancipation of blacks. Instead, a

variety of circumstances gradually pushed slavery toward extinction.

A. The Former Spanish Colonies

There were 1.5 million slaves in Brazil—a former Portuguese colony—in 1870,

but otherwise slave populations in independent Latin American countries

never approached the numbers of those in Caribbean colonies or in the

United States. There were only 3,000 people to be freed in Mexico in 1823

when that country abolished slavery and only 13,000 in Venezuela when it

abolished the institution in 1854. These small numbers reflected a gradual

decline in the profitability of slave labor and a corresponding decline in the

political influence of slaveholders. This decline was a result of changing

economic ideas, as well as the introduction of cheap labor in the form of

contract workers from China. All of these circumstances contrasted with those

in the United States and the Caribbean colonies.

Several other factors contributed to the decline of slavery in Latin America. As

elsewhere, black resistance to enslavement played an important role.

Escape, maroon settlements, and rebellion all weakened Latin American

slavery. Unlike in the United States, the slave population in Latin America

had never sustained itself through natural reproduction, so the abolition of

the Atlantic slave trade struck a telling blow. Other important factors were the

new ideas of equality arising from the Age of Enlightenment and the

revolutions of the late 18th century. During the early 19th century, such

revolutionaries as Simón Bolívar fought for independence from Spain for the

region's Spanish colonies and endorsed universal freedom. The independent

governments they created either weakened slavery or abolished it entirely.

Chile and Mexico in 1823 and the United Provinces of Central America in

1824 abolished slavery as a direct result of their independence movements.

Economic and political forces led Uruguay in 1842, Bolivia and Colombia in

1851, Ecuador in 1852, Argentina in 1853, and Peru and Venezuela in 1854

to terminate the institution. When Brazilian troops invaded and occupied

Paraguay in the 1860s at the end of the War of the Triple Alliance, the

government they established abolished slavery. Since by then the United

States had also abolished slavery, this left Brazil as the only independent

slaveholding nation in the western hemisphere.

 

B. Brazil

Although it started at a later date, the Brazilian struggle for abolition had

more in common with the British and American movements than with the

movements in other Latin American countries. In Brazil politically powerful

sugar and coffee planters staunchly defended slave labor, while abolitionists

established organizations to achieve their goals. It was emancipation in the

United States that inspired a determined Brazilian antislavery movement. In

1868 Joaquim Nabuco, Rui Barbosa, and former slave Luis Gama led an

effort that prodded the Brazilian government to undertake gradual abolition.

In 1871 legislation was passed that called for freeing the children of slaves.

However, the process began to stall in the late 1870s, leading Nabuco to

organize the Sociedade Brasileira contra a Escravidão (Brazilian Anti-Slavery

Society) in 1880, which secured the emancipation of elderly slaves after

1885. The society grew into an increasingly radical movement, and by 1888

unrest on plantations and the refusal of the army to step in to halt the flight

of slaves from their masters brought the slave system to the brink of chaos.

This resulted in the total abolition of slavery in Brazil later that year.

 

VIII. Significance and Legacy

With emancipation in Brazil, legal slavery disappeared from the western

hemisphere, although it lingered in Africa into the 20th century. The abolition

of slavery also did not end comparable systems of labor exploitation, such

as contract labor, sharecropping, child labor, and sweatshops. Nor did

abolitionism succeed in ending racism or in establishing equal political and

social rights for people of African descent in the Americas.

Nevertheless, in the United States, the various European empires, and the

independent states of Latin America, abolitionism destroyed human bondage

as an acceptable institution. It established equal rights principles that have

outlasted post-emancipation efforts by former slaveholders to create caste

systems, and provided a basis for more recent efforts countering racial

segregation and supporting racial justice.

 

 

 

Contributed By:

Stanley Harrold, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Professor of History, South Carolina State University. Author of The Abolitionists and

the South, 1831-1861, Gamaliel Bailey and Antislavery Union, and other books.

See an outline for this article.

Further Reading

HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE

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