The American Abolitionist Movement

Primary Source Set

The abolitionist movement espoused the view that slavery was morally wrong, and that the United States should ban slavery and emancipate all enslaved people. Some states had banned slavery during the colonial period or shortly after independence, often due to advocacy by Quakers and other religious people objecting to slavery. However, slavery persisted in parts of the American mid-Atlantic and the entirety of the American South. As the expansion of the US westward created the potential for new states where slavery could be legal, the abolitionist movement took shape, mounting increasing political activism between 1820 and the outbreak of Civil War in 1860. Abolitionists included former slaves such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, publishers and writers such as William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe, politicians such as Senator Charles Sumner, and feminists such as Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone, who, at times, saw the causes of women’s rights and the abolition of slavery as related. Ultimately, the goal of the abolitionist movement was partially enacted with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, and fully achieved with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

Additional resources for research

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, HathiTrust, Digital Public Library of America.

  2. American Abolitionism, Indiana University.

  3. “I will be heard!”: Abolition in America, Cornell University.

  4. Resistance and Abolition, the Library of Congress.

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