Abolition Movement

Category: Sociology

The abolitionist movement primary goal was the immediate end of slavery and also policy change to stop mild racial discrimination and segregation of the black people. A major difference between the abolitionists and the moderate antislavery advocates is the nature of the problems faced. The abolitionists main challenge or issue was slavery or enslavement based on black skin color.  On the other hand, the moderate antislavery advocates worked to effect policy change after the emancipation of slavery to stop racial discrimination of the African American slaves. Religion played a key role in the emancipation of slaves and was used by the radical abolitionists to argue and fight against slavery. The abolitionist ideas started gaining fame in the Northern churches of the 1830 and led to tensions between the North and the South and the civil war. The South feared the loss of free labor and economic downturn while the North liberal leaders argued against slavery altogether. The Abolition movement aimed at the emancipation of the African American slaves and end to racial segregation based on the biblical principles of equality, freedom and liberty. 

Start of Slavery

Slavery in the South was a powerful economic tool from 1688-1865 due to the agricultural productivity.  According to the United States Census Bureau data of 1860 the slave population of the South had grown to four million by 1860. The slaves were, therefore, the backbone of the economy of South. Loss of free labor from the slaves would be devastating for the Southern plantation farmers .  In the mid 1820-1830, the North begin its criticism of the “peculiar” Southern states due to profiting at the expense of the suffering slaves. Foner notes that the before the outbreak of the Civil War the Northern states and groups engaged in a heavy crusade against slavery ideologies or the “peculiar institution” of the South . However, few slave owners in the South talked for or against slavery. The Southern states differed with the North on an argument by the founding fathers that slavery was a “necessary evil.” The founding fathers mainly in the South argued that the blacks had no claim to equal rights and freedoms.  The ideology that the blacks were inferior formed the basis for the enslavement of the blacks. The South argued that the slavery for the blacks was a guarantee of “perfect equality” and there was no need for equality for a class doomed to menial jobs. The southerners associated the blacks with illiteracy and menial jobs such as construction and farming . 

Beginning  and Demands of the Abolitionist Movements

The American abolishment ideologies were seen to threaten the union and peace between the South and the North.  On the other hand, rationalist thinkers of Enlightenment opposed slavery terming it as an inhume and brutal practice and one that went against the teachings of Christianity . Evangelical and religious groups and also the Quaker group condemned slavery basing their argument on Christian qualities. In the start of the 18th century, there was wide moral disapproval of slavery mainly in the North an ideology that the benefiting South farmers did not take kindly. The South felt that the Northern leaders aimed at economic sabotage. Between 1777 and 1804 all states North of Maryland had abolished and joined the campaign for the end of slavery. However, the West Indies, deep south plantations, and South America stood against any form of abolishment policies. The abolishment in the North was led by several social reformers including Fredrick Douglass. Free blacks also gained independence including brothers Charles Langston and John Mercer Langston. The Langston brothers helped form the Ohio-Antislavery society . 

The wave of emancipations began in the Western Hemisphere, in the early 17th century most states and zones in Spanish America and the British Empire condemned slavery. The Southern slave owners argued that emancipation had severe negative effects noting that the Caribbean economy had suffered a setback in the production of sugar. The abolitionists disagreed noting that the end of slavery was associated with education and quality lives for the slaves and must be achieved. Proslavery writers argued that the Declaration of Independence was enough against slavery and that based on the declaration slavery was a violation of persons right. The declaration state’s that “all men were created equal and entitled to liberty.” However, such a philosophy was largely opposed by the Southern families. John C. Calhoun, a southern plantation farmer, termed the declaration of independence as the “most false and dangerous of all political errors .”

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Leaders of the abolishment movements

Before 1860, the abolishment movements were mainly based at the state level. The United States had no clause that mentioned slavery, and this made it difficult for the federal government to effect any form of policy. Notable anti-abolishment advocates crossed the states including the notorious Southern states in attempts to overturn slavery. The most notable and well-known abolitionists and leaders of movements include founder Lloyd Garrison. Garrison founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 a movement that lasted until 1870. Other notable of the abolitionist movements include brothers Theodore Dwight Weld and Theodore Parker, who formed the world letters . The Theodore brothers were both clergymen who used their influence as religious leaders to preach against slavery. The Theodore philosophy and argument formed the basis of the majority of the abolitionist movements that argued that slavery was against Christian teachings. The argument mainly aimed at the mainstream Christian whites who they accused of being hypocrites for accepting the evilness of slavery .  

Other notable antislavery advocates during the abolitionist movement include John Greenleaf, Lydia Maria Child and James Russell Lowell, who were the heads of the free-black community. Other freelance and articulate heads of the anti-enslavement period include Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown both of whom were former slaves. Finally, Harriet Tubman is also a notable leader in the abolitionist movements of the 1830’s period . 

Difference and similarities of Ideology within the Movements

Different members and leaders of the abolitionist movements had different methods of achieving freedom for the African American slaves. Church-oriented and affiliated leaders of the abolitionist movements advocated for a peaceful struggle. The leaders tried to achieve emancipation mainly by lobbying in both political and social circles. Since the affiliated church leaders argued against slavery on the basis of biblical teachings they could not any form of militant in the struggle. Therefore, the religious leaders were viewed as weak by political and militant group’s leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, who embraced a militant tone towards slavery . 

Garrison demanded the immediate end of slavery without any form of conditions. The militant tone adopted by Garrison deferred from the proposals of other abolitionists who did not directly demand an end to slavery. According to Garrison, the governments were required to end slavery without any compensation for the white plantation owners and also enforce equal rights for everyone regardless of the race. Garrison efforts contributed to the formation of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1822. The society grew to be the largest with a membership of 1300 local chapters. The large membership provided Garrison with the perfect machinery to propagate massive propaganda mainly aimed at the South . The propaganda angered the South, South Carolina banned any form abolitionist movement or group terming them in direct violation of the pact or the union. The Southern postmasters would refuse or sabotage the delivery of any anti-slavery material to distract the Northern group’s massive use of print media mainly New Papers. In 1837, Reverend Elijah Lovejoy was murdered by a mob in Illinois for publishing an abolitionist paper . The murder forced leaders of the movements such as Edward Beecher to take a militant stand in the Alton Riots. Beecher noted that attempts to discuss or reconcile were in vain, and no options were left but to resist. Once again, the militant activists movement such as Anti-Slavery Society gained more grounds. 

Other antislavery leaders who opposed the peaceful religious struggle was Nat Tuner. Turner had a belief that he had been called by God to liberate the black people. Turner took a militant stand and preached to the African American slaves that he had seen both black and white angels flying together in heaven . Turner organized a rebellion choosing July 4th, 1831 as the March day. However, he falls sick, and tuner and his followers launched the rebellion in August 22nd marching to every farm assaulting the white inhabitants who escaped in panic. Turner killed estimated 60 whites and further aggravated the relationships between the North and South. In 1859, John Brown raided a federal arsenal in Harper Virginia in direct violation of federal rules giving the activists groups more courage . 

Civil war

Finally, in 1860 President Abraham Lincoln was elected, Abraham held abolitionist views, and his election marked the start of Southern secession. Finally, the civil war broke in 1861 and 1683 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Finally, in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was signed into law and officially ended slavery. Future groups would be primary focus on equal rights and treatment and end to racial segregation in the next century .

In conclusion, the abolitionist movements aimed at the end of slavery and also racial segregation of the African Americans in access to education, health, housing, recreation and other economic resources. Famous groups include the American Anti-Slavery Society founded in 1833 by John Greenlead. The abolitionist movements were mainly headed by free African American slaves and religious leaders. The movement opposed slavery on the basis of biblical teachings terming it as evil and cruel. While the leaders had a common objective religious groups adopted a peaceful strategy while leaders such as Garrison adopted a militant strategy. The North opposed slavery and argued that the declaration of independence demanded the equality and liberty of all men. The Southern agricultural economy depended heavily on slave free labor and argued that all men were not equal. The South further accused the North of economic sabotage, and civil war broke out in 1860 after the election of Lincoln. Lincon finally declared slavery illegal in 1863 followed by the Thirteen Amendment in 1865. 

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