Tactics, Organizations, And Individuals In The Americas
In discussing abolitionism in the United States and Great Britain, it is important to divide the movement into periods because the tactics, organizations, and individuals the movement attracted evolved in response to changing religious and political ideas. Following the Revolutionary War, the Quakers in Pennsylvania were in the forefront of the abolitionist movement; their tactics and organizations reflected the elite status of their members (wealthy white men) and their belief in gradual abolitionism. They believed that slavery could be gradually abolished by pressuring government representatives to enact laws and statutes against slavery, providing legal aid to runaway slaves, petitioning the federal government to end the importation of slaves and halt the westward expansion of slavery, and pressuring state governments to grant slaves rights.
The Quakers were active in Great Britain as well. In 1783 they formed the London Committee to Abolish the Slave Trade. In 1787 they joined the Evangelical Christians led by William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson to form the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. They led petition drives and lobbied the government, and in 1807 the British slave trade was abolished. The goal in Britain now shifted to gradual abolition and then to immediate abolition. In 1823 Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Thomas Fowell Buxton formed the British Anti-Slavery Society after British West Indian plantation owners were reluctant to abolish slavery, and in 1833 the Emancipation Act (which applied to the British colonies but not to Great Britain itself) was passed. In France, Jacques-Pierre Brissot formed the Society of the Friends of Blacks in 1788, and in 1834 the French Society for the Abolition of Slavery was established. In the Netherlands, the Réveil movement associated with the Dutch Reform Church was formed in the 1840s after British Quakers convinced them that slavery was against the Bible. The Spanish Abolition Society was founded in Madrid in 1865. The major actors in abolitionism throughout the Caribbean and Latin and South America were the slaves and free people of African descent who staged revolts, work stoppages, and insurrections, and ran away. Significant slave uprisings occurred in the nineteenth century in Brazil in Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. Slave revolts and desertions from the plantations led to the emergence of immediatism and the formation in 1880 of the Brazilian Anti-Slavery Society (Joaquim Nabuco was elected president), which started as a small group of abolitionists based in major urban areas. This movement grew in size to include people from various educational and social backgrounds. Other antislavery organizations in Brazil included the Cearense Liberator Society, Bahian Liberator Society, and Abolitionist Confederation.
People of African descent played a critical role in U.S. abolitionism before and after the movement became integrated; some of these include Richard Allen, Prince Hall, James Forten, Harriet Jacobs, and Mary Shadd Carey. Upstate New York had a major community of activists who believed in immediatism, among them Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Austin Steward, and Thomas James. Because they were kept out of the first wave of abolitionism, they were forced to establish their own organizations, newspapers, educational institutions, and churches. They realized early on the importance of using moralism and emotionalism as tactics, and the print media served as the vehicle. Some of those who had escaped slavery wrote and published their narratives, lectured, and helped slaves to escape, and many traveled to Europe to gain support (Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Paul, Robert Purvis, William Wells Brown, Alexander Crummell, and Ellen and William Craft). People of African descent in both abolitionist periods advocated full emancipation and rights for the enslaved and free.
The role of women of African descent in the abolitionist movement was important and different because they had to deal with issues of race, sex, and class within the antislavery movement and the white women's movement. These women included Grace Bustill Douglass, an educator and founder of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and her daughter Sarah Douglass; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who was a teacher and poet; Maria Miller Stewart, Sarah Forten, and Eliza Dixon Day. These woman helped to recruit members to the movement, gave public lectures, raised funds, and organized rallies and events.
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