We are going to talk about abolitionism. Abolitionism was a movement culminating in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Its aim was first to end the slave trade, and then to abolish the institution of slavery and emancipate slaves. The movement took place in Europe, mainly in the UK, and in the USA.
Abolitionism in the USA:
The first article advocating the emancipation of the slaves was written by Thomas Paine and it’s titled “African Slavery in America”. It appeared in The Pennsylvania Magazine in 1775. Control question: who was Thomas Paine?
Rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized slavery for violating the rights of man, and Quakers condemned it as un-Christian. The main philosophy of the Quakers was that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. Though anti-slavery sentiments were widespread by the late 18th century, they had little immediate effect on the centers of slavery themselves—the West Indies, South America, and the southern U.S.
Therefore the first American abolition society was formed in 1775 in Philadelphia and it’s called The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. It was founded primarily by Quakers. The society was reorganized in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin as it’s first president.
The abolitionist movement in the North was led by agitators such as William Lloyd Garrison, writers such as John Greenleaf Whittier, former slaves such as Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
William Lloyd Garrison: 1805 – 1879. He joined the abolition movement when he was 25. He is best known as the editor of the weekly anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator. He founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Garrison was one of the most radical opponents of slavery. His approach to emancipation stressed nonviolence and passive resistance. Garrison argued for "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves".
In 1807 the importation of African slaves was banned in the U.S. and the British colonies. Constitution left the question of slavery to the individual states. North was gradually abolishing slavery. On the other hand, economy of the South remained to be based on the slaves. In the USA, the abolitionism was one of the key issues dividing the northern and southern states.
And here comes John Brown to add oil into the fire. He organized an armed rebellion in Virginia- Harpers Ferry- to overthrow the institution of slavery. The rebellion was unsuccessful and John Brown was executed.
The pressure between South and North gradated.
The election of Abraham Lincoln, who opposed the spread of slavery to the West, marked a turning point in the movement. Convinced that their way of life was threatened, the Southern states seceded from the Union as they believed that Northerners conspired against them. This led to the American Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln (who had never been an abolitionist) issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves held in the Confederate states and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1865) prohibited slavery throughout the country.
Although governments made the final and official decision to end slavery, abolition was the culmination of the work of numerous antislavery groups who had campaigned over many decades. The groups were inspired by a number of beliefs, ranging from religious faith to liberalism. Their leaders and membership were drawn from a wide variety of social classes, from the wealthy and powerful to the poorest workers and farmers. Could you name any of them? We have already mentioned them (answer: Thomas Paine, Quakers, The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, William Lloyd Garrison, John Greenleaf Whittier, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown). OK, we can see that you are listening to us.
But except of these people there was also a network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North, to Canada and to Mexico or overseas. It was not run by any single organization or person but of many individuals - many whites but predominantly black. Their work begun towards the end of the 18th century. They effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year -- according to one estimate, the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850. Around 1831 it was dubbed "The Underground Railroad," after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading:
•People who helped slaves find the railroad were "agents" (or "shepherds")
•Guides were known as "conductors"
•Hiding places were "stations"
•Abolitionists would fix the "tracks"
•"Stationmasters" hid slaves in their homes
•Escaped slaves were referred to as "passengers" or "cargo"
•Slaves would obtain a "ticket"
•Just as in common gospel lore, the "wheels would keep on turning"
•Financial benefactors of the Railroad were known as "stockholders".
•The railroad itself was often known as the “freedom train” or “Gospel train” which headed towards “Heaven” or “the Promised Land”= Canada
The first step was to escape from the slaveholder relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a "conductor," posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station on foot or by wagon. They would rest and eat there, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.
he fugitives would also travel by train and boat. The routes were purposely indirect. Information about the routes had to be held in secret. Therefore it passed along by word of mouth. Southern newspapers often offered high rewards for the capture and return of the slaves. Professional slave catchers known as “bounty hunters” pursued fugitives as far as the Canadian border.
Money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees. Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.
The majority of the escapees were young men who believed to survive in the North. Many of them later purchased their wives, children and other members of the family out of slavery.
Notable participants were for example John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, Levi Coffin, a Quaker who assisted more than 3,000 slaves, Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom, William Still called “the father of the underground railroad” ", he helped hundreds of slaves to escape (as many as 60 a month), sometimes hiding them in his Philadelphia home. He kept careful records, including short biographies of the people. Then he published these accounts in the book The Underground Railroad in 1872.
Messages exchanged among members of Underground Railroad were often encoded and could only be understood by those active in the railroad.
Some also think that song like “Steal Away”, “Follow the drinking Gourd” were intended to help navigate the railroad. Before the Civil War an intinerent carpenter, Peg Leg Joe, travelled throughout the South, passing the tune to slaves. The words contained coded directions to travel north. The Drinking Gourd was code for the Big Dipper. Here is a part of the “Follow the drinking Gourd” (mám to stiahnuté v PC, do prezentácie sa to nejako dá neskôr alebo to skús stiahnuť sama niekde)
To the fugitive slave the North was a land of freedom. But many fugitives were disappointed. While the British colonies had no slavery, discrimination was still common. Many of the new arrivals had great difficulty finding jobs, because of mass European immigration at the time. They had entered a country in which they were part of a privileged category called "white." No matter how poor or degraded they were, they knew there was a class of people below them. Poor whites were considered superior to blacks and to Indians as well, simply by virtue of being white.
The concepts of "black" and "white" did not arrive with the first Europeans and Africans, but grew on American soil. During Andrew Jackson's administration, racist ideas took on new meaning. Jackson brought in the "Age of the Common Man." Under his administration, working class people gained rights they had not before possessed, particularly the right to vote. But the only people who benefited were white men. Blacks, Indians, and women were not included.
Before 1800, free African American men had nominal rights of citizenship. In some places they could vote, serve on juries, and work in skilled trades. Since 1857 blacks were not citizens of the United States. In the northeastern states, especially in Philadelphia, blacks faced discrimination in many forms. They were excluded from concert halls, public transportation, schools, churches, orphanages, and other places. They lost the right to vote. The only states in which black men never lost the right to vote were Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
Situation was even worse. For example in Ohio, they couldn’t hold public office, they needed a certificate proving their free status, and they were prohibited to join the state militia. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin were no friendlier. Whites burned black homes, churches, schools, and meeting halls. They stoned, beat, and sometimes murdered blacks. City officials there generally refused to protect African Americans and blamed blacks.
African Americans and their white allies did not simply sit back and accept Northern racism; they responded to it in a whole range of ways. Black people founded their own churches, schools, and orphanages. They created mutual aid societies to provide financial assistance to those in need. They protested against new restrictions. They constantly tried to end slavery, to protect fugitive slaves. Some states passed Personal Liberty Laws such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. These protected fugitives and guaranteed some rights to African American citizens of that state.