An abolitionist was "a person who supported an end to slavery" (Cambridge Dictionary). While abolitionists certainly inhabited the United States in the late-eighteenth century, particularly the Quakers in Pennsylvania, both their number and social prominence increased dramatically in the nineteenth century. Abolitionists could be either white or Black, immigrant or native-born, and from all social classes and walks of life. This diversity of ranks led to a diversity of approaches and goals that were also subject to change over time.

The earliest American abolitionists rooted their calls for ending slavery in the evangelical Protestantism and reform efforts that expanded in the early nineteenth-century U. S., arguing that the enslavement of other human beings contradicted both Christian doctrine and the ideals of the Constitution. However, many of these early abolitionists (largely white) supported colonization, or sending the enslaved to Africa, as the aim of ending enslavement.

However, the abolitionist movement in the U. S. altered dramatically in the 1830s with the founding of William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator (1831) and the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833) both in New England. Abolitionists like Garrison and the formerly-enslaved Frederick Douglass began more frequently to demand immediate emancipation and equality within the United States. The expansion of both cheap printing and reform efforts across the nation greatly shaped abolitionists work, as they printed innumerable pamphlets, books, newspapers, and speeches to spread their influence. Concentrated heavily in New England, abolitionism became one of the major issues in the growing sectional crisis of the antebellum era, pitting abolitionists of the North against enslavers of the South.

From the 1830s until the Civil War in the early 1860s, abolitionism became increasingly radical, causing southern slaveholders to fear their influence on enslaved uprisings like that of Nat Turner in 1831 or John Brown's attempted raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859. Abolitionists also often disagreed internally on leadership roles between Black and white men and, more controversially, the roles of women in their organizations and the degree to which women's rights should be an equally prominent feature of abolitionism. While many abolitionists disagreed on specific methods, they nonetheless continued to agitate for emancipation until the passage of the 13th Amendment legally ended chattel slavery in the U. S. in 1865. Most abolitionists and their organizations dwindled after, yet many antebellum abolitionists became leading advocates for equal rights for African Americans throughout the late-nineteenth century as well (Wikipedia).

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism_in_the_United_States

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