kids encyclopedia robot

Abolitionism facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
(Redirected from Abolitionism in the United States)
Biard Abolition de l'esclavage 1849
Abolition of slavery in the French Colonies is a painiting by Auguste François Biard done in 1849.

Abolitionism was a movement that wanted to end the practice of slavery in Europe and in America. It was mainly active during the 18th and 19th centuries. Until the 18th century, few people criticized slavery. But thinkers of the Enlightenment started to criticize it because in their opinion slavery was against human rights. Communities like the Quakers believed that it did not follow the teachings of Christianity.

The United States

Before the establishment of the United States, slavery existed in many countries, including the slavic nations, from which the word "slave" came. British North America used slavery to help their economic system, especially in the southern colonies. The first people to be brought to the Thirteen Colonies were as indentured servants. However, these were not slaves; they performed a similar role in society, being used for manual labor. They could be bought and sold, but they served a limited time, usually around 7 years. At the end of their time of servitude, they were given land and money.

As time progressed, it became less profitable for southern planters to hire indentured servants. By the beginning of the 18th century, the enslavement of Africans began to take the place of indentured servitude.

From the introduction of slaves into the colonies, there was little opposition to the use of slaves. Until the beginning of the 19th century, there was little opposition to slavery except from Quakers, freedmen, and slaves.

During the American Revolution, beginning in 1775, Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore promised freedom to slaves and indentured servants "able and willing to take up arms" with the British. This proclamation would give freedom to the indentured servants and slaves held by the rebelling colonists, and wouldn't affect the loyalists. Many of the former slaves would die of disease; in fact, 8 times as many black people died of disease than died in battle. When the war ended, Dunmore did not keep his word. Most slaves who decided to fight with the British were returned to servitude. Some black Loyalists were taken to Canada and elsewhere.

The American Army of the revolution contained many black people, most of them coming from New England. The most significant black regiment was the 1st Rhode Island. The Regiment was created in 1778 and consisted of mostly black men. The commander, Colonel Christopher Greene, said he would release any slave from servitude when they joined.

Following the writing and signing of the United States Constitution, most black people remained slaves. Slavery began to decline. Most northern states outlawed its practice shortly after the Revolution, and in the south, tobacco, the primary cash crop, was losing value. In 1794, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. This new invention helped to speed up the process of processing and selling cotton by mechanically removing its seeds.

Haitian slaves

Before the Haitian Revoloution in 1791, around 90% of the population of the island of Hispaniola were enslaved. However, when the French Revolution issued its Declariation of the rights of Man and Citizen, the slaves on the island felt that the rights belonged to everyone and not merely the white slave owners.

Interesting facts about abolitionism

Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (1795)
"Am I Not a Man and a Brother?", 1787 medallion designed by Josiah Wedgwood for the British anti-slavery campaign
  • To abolish something means to get rid of it.
  • Abolitionism in the United States refers to getting rid of slavery.
  • Slavery existed mainly in the southern colonies of what would be the United States. The first people to be used as property were indentured servants.
  • Indentured servants usually served for about 7 years and were then given land and money for their service.
  • In the early 1700s, Africans began to be used as slaves. They were kept as property for the rest of their lives and this became accepted as normal.
  • By the 1800s, more people were speaking out against slavery and wanted to abolish it.

Notable abolitionists

White and black opponents of slavery played a considerable role in the movement. This list includes some escaped slaves, who were traditionally called abolitionists.

Images for kids

kids search engine
Abolitionism Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.