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 thought that slavery was contradicting with Christianity.
The United States
Before the establishment of the United States, slavery existed in British North America, especially in the southern colonies. The first people to be brought to the Thirteen Colonies were as indentured servents. These were not slaves, however they preformed 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 servents. By the beginning of the 18th century, enslavement of Africans began to overtake 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, begining in 1775, the Virginia Govoner, Lord Dunmore promised freedom to slaves and indenture servents "able and willing to take up arms" with the British. This proclamation would give freedom to the indentured servents and slaves held by the rebelling colonists, and wouldn't effect the loyalists. Many of the former slaves would die of disease, in fact 8 times as many blacks died of disease than died in battle. When the war ended, 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 blacks, 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 blacks. Upon joining the regiment, the commander, Colonel Christopher Greene, would release any slave from servitude.
Following drafting, and signing of the new United States Constitution, blacks in the country were completely disenfranchised, and most 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 increase the profitability of cotton by mechanically removing its seeds. After 1800 the amount of cotton produced in the United States would double every 10 years. By the middle of the century, the United States produced three quarters of the worlds cotton.
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.
White and Black opponents of slavery, who played a considerable role in the movement. This list includes some escaped slaves, who were traditionally called abolitionists.
- William Wilberforce – Wilberforce was a leader of the abolitionism movement. He was an English politician who became a Member of Parliament. His involvement in the political realm lead to a change in ideology. Wilberforce became very interested in reform and dedicated his efforts to abolishing the practice of slavery and discrimination.
- Toussaint Louverture
- Abbé Grégoire
- James Mill
- Jeremy Bentham
- John Stuart Mill
- Harriet Martineau
- Harriet Tubman
- John Brown
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
- John Gregg Fee
- Johns Hopkins
- Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil
- John D. Rockefeller
- John Laurens
- William Lloyd Garrison
- William B. Preston
- José do Patrocínio
- Frederick Douglass
- Henry David Thoreau
- Oren Burbank Cheney
- John Woolman
- Charles Miner
- Joaquim Nabuco
- David Walker
- Nat Turner
- Sarah Mapps Douglass
- William Wells Brown
- Ellen and William Craft
- Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
- Henry Highland Garnet
- Sojourner Truth
- John Quincy Adams
- Angelina and Sarah Grimké
Quick facts for kids about abolitionism
- 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.
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Abolitionism Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.