The Civil War

Map of Free and Slave States in 1837

Lesson 4 Abolitionists

An abolitionist was a person who wanted to do away with slavery. In the 1830's abolitionists began to speak out in public.

In 1831 a Boston, Massachusetts newspaper called The Liberator was published. The editor was an abolitionist named William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison used the newspaper to tell Congress and the world that slavery must be abolished. Many people agreed with Garrison. In 1833 Garrison and others formed the National Antislavery Society which published books and papers about slavery.
William Lloyd Garrison

Remember the Fugitive Slave Law from the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This law stated  that "free" states, those states which did not allow slaves, must return escaping slaves to their owners. Abolitionists did not obey this law.

Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was a slave who was freed in 1827. She began lecturing about the issue of slavery. Truth was a forceful speaker. Many people listened to her causes. President Abraham Lincoln chose her to be a counselor to the freedmen in Washington.

Another group that helped slaves was the Underground Railroad. This was a chain of homes and farms where escaped slaves could go for help. The chain of safe houses ran to Canada where the slaves could be free.

Many free ex-slaves took part in the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman guided more than 300 slaves along the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman

Frederick Douglass  

Frederick Douglass was born a slave. He taught himself to read and write. He ran away from his master. Douglass wrote and told of his life as a slave and gave lectures to groups of abolitionists.

Henry "Box" Brown mailed himself from Richmond to the home of an abolitionist in Philadelphia. Later he became free.

Henry [Box] Brown

Harriet Beecher Stowe


Another person who helped Americans become aware of the life of a slave was Harriet Beecher Stowe. She lived in Hartford, Connecticut. Stowe's father was an abolitionist. She visited a plantation in Kentucky. There she learned about slavery. Stowe wrote a book about the cruelty of slavery called Uncle Tom's Cabin. This book was published in 1852. It became a best-seller in the north. The book was banned in the southern states. Later it was made into a play.

In Uncle Tom's Cabin there was a cruel slave owner named Simon Legree. He mistreated all the slaves on his plantation. Most of all he mistreated Little Eva. She was a young black slave and Uncle Tom was an older slave. Tom tried to be nice to Legree. The nicer he was the more he was punished. Legree whipped and finally killed old Uncle Tom.

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