American History 1865
December 1, 2013
Abolitionists employed all manner of strategies to persuade the American public and its leadership to end slavery. One of their first strategies was to unite groups of like-minded individuals to fight as a body. Initially, groups like the American Anti-Slavery Society used lecturing and moral persuasion to attempt to change the hearts and minds of individuals. Many later activists found moral persuasion tactics insufficient and turned their attention to political lobbying.
Most famous of all abolitionist activities was the Underground Railroad, a network of assistance and safe houses for runaway slaves. The Underground Railroad stretched from the Southern states to Canada, and until 1865 provided shelter, safety, and guidance for thousands of runaway slaves.
Activists used the press to spread the abolitionist message. Newspapers like William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator circulated vehement attacks on government sanctioned bondage. Other publications, such as pamphlets and leaflets, contained anti-slavery poems, slogans, essays, sermons, and songs. Abolitionists also looked to future generations to carry on their work, creating a body of children’s literature to bring the harsh realities of slavery before a young audience. These materials were deemed so threatening in slave states that they were outlawed.
Still other abolitionists felt that violence was the only way to end slavery. These militants resorted to extreme and deadly tactics, and incited violent insurrections. These acts of terror aroused fear in slaveholders, but also led to the execution of perpetrators.
Both men and women knew that abolitionist activism was exhilarating yet dangerous. Whites North and South argued that abolition would undo the nation’s economy. Many whites also opposed abolitionist visions of racial equality. Abolitionists were verbally threatened, and sometimes brutally assaulted, above as well as below the...