An abolitionist generally refers to a person in the 19th century who desired an immediate end to slavery. The abolitionist movement refers to a period where many organized efforts worked to achieve this goal. Although the movement is commonly attributed to the Northern states of the United States, it is important to note that there were abolitionists and abolition activities in the South as well. There were also many Northerners who were against the movement.
Attempting to place specific starting and ending dates on the abolitionist movement has resulted in a great deal of debate. The dates which some want to designate start only after significant abolitionist efforts were under way. In other instances, people declare that the movement had ended despite significant events that occurred after those dates. It is best, therefore, to simplify the matter by saying that the movement occurred during the 19th century.
Abolitionists wanted black emancipation and they wanted it to come quickly. They argued that not only should slaves be set free, but that blacks should also have a right to land, to be educated, and to vote. There were a number of factors that motivated abolitionist positions.
To begin with, Christianity played a major role in Americans’ lives. Abolitionists often argued that slavery was sinful and could not be reasonably supported by those who claimed to live according to biblical principles. This led to the development of what were known as abolitionist churches, where the need to end slavery was proclaimed from the pulpit.
Many white people found hypocrisy when they compared slavery to their own quest for freedom. The former colonies were filled with people who had opposed being ruled by monarchies, yet they lived in a land where humans were kept and treated as beasts. Freed blacks were a major component in the abolitionist movement and they capitalized on these arguments.
The movement was marked by efforts of all sorts. Newspapers, poetry, and books were produced. In the North, abolitionist literature became so popular and influential that a gag rule was eventually established to ban such material.
Whites and blacks worked together to smuggle slaves to freedom in the North. Legislation to end slavery and grant rights to blacks was proposed. Anti-slavery and pro-black rights politicians openly expressed their views while campaigning, and won offices.
The abolitionist movement did not achieve the aim of its supporters as quickly as many would have liked. Many individuals died without witnessing the freedoms they fought for. This movement stands as a part of American history that influenced change, however.