Unit 3: Abolition and the Civil War
Abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick
Era 4: Expansion and Reform
Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction
- The portrait of William Lloyd Garrison was painted
in 1833, the same year he founded the American Anti-Slavery
Society, the most radical branch of the abolition movement.
Briefly describe the American Anti-Slavery Society,
including its membership and method of operation.
What were William Lloyd Garrison's basic ideas
about abolitionism? Why were they so controversial?
If Garrison had not been such a strong voice for abolitionism,
do you think the Civil War would have started sooner
or later than it did? Why?
[Standard 5historical issues-analysis and decision-making]
The American Anti-Slavery Society promoted the cause
of immediate abolition of slavery. The society sponsored
meetings, signed antislavery petitions for Congress,
published journals, distributed written propaganda,
and circulated speakers to broadcast the message of
abolition. It was primarily populated by people involved
in religious groups, philanthropic organizations, and
members of the free-black community.
Although originally an advocate of gradual abolition,
by 1830 Garrison had denounced his earlier position
and forcefully demanded immediate emancipation and the
subsequent incorporation of freedmen into American society.
(See a copy of Garrison's famous January 1, 1831, article
in his newspaper The Liberator at http://longman.awl.com/history/primarysource_10_4.htm.)
He condemned the United States Constitution because
it tolerated the evil of slavery. Garrison called for
the peaceful separation of northern states from slaveholding
states in the South.
Abolitionists were a minority in American society,
and Garrison's views were particularly controversial
because of their uncompromising tone. Whereas some abolitionists
urged a more gradual end to slavery, Garrison was passionate
in his commitment to complete and immediate freedom
Garrison's success in publicizing his abolitionist
views may have created the impression that the abolitionist
movement had more widespread acceptance than it really
did. As a result, southern states may have prematurely
sought aggressive means to resolve the impasse. On the
other hand, Garrison's call for peaceful secession may
have delayed armed conflict.
William Lloyd Garrison (18051879)
Nathaniel Jocelyn (17961881)
Oil on wood panel, 1833
Bequest of Garrison Norton
- This portrait of Garrison was commissioned by
the artist's brother, Simeon Jocelyn, an engraver and
a supporter of abolitionism. He planned to make an engraving
of this painting and to use the proceeds from the sale
of copies to help fund the antislavery cause. Jocelyn
also thought that making a portrait of Garrison available
to the public would help elevate Garrison's public image.
Why did Garrison's public image need a boost? In general,
how was he regarded by people in the North? In the South?
[Standard 4historical research capabilities]
Garrison's public image needed a boost because his
passionate and uncompromising support of abolitionism
was not well received by the majority of American citizens.
Southern states depended upon slavery for their livelihood
and reacted against Garrison to protect their economic
interests. Georgia, for example, offered a reward for
his arrest and conviction in 1831. Not just southerners
despised Garrison, however. Northern mobs attacked African
Americans and stormed abolitionist meetings to show
their objection to the antislavery message. Being a
leading spokesman for the abolitionist movement, Garrison
was a lightning rod for hate mail and threats of assassination.
- Frederick Douglass was
twenty-one years old when he escaped slavery on a Maryland
plantation and fled to New York City, ultimately settling
in Massachusetts. Using Douglass's autobiography Life
and Times of Frederick Douglass as your primary source
douglass/duglas11.txt), research Douglass's flight
to freedom. How did he travel? Did anyone assist him?
How long did the journey take? Plot his trip on a historical
map to estimate the number of miles he traveled on his
From the 1830s through the Civil War, many slaves
escaped to freedom in the North or Canada through the
Underground Railroad. What was the Underground Railroad
and how did it operate? Who ran it and approximately
how many slaves escaped via this system? Define the
terminology associated with the Underground Railroad.
[Standard historical comprehension]
Douglass left Baltimore, Maryland, by train on September
3, 1838, and traveled to Wilmington, Delaware, disguised
as a free sailor. In Wilmington he boarded a steamboat
to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and from there took a
train to New York City. He arrived in New York on September
4, 1838. Douglass traveled approximately two hundred
miles in one day and night and was assisted by friends
who provided money, advice, and official travel papers.
The Underground Railroad was a loosely organized
escape route that reached its peak of operation between
1830 and 1865. It was not a railroad at all, but a network
of paths, river crossings, boats, wagons, trains, and
hiding places such as barns, churches, and private homes.
Abolitionists, free blacks, and any other citizens sympathetic
to the plight of fugitive slaves provided clandestine
assistance. The escaping slaves were called passengers;
the homes where slaves were sheltered were called stations;
and those who gave assistance were called conductors.
Approximately one hundred thousand slaves escaped to
freedom using the Underground Railroad.
Frederick Douglass (18171895)
Oil on canvas, circa 1844
- Douglass and Garrison shared many of the same
views about abolitionism. By the late 1840s, however,
the two men became allied with different factions of
the antislavery movement. What specific issues did they
disagree upon? How did the views of Douglass and Garrison
compare to the official platform adopted by the Republican
Party in 1856?
[Standard 3historical analysis and interpretation]
Douglass's publication of his own abolitionist newspaper,
The North Star, marked the beginning of his independence
from Garrison. Douglass started to question Garrison's
views that violent resistance to slavery was wrong,
believing that slaves had the right to gain their freedom
by any means possible. He also disagreed with Garrison's
interpretation of the United States Constitution as
a pro-slavery document, realizing that the South would
never abolish slavery if it could only be done by dividing
the Union and dismantling the Constitution. Douglass
began to seek antislavery reforms through the political
process, a method that Garrison opposed. The antislavery
issue entered mainstream American politics through the
Republican Party. At its first national convention in
1856, the party was united in opposition to slavery
in general and to the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) in
particular. The Republicans maintained that Congress
did not have the right to recognize slavery in the territories
and should therefore abolish slavery there immediately.
- Both Garrison and Douglass published abolitionist
newspapersCGarrison published The Liberator, and Douglass
published The North Star. As a class project, "publish"
an issue of one of these papers. Include articles exploring
a variety of antislavery topics, letters to the editor,
and relevant illustrations.
[Standard 4historical research capabilities]
Some ideas for inclusion in an abolitionist paper
are: excerpts from articles written by Garrison and
Douglass (visit http://www.civnet.org/resources/teach/basic/part4/18.htm),
creative responses to these articles in the form of
letters to the editor, selected slave narratives (visit
and cartoons or posters (visit http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam005.html
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