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Seeking Zero-Tolerance of Slavery: The Abolitionism Movement

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Noted abolitionists of the 19th century. Top row, left to right: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Bottom row, left to tight: Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Willian Lloyd Garrison. Wikipedia image.

By Tamara Shiloh

The year was 1619. A Portuguese slave ship, the São João Bautista, made its way across the Atlantic Ocean filled with human cargo: captive Africans from Angola. All were bound for a life of enslavement in Mexico. But the ship was captured by two English pirate ships and the Africans were instead taken to Point Comfort, a port near Jamestown, the capital of the English colony of Virginia.

The trans-Atlantic slave trade introduced a system of slavery that was commercialized, racialized and inherited, according to The New York Times Magazine. Africans were not thought of as human beings but fuel for the country’s economic engine.

Fast-forward 400 years, most Americans still know little about the story of slavery. Even fewer understand that not all white people were proslavery, but abolitionists: people who sought to abolish slavery during the 19th century and the immediate and full emancipation of all enslaved people. The abolitionist movement, an organized effort to end the practice of slavery in the U.S., started in New York and Massachusetts during the 1830s and quickly spread throughout other northern states.

Many abolitionists were white, religious Americans like Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Willian Lloyd Garrison. Some of the most prominent leaders of the movement, however, were Blacks who escaped from bondage: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Their goal was to abolish slavery completely. Yet other groups, such as the Free Soil Party, only opposed the expansion of slavery into U.S. territories and newly formed states such as Kansas.

Abolitionists viewed slavery as an “abomination and an affliction on the United States, making it their goal to eradicate slave ownership.” They sent petitions to Congress, ran for political office and inundated Southerners with antislavery literature.

Early leadership (1830–1870) duplicated tactics used by British abolitionists to end slavery in 1830s Great Britain and its colonies. Abolitionism, despite its religious underpinnings, became a controversial issue that divided much of the country, sparking heated debates and deadly confrontations that opened doors to the Civil War.

Throughout this chapter of American history, the South denied free, escaped and enslaved Blacks access to education. Abolitionists, however, believed in the practice of educational freedom for all people.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) established before the Civil War include Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1837), Lincoln University (1854) and Wilberforce University (1856). Although many Southern HBCUs were founded in the years following the war, the roots of these efforts to educate Blacks began in the northern abolitionist schools during the slave era.

“Abolitionists worked to challenge and dismantle white supremacy in schools by eliminating zero-tolerance policies in favor of restorative justice, integrating students’ cultural and community knowledge into curriculum,” said UC Riverside professor Tara J. Yasso.

The abolitionist movement continued until 1865, when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and slavery was formally abolished. Many historians argue that it lasted until the 1870 passage of the 15th Amendment, which extended voting rights to Black men.

The post Seeking Zero-Tolerance of Slavery: The Abolitionism Movement first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.

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