The process of America’s colonization was characterized by using slave labor on plantations owned by immigrants from Europe. For a long time, the main area of the U.S. was the slave South since the plantations located in the favorable for the cultivation of the most profitable crops (cotton and tobacco) climates. During the XVIII century, the nearly 300000 Blacks Africans were bought in the slave markets and felt at the disposal of their masters. Exhausting labor and arbitrary hosts made their lives extremely difficult. In the northern states, densely populated Puritans, who sought to live according to the precepts of the Gospel, preferred to do their own and applied to the Blacks with arrogant condescension that God created them so imperfect. However, 2440 slaves amounted to one-fifth of New York City’s total population in 1746. A society where human dignity was humiliated could not remain unchanged; thus, the abolitionist movement put the beginning of the new country creation. The fight against slavery is one of the fundamentals of the history and reality of the U.S., as embodied the principles of democracy, humanism and equality.
Significance and Goals of Abolition Movement
A social movement of the late XVIII-XIX centuries for the cancellation of slavery in the United States is named abolitionism. It was the epicenter of a number of other mass democratic movements of blacks and whites - farmers, workers, and women - that were spawned by the revolution in 1776 and devolved during the growth of bourgeois democracy that followed the Jefferson-Jackson period in 1800 -1837. They were united in the Democratic Front combat in 1861 during the second American Revolution or the Civil War. It could be considered as the great merit of the abolitionist movement.
The Old South depended on slave labor while the northern states treated it more mildly. Slaves worked as laborers, craftsmen assistants, porters, as well as personal servants. Terms and conditions of their work were largely similar to the ordinary people’s ones, but they did not have freedom and depended on the goodwill of their masters. Thus, the position of the Black slaves was deplorable. Thus, the first slave uprising occurred in New York City in 1712. This gave rise to many less and more significant protests against slavery. However, publishing of Sewall’s The Selling of Joseph: A Memorial could be considered as the previous note to support equality and freedom.
The struggle of the Negro people against slavery and racial discrimination was revolutionary and the most persistent of all kinds of popular movements developing at the time. The intelligentsia was an abolitionist vanguard of the northern bourgeoisie; however, the Negro wing of the abolitionist movement had its specific mission to lay the foundations of the Negro national liberation movement. In other words, the core purpose of the Negro wing abolitionism was to liberate the Negro people from slavery and racist laws and actions. Achieving this goal, at the same time, abolitionists aimed at creation the conditions for future development of the Negro people as a nation.
Methods of Spreading the Anti-Slavery Messages
Abolitionism united almost a quarter of a million residents of the Northern states. In 1833, about 100,000 northerners joined the American Anti-Slavery Society to resist slavery. Participants included artisans, merchants, workers, and even such businessmen as Arthur and Lewis Tappan of New York. Theodore Weld, who helped to create a mass constituency, was a magnificent orator, who, together with the followers, brought the abolitionist messages in villages and small towns of the Northern States. They used a variety of methods - the spread of numerous pamphlets and treatises, public speaking, economic boycotts, and appeals to Congress - to promote the social ideas.
The movement leaders used new technologies and approaches to the preparation and dissemination of provocative information. Between 1790 and 1840, the United States population had increased three-fold, from 3.9 million to 17.1 million, while the number of newspapers had increased by 15, from 92 to 1404, and the number of magazines had increased by 40 times, from 12 to 489. The abolitionists had an opportunity to access the different editions in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. They used a method of steam printing press to produce a million copies of pamphlets, newspapers, petitions, novels, and posters. The radical pamphleteers of the American Revolution and Evangelical supporters of the Second Great Awakening used democratic potential in the production of printed products.
The famous editor William Lloyd Garrison founded the weekly radical abolitionist newspaper the Liberator in Boston, which became a reflection of the most significant actions of the movement activists. Epistles in the newspaper called for a rejection of the immoral rights to slaves and egoistic ambitions, which were contrary to God’s commandments and laws of ethics.
However, not all Northerners shared the views of abolitionists. Their stubborn struggle faced with the equally stubborn resistance in the same Northern States. They were confronted by angry crowds of anti-abolitionists, including wealthy and influential gentlemen. Moreover, talking about Southerners, they banned the distribution of abolitionist literature in the mail and other channels.
Differences of Ideology within the Movement
During the pre-war decades, the abolitionists, despite the fact that they kept away from practical politics, significantly influenced the free institutions’ development in the U.S. through various campaigns. However, the abolitionists were sharply criticized. Their activity was identified as illegal that endangered the union of the North and South and was contrary to the constitution. In addition to the external destructive effects, there were internal contradictions that strongly complicated the abolitionist work.
Black activists have accused the White colleagues of like-minded racism; women reluctantly allowed to participate in the movement. Supporters of Garrison blamed the Constitution, interpreting it as the conciliatory agreement with slaveholders. Abolitionists often had to listen to charges of pacifism and the passive non-resistance or attempts to destroy the unity of the American republic. Moreover, they could not reach a consensus on the methods; thus, someone stood up for political actions, and others relied on moral suasion. Consequently, two distinct camps in the movement of fighters for the rights of American Negroes were formed. A part of abolitionists called for an immediate ban of slavery nationwide. In contrast, advocates of a more moderate direction were aimed at not complete abolition, but, rather, at a restriction of slavery in the South and an orientation of the new Western lands to use the free labor of white farmers.
The Racial Barriers Challenge
Racism was the main cause of inequality and prejudice in American society. Freedom was a privilege of the White population. For that reason, abolitionism had to create a new concept that could adequately overcome the racial barriers challenge. The liberation of the Black people should be the beginning of emerging Black class with the national community; thus, it would have been equalized in rights with the Whites. It was proposed to determine the nationality not by the skin color or other external characteristics but by the place of birth. Such concept was summarized in the title of Lydia Maria Child’s popular treatise of 1833, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans. Thus, the Black population had to get the rights of the US citizens. Later, the discussed position was enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment and represented the new radical perception of the nationality issue. Thus, the black abolitionists were able to create the ideal color-blind nation. Samuel Cornish highlighted that the battle between slavery and freedom is inherently a fight between prejudice and justice. This approach has given rise to a new definition of freedom in American society.
The Definition of Freedom Challenge
The purpose of abolitionists was the revival of the freedom concept as a universal right of every person, which is given at birth. Activists of the movement for freedom had different views on the Constitution in the context of its relationship to slavery. Lloyd Garrison burned the document identifying it as the devil’s paper. In contrast to him, Frederick Douglass did not believe that the Constitution explicitly protected slavery. However, focusing on social rights, abolitionists sought to develop an alternative document that would be based on a shared understanding of universal freedom and could defend liberties. The essence of freedom in concrete legal terms supported the idea that all Americans, regardless of race or other attributes were equal before the law. Abolitionists insisted that freedom meant protection from cruelty, which included beatings and other physical sufferings of slaves. Liberty was closely related to immunity as a fundamental right of the free citizen, which had been available for slaves.
Abolitionists developed a background for the future Declaration of Independence, by creating the preamble, which condemned slavery. The number of abolitionists was never significant. However, their contribution to the liberation movement confirmed that the concept of freedom acquired a new meaning in the American society.
Unfortunately, slavery is the deeply rooted and integral part of American history. The movement for the freedom of Blacks was an outstanding period of the U.S. statehood. It was a symbol of protection of equality, justice and well-being of the entire nation. Abolitionists sought to create a basis of modern Constitution and call the Whites to follow the God’s commandments, which never encouraged their superiority. Regular uprisings, protests, and strikes, the spread of agitation literature were only a small part of the acts to protect slaves. Abolitionists wanted the Black population safely integrated into the national society. They sacrificed the foundations of the equitable governance of the United States.