HEROES and HEROINES of the American Civil War

Part 6


Organized Anti-slavery efforts began in the year 1830, with the jailing of William Lloyd Garrison, who perhaps became the central leading figure propelling and fomenting Freedom of the black slaves in the United States of America. Garrison had been put in jail for alleged libel against a merchant who was, in fact, "legally" transporting and merchandising black slaves up and down the eastern and southern coasts. William Lloyd Garrison was just 24 years of age at the time, and he was a relatively small editor from the state of Massachusetts, who was already on his way to becoming a stronger defender of Emancipation in the country. Garrison spent seven whole weeks in the Baltimore city jail before being released in June of 1830. But, it was here, during his stay in the jailhouse that Garrison finally determined to formalize his increasing impetus toward the fight against prevailing slavery in the country. Hundreds of small local groups existed already by the time of his release, but, all were in reality the nascence or simply the continuation of generational inheritance concerning abolitionist wishes. But, all of these groups and desires mounted no more than to inconsequential talking and commenting, and usually no more than that. Their efforts were, in brief, limited to social party chattering and passive or impassive protesting against the slavery "conventions" of the Southern states. Furthermore, some expected that someone else would do something about the whole situation, someday, and so they did not really have faith in, nor did they expect, any results or movements at the moment of their own existence. Perhaps, some of them never really expected anything at all. But it was William Lloyd Garrison who did resolve to do something about it directly and actively. At the jailhouse itself, Garrison determined to end slavery. As a result of this determination, and upon his return to his native city of Boston, Garrison inaugurated the publication of the now historically famous newspaper and efficacious abolitionist instrument, The Liberator. After organizing and refining it, he finally published it on the symbolic date, well chosen by him, of New Year's Day of the year 1831, all of which marked the organized beginning of the fight for Emancipation which culminated ultimately with the Proclamation issued by President Lincoln on July 9, 1863. Not only did Garrison begin the publication of The Liberator, but he also organized and founded, with the help of sympathizing friends and collaborators, the American Anti-slavery Society in the year 1833. Worthy of notice is the fact that its membership rose to approximately 250,000 in 1838, five years after its founding. Further historical importance is attributed to this organization when we recognize also that it was the very first American organization of any kind to acknowledge and welcome the active participation not only of men, but also of women, and not only white, but black as well. The push towards Emancipation was enormously impelled through the active members which delivered speeches in public circles, distributed literature pro Anti-slavery, and collected signatures on public petitions and protests later delivered to Congress. Moreover, they not only vouched for Abolitionism, but, they later added impetus to their reforming efforts by defending women's rights, and struggling for prison reforms, amelioration of the extant harsh debtor's laws, temperance, and pacifism. All active members were subject to criticism and severe threats and occasional actions, but these were contemplated well into their plans and working schemata. They ran "safe houses" in the Underground Railroad, which operated to free and transport to safety in the North southern slaves from plantations. These valiant members were prepared to defy mobs of northern workers which feared losing their positions and salaries to the hands of lower-paid freed slaves which would surely be hired by the local factories. Their fervent and persistent campaigning and loud protesting accumulated many a critical eye from respectable Northern neighbors and community citizens, despite their agreement with their campaign causes. But, nothing was to stop them now, and to many of them the Society ideals had given them new life and something worthy of fighting and living for. And at the head of it all was Garrison's unending and inextinguishable energy and impetus. Of course, as so happens with all large or megalithic organizations or groups, dissension and fragmentation began to take place as time advanced the original ideals, and new interests superseded the old ones. For example, when Garrison insisted (because of the aims of the organization) on electing a woman to the executive board of the Society, three of the other executive members went into a fit of rage and set off to start their own version of the Society. Later on, still others abandoned the Society to promote abolition through the by then popular Liberty Party, a political party which launched James G. Birney for the 1840 Presidential elections. Nevertheless, the Society had by then already propelled enough irreversible momentum into the Northern American scene to be stopped. As a finishing note to this section of the present document, it is worthy to admire Garrison's efforts as they crystallized into victory, even before the Emancipation Proclamation came into being in 1863. Long before that, in 1855, after decades of struggling and arguing for equality among the races, Garrison, with the assistance and collaboration of several colleagues, finally persuaded and convinced the state of Massachusetts to lawfully open its public schools and public transportation to all races (i.e., blacks, too).     Top

March 4, 1993

LEADING FIGURES IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST SLAVERY (Adapted and taken from Brother Against Brother by William Davis)


Illustrious and brilliant fighter, Frederick Douglass set out to educate himself first, and then only to be able to achieve his will, to struggle to emancipate his suffering and long anguished people from the bonds imposed by Southern demand, comfort, and commercial and personal need. "I appear this evening as a thief and a robber," he announced at a rally meeting in 1842. "I stole this head,...these limbs,...this body from my master, and ran off with them. Years before, Douglass had once been a slave, but he became a fugitive when he intelligently managed to run away towards the North and survival. Douglass was by now a self-taught man who became an accomplished orator and who was, by nature, an endowed thinker. His oratory manner was fiercely arousing and outraging among the many listeners who attended the reunions. He also wrote his own autobiography, and he founded The North Star, a weekly newspaper which he edited for more than 17 years in the city of Rochester, New York. Originally, Douglass was convinced of achieving abolition through "moral suasion" without the aid of political inclination or action. But, toward his later years, Douglass eventually joined the Liberty Party. Even to his last days, he never desisted in campaigning for complete black equality. At the end of his long life, when asked for a word of advice for a young man just starting out, he replied: "Agitate!"


Theodore Parker, a scholarly Congregational minister, attacked the Fugitive Slave Law in particular, from the very pulpit itself. He repeatedly urged his parishioners to aid runaway slaves anyway they could, pointing out the human quality of the ones involved. Besides preaching, Parker put into practice his own words. Serving as leader of the Boston Vigilance Committee, he concealed dozens of black fugitives from the Federal agents deputized to recapture them, and he later arranged for their safe passage to Canada. Parker justified his actions on the grounds of religious creed and practice. "The Fugitive Slave Law contradicts the acknowledged precepts of the Christian religion," he dauntlessly declared in 1851. "It violates the noblest instincts of humanity: it asks us to trample on the law of God. It commands what nature, religion, and God alike forbid: it forbids what nature, religion, and God alike command."


An illiterate slave who ran away from her New York master in the 1820's, Isabella Baumfree began calling herself Sojourner Truth in the 1840's because, as she later related to Harriet Beecher Stowe, God intended her to travel "...up an' down de land, showin' de people der sins, an' bein' a sign unto dem." Tall, gaunt and dynamic, she became a popular speaker at abolitionist rallies. Her plain speaking about the evils of slavery moved many audiences, and her keen wit silenced quickly those who dared jeer or challenge her. Sojourner Truth was a woman of great spirit and impetus. After a speech once, a listener demanded in a cocky and mocking manner, "Old woman, do you think that your talk about slavery does any good? Why,...I don't care any more for your talk than I do for a bite of a flea." "Perhaps not," replied the agile Sojourner Truth, "but, de Lord willin', I'll keep you scratchin'."      Top


The radical genius of the movement, William Lloyd Garrison was "arrogant" and relentless in preaching against slavery and inequality. Conviction alone was his propellant, not money nor status, nor self- importance. Pure conviction of the wrong and injustice in slavery was what perpetually held him in endless action. Convinced of this, Garrison was highly self-assured. Many years before, he had been abandoned by a drunken immigrant father and had barely scraped a living as an apprenticed cobbler, carpenter, and finally printer. It was in printing that his brilliant mind was to see the power behind the press. Garrison went on to become a newspaper editor, who initially slightly toyed with politics, but who backed commercial interests, the collateral party to politics. Later, he was to turn so virulently against these interests, especially after discovering their sham and mean character. After his conversion to abolitionism and its humane interests, he borrowed some type and, in the autumn of 1830, published the "manifesto" to which he devoted the rest of his entire existence: "The liberty of a people is the gift of God and Nature." "That which is not just, is not law." "He who oppugns public liberty, overthrows his own."

The last two quotations perhaps possess a taint of bitterness, which is a very human fault, and which perhaps makes for weaker meanings. But, the greatest of all subjective truths lies in Garrison's first words, which are certainly eternal: "The liberty of a people is the gift of God and Nature."


The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin was the pious daughter, wife, sister, and mother of ministers, and she herself could not help preaching. She advocated abolition under the belief that slavery jeopardized the human soul. Any Christian who practiced slavery was merely damning his soul to perdition. "Such peril and shame as now hangs over this country is worse than Roman slavery," she wrote in 1851, adding mildly, "I hope every woman who can write will not be silent." Her modesty was unshaken by the enormous success of her novel. It was Uncle Tom's Cabin which brought her national and worldwide fame, and which served to expose the American conscience to the evils of slavery as it existed in the United States at that time.


At 24, lawyer Charles Calistus Burleigh became an agent and influential lecturer for the Massachusetts' Middlesex Anti-slavery Society. In answer to those who feared that newly freed slaves would inundate the North and replace them for lower wages, that they would undercut the wages of white workers, Burleigh argued that blacks would stop traveling north once they were freed, and that wage-earning blacks would increase the market for Northern products, which alluded a certain guarantee of the whites' positions. Furthermore, he argued that with education a black would work far harder than any slave and prove more valuable to society: "As much as brain and muscle are worth more than muscle only -- as much as moral joined to mental power is a better wealth than mere brute force; so much will the emancipation of a nation's slaves enrich the nation. Why, then, should not our slaves go free?"


Quaker minister Lucretia Mott helped to found the Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society in the year 1833. Aggressive in her manner, she was a fervent Quaker and protestor against all abuse on human lives. With her abolitionist husband she supported the work of the Underground Railroad, harboring and aiding runaway slaves in her own Philadelphia home. In her lectures she called for boycotting the agricultural products of slavery, and she even dared to take her anti-slavery message into Virginia. In 1840, she attended London's World Anti-slavery Convention, and when women were denied the right to an active part in the proceedings there, Lucretia Mott instantly became an open an ardent feminist. From then on she was to champion women's rights as well, for the rest of her days. In keeping with her Quaker heritage, Lucretia Mott was a confirmed pacifist. She would therefore use any other intelligent available means to get her points across, accomplishing with great energy much of what she determined to acquire. She vehemently used any tactic or strategy but outright violence to oppose injustice to slaves, and women. She declared, "I am no advocate of passivity. Quakerism does not mean quietism." CHARLES LENOX REMOND

Born a free black man in Salem, Massachusetts, Charles Lenox Remond is a famous figure in the Abolitionist movement because he was the very first black to address public meetings on behalf of this cause. As an agent of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Anti-slavery Society, Remond campaigned, surveyed, and polled throughout New England. Moreover, in 1840, he represented the parent organization at the first World Anti-slavery Convention in London. Back home, after a venturous 19-month lecture tour in Great Britain and Ireland, Remond became quite famous for his powerful and meaningful speeches. Not only content with emancipation itself, Charles Remond demanded and pushed for a type of indemnity wherein blacks were to be rewarded proportionally for their contribution to American society. This, perhaps, was too far beyond reasonable prevalent conditions and limits at the time. Even today it would seem an outrageous demand. Nevertheless Charles Remond firmly believed that to regain the black man's dignity such an act had to be done. To do anything less, he stated amongst the Massachusetts legislators in 1842, was an "unkind and un-Christian policy calculated to make every man disregardful of his conduct, and every woman unmindful of her reputation."     Top


The descendant and heir of one of Boston's wealthiest and most influential families, Wendell Phillips became a convert to the cause of abolitionism by his bride-to-be in the year 1836. He abandoned the practice of law, which he personally considered boring, and quickly became one of the outstanding orators of the Anti-slavery movement. Following in the radical footsteps of William Lloyd Garrison, Phillips equally condemned the Constitution for lawfully allowing the existence of slaveholding and refused to support it by running for office, when suggested to him, nor even by voting. He stopped short of advocating violence, but he did call for the Northern states to secede from the Union rather than put up with Southern slavery any longer. Here the country had the counterpart of what was later to be the Southern action -- secession, but for reasons entirely contrary to the institution of slavery. Phillips publicly declared, "If lawful and peaceful efforts for the abolition of slavery in our land will dissolve it, let the Union go."


Harriet Tubman was a petite Maryland slave who ran away in 1849. She was a fierce, daring, and fearless tiny black who was so filled with might that she earned the nom de guerre "Moses". This she gained after leading more than 300 black fugitive slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She was highly skillful at disguise and evasion techniques and maneuvers. So talented was she that she was never even once trapped, nor any of the accompanying blacks in her charge. In the Civil War itself she continued an active role by aiding the Union Army as cook, laundress, nurse, and even spy. Because she intelligently worked in secrecy, praise for her successful accomplishments came only from those who shared directly in her labors and ordeals. Perhaps, here lay the secret to so much of her success. "I have had the applause of the crowd," Frederick Douglass wrote her once, "while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt `God bless you' has been your only reward." Words well meant, but surely a great understatement. Someone like this great heroine could only have felt something much greater and more majestic within than words themselves could express.


Maria Chapman was a well-to-do mature and married woman of Pilgrim stock. She was one of the original 12 founders of the Boston Female Anti-slavery Society, who also became an adherent to William Lloyd Garrison and his views. Working by his side, Maria Chapman edited The Liberator when he was away busy on his lecture tours outside of Boston. Mrs. Chapman displayed her courage when in 1835, when a violent mob surrounded the Society's meeting place. Since the black members were the ones particularly under attack, she told the whites to each take the arm of a black companion, and thus marched valiantly by twosomes out from the hall. " When we merged into the open daylight," she recalled, "there went up a roar of rage and contempt, which increased when they saw that we did not intend to separate." Mrs. Chapman calmly led her friends through the mob to her home, where she reconvened the meeting. A worthy collaborator for the abolitionist cause.


The son of a Massachusetts Quaker farmer, John Whittier was an inveterate campaigner for liberal causes in general. Hundreds of anti- slavery poems, written by him between 1833 and 1865, made him the poet laureate of abolition. In his stirring "Stanzas for the Times," Whittier used rhetorical questions to imply that slavery besmirched and defiled the freedom American patriots had died for: "Is this the land our fathers loved? / The freedom which they toil'd to win?" He warned his readers that they must continue their ancestors' war against tyranny by working to free the slaves or they would eventually sacrifice their own freedom to Southern slaveholders. Shall we, demanded the poet, " Yoke in with marked and branded slaves, / And tremble at the driver's whip? "

March 9, 1993





February 3, 2000.
Updated July 24, 2000.
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