Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

This Far by Faith

Journeys

Timeline

People

About the Series
Discussions

1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
Next Journey
Quaker Activists, Achievements, and Impending Revolution



Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4









Page 5







Page 6









Page 7




Page 8















Timeline: 1526-1775 View Detailed Timeline
1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues



1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
Quaker Activists, Achievements, and Impending Revolution



During the 1740s and early 1750s, the Quakers began to shift positions. In part, this shift coincided with the death of some wealthy, politically and religiously influential Quakers who had been large slave owners and had thrown roadblocks in the way of any meaningful anti-slavery stand at the Yearly Meeting. But, even more so, this shift was encouraged by the gentle persuasion of a new generation of anti-slavery reformers, the most significant of whom were John Woolman and Anthony Benezet.


Anthony Benezet's plea for abolition of the slave trade, 1760.

Anthony Benezet's plea for abolition of the slave trade, 1760.


A New Jersey tailor and scrivener (writer of wills), Woolman was asked at age 19 to write a bill of sale for a female slave. He complied with this request, but found his conscience so troubled that he became an abolitionist. He traveled extensively, ranging as far afield as Rhode Island and North Carolina, but mostly within Pennsylvania and New Jersey, visiting slave owners and urging them to free their slaves.

He insisted on paying for hospitality that he received from slaveholders, often paying their slaves himself. Most male Quakers wore clothes dyed with indigo, a product of slave labor. Woolman's insistence on wearing undyed clothing made his appearance quite unusual.

He was a regular attendee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, where the abolition of the slave trade was still extremely controversial because some Quakers still owned slaves, with many more wishing that they did.

Anthony Benezet was a French Huguenot refugee who came to America to flee religious persecution. He became a Quaker and a schoolteacher in his new home in Philadelphia. In 1750, Benezet opened the first school for African-American children in Philadelphia. His main contribution to the anti-slavery cause was as an author of several detailed books and as an indefatigable correspondent on the slavery issue with such noted figures as the Methodist John Wesley and England's Queen Mother Charlotte. Wesley was one of Benezet's converts to the antislavery cause. Then, in 1775, Benezet helped to found the first American anti-slavery society, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.


Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, 1744.

Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, 1744.


Meanwhile, at 1758's Yearly Meeting, Woolman and his anti-slavery allies realized their most notable achievement. That Yearly Meeting decided to prohibit members from buying or selling slaves, and it organized committees to visit slaveholders and urge them to free their slaves. These actions committed the Yearly Meeting to prohibit slaveholding altogether, but they did not do so officially until 1776, eighteen years later.

Further achievements by the Quakers were to come: Benezet's lobbying of the Pennsylvania legislature helped to produce the first gradual emancipation statute in North America in 1780, and by 1781, Quakers throughout the colonies had prohibited their members from slaveholding. First, however, all inhabitants of the Colonies had to face a greater challenge - Revolution.

- Contributed by Stephen Angell, Earlham School of Religion



Printable Version






Go Back