Photo Gallery: Significant Abolitionists

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While The Abolitionists focuses on the stories and experiences of five principal characters -- Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimké, John Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe -- there were countless other figures who made important contributions to the abolitionist movement. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy, these passionate anti-slavery activists fought body and soul in one of the most important civil rights crusades in American history.

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Bishop Richard Allen (center) founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1816 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in reaction to segregation at other local churches. The church regularly aided enslaved blacks fleeing the South.

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In 1829, David Walker's "An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World" inspired others (including William Lloyd Garrison) to join the burgeoning abolitionist movement.

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Josiah Henson (seated) escaped to Ontario in 1830 and established a school for other fugitive slaves. His 1849 autobiography inspired the character of Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 bestseller "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

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Samuel Joseph May, a Unitarian minister in Connecticut, became involved in the abolition movement after meeting William Lloyd Garrison in 1830. May eliminated segregated pews in his churches and was an active lecturer on the anti-slavery circuit.

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As a free black woman, Maria W. Stewart became a trailblazing abolitionist and women's rights activist. Inspired by David Walker, she wrote her "Meditations" in 1832 and became one of America's first female public speakers, stressing the importance of religion and education.

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Described as a lieutenant of William Lloyd Garrison's, Maria Weston Chapman was a founding member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and later assumed a leadership role in the American Anti-Slavery Society. She also edited such publications as "The Liberator" and "The Non-Resistant."

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James Forten was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and found financial success in the sail business. He served as vice-president of the American Anti-Slavery Society from 1834 to 1835 and lent money to William Lloyd Garrison to start "The Liberator."

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In 1837, after graduating from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, James McCune Smith became the first African American to hold a medical degree. He also gave frequent anti-slavery speeches and wrote for publications such as The Liberator.

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Charles Lenox Remond was a prominent Boston abolitionist. He was a member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society since 1838 and recruited black soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War.

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David Ruggles was an early abolitionist and one of America's first black journalists. Pictured in the center of the group on the left, he protected local blacks against slave-catchers, and was accused of being an extortionist.

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Lucretia Coffin Mott traveled to London in 1840 as one of the American delegates to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. There, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the two became strong allies in the women's rights movement.

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Lucy Stone graduated from Oberlin College in 1847 and became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She was hired as a lecturer and organizer for the American Anti-Slavery Society and was dedicated to both the abolitionist and women's rights movements.

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Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in Maryland and moved to Philadelphia in 1849 where she became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She claimed she "never lost a passenger."

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A prominent abolitionist and women's rights activist, Sojourner Truth was well known for her 1851 speech, "Ain't I a Woman?" and her efforts to recruit black troops for the Union Army.

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Among the "Distinguished Colored Men" of the abolitionist movement were Henry Highland Garnet (top left of Frederick Douglass), a minister who advocated militant abolitionism, and William Wells Brown (top, center), whose 1853 novel "Clotel" is considered the first published by an African American.

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Anthony Burns' 1854 arrest under the Fugitive Slave Law incited riots in Boston and signaled to abolitionists the complicity of the federal government in the institution of slavery.

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In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott, declaring that African Americans had no claim to freedom or citizenship.

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When runaway slave John Price was arrested in Oberlin, Ohio, and transported to nearby Wellington in 1858, a group of abolitionists intervened to rescue him and eventually brought him to freedom in Canada.

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As one of the "Secret Six," wealthy Northern abolitionist Gerrit Smith helped fund John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.

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After the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 allowed black men to enlist in the Union Army, the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry became one of the first official black units.

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William Cooper Nell was a journalist who worked with both William Lloyd Garrison, on "The Liberator," and Frederick Douglass, on "The North Star." In the early 1860s, he took a job with the U.S. Postal Service, becoming the first black civil service worker.

|Massachusetts Historical Society

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • DIG: Gretchen Stone Cook, Kargman, Rose (Abolitionists)
  • Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
  • NEH
  • Yawkey Foundation