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Abolitionists Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

The U.S. Constitution as written in 1787 never used the words "slavery" or "slave," adopting instead the euphemism, "all other persons." The first time the word "slavery" appeared in the document was in the Thirteenth Amendment that declared its unconstitutionality in 1865.28

As late as 1827, the number of antislavery organizations in the slave states outnumbered those in the free states by at least four to one.29

The first time that an American woman ever addressed a legislative body was when the white, southern-born Angelina Grimké addressed a Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature in the Boston State House before a packed crowd—most of them men but with some women—on Wednesday, 21 February 1838. She addressed the representatives and the crowd on behalf of the 20,000 Massachusetts women who placed their names on anti-slavery petitions to the Legislature. She appeared again two days later to discuss "The Dangers of Slavery, the Safety of Emancipation, Gradualism, and Character of the Free people of Color."30

By mid-August of 1835, the summer when mob violence—particularly that directed against abolitionists—peaked, southern vigilance committees began offering rewards for prominent abolitionists. The citizens of East Feliciana, Louisiana pledged $50,000 for the delivery of Arthur Tappan, the president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, dead or alive. Mount Meigs, Alabama promised the same amount for Tappan or any other prominent abolitionist. New Orleans doubled the offer to $100,000 and added the name of LaRoy Sunderland, the editor of the paper Zion's Watchman and a former Methodist revivalist who became one of many abolitionists to secede from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1840s because they believed it condoned slaveholding. A grand jury in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, demanded that the publishing agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, R. G. Williams, be sent to the South for trial. And a Virginia grand jury indicted and demanded extradition of all key members of the American Anti-Slavery Society.31

The American Anti-Slavery Society managed to collect some two million signatures in their 1838-39 congressional petition campaign, although the Society itself had only 100,000 members and approximately 1300 local affiliates.32

With a national population of 17,069,453 in 1840, the 109,000 members of the American Anti-Slavery Society accounted for less than 1% of the people in the United States—0.64%, to be exact.33

In 1834, William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist weekly, The Liberator, sent out a circular in which it reported that only one-fourth of the paper's subscribers were white. The Liberator thus relied on free blacks for some 75% of its subscription revenues.34

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