Anti-Slavery in North America

Quakers in Germantown made the first recorded protest against slavery in 1688. Many Quakers, especially in the southern colonies, owned slaves at this time.

During much of the eighteenth century, the focus was on eliminating slavery within the Quaker community. This was achieved in 1774. Many individuals helped to bring about the change. Benjamin Lay campaigned by standing barefoot in the snow outside a Quaker meeting to show the conditions slaves endured. Antony Benezet wrote several books on slavery and conditions in Africa. As Quakers freed their own slaves, some also bought slaves from others in order to free them. In 1774, Quakers who still owned slaves were expelled from the Society of Friends.

After eliminating slavery from the Quaker communities, they turned their attention to ending slavery in the society as whole. They raised public awareness and supported escaping slaves, offering them help to build new lives.

The Underground Railroad was a set of routes and safe houses for escaping slaves to make their way from the slave-owning South to the emancipated North.

Nevertheless slavery among non-Quakers continued in parts of the US until 1865. Slavery was a central issue of the Civil War (1861-65). After the war slavery was finally abolished throughout the United States.

Slavery persists in modern forms, such as forced labor, in many parts of the world. Many North American Quakers are involved in activities aimed at abolishing these modern forms of slavery.

Source: Anti-Slavery in North America
Chilterns Quaker (formerly New Jordans) Programme, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

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