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Anti-slavery movement, United States, 1700–1870

Francesca Gamber


The use of enslaved African labor to wring profits from the plentiful natural resources of the New World began in what would become the United States in the seventeenth century, but the system ironically carried the seeds of its own demise. Opposition to slavery in the United States began as soon as the system itself did, and as plantation slavery expanded over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, anti-slavery sentiment only grew stronger and gained more adherents. Opponents of slavery offered a number of possible solutions that ranged from supporting gradual abolition of slavery that compensated slaveholders for the loss of their investment, to relocation of freed slaves to Africa, to the pursuit of immediate abolition without compensation through either violent or non-violent means. Though formal abolition societies never claimed more than a small percentage of the population among their members, the sustained efforts of white abolitionists as well as free and enslaved African Americans kept anti-slavery dissent within public view. Often fraught with internal disagreements over goals and tactics, the anti-slavery movement in the United States succeeded in bringing about the abolition of slavery at the end of the Civil War and in pioneering techniques that would be used by generations of later activists. The first abolitionists were the slaves themselves, and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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