Abolitionism

Am  I Not a Man and a Brother?
In 1787, the London committee of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade adopted the seal “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” With its visual economy and questioning phrase, the image quickly became the symbol for abolitionism and remained so for decades.

 

Founded in England in 1787, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade campaigned in Parliament, wrote pamphlets and books, and published images to raise awareness of the horrible conditions of the Middle Passage. In 1807 Parliament passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, thus ending Great Britain’s participation in the international slave trade. In 1808 the United States also ended its participation in the Atlantic slave trade.

Opposition to slavery in the United States developed unevenly. At various times between the American Revolution and the 1807 federal law banning the importation of African slaves, some states, including southern ones, discussed gradual emancipation and/or manumission of enslaved people. States such as Vermont and Massachusetts banned slavery outright, while others, such as Rhode Island and New York, adopted a gradualist approach. Beginning in the 1810s, Quaker anti-slavery activists in the South and some southern slaveholders were particularly active in the colonization movement that relocated free and formerly enslaved African Americans to the state of Liberia in West Africa. The Virginia legislature openly discussed abolition in 1829 and 1831. By 1840, virtually all African Americans living in the North were free.