A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Farewell to The Liberator and Further Reading

In 1865, after thirty-five years of publication, William Lloyd Garrison planned to close The Liberator at the end of that year. The newspaper had never been financially successful and final victory in the Civil War as well as the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment seemed to mark an appropriate stopping point. Garrison almost missed his deadline—the legal end of slavery did not come until 18 December 1865—and he set some of the type for the last issue on the same imposing stone that he had first used in 1831 when The Liberator began. Although many of Garrison’s readers and supporters, including William C. Nell, thought the battle for Black civil rights was just beginning, they flooded the paper with congratulatory messages, forcing him to print an “extra” final issue.

William C. Nell
Farewell to The Liberator
Broadsheet with text by William C. Nell, 21 October 1865

Further Reading

Digital Collections at the MHS

African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts: Web displays of manuscripts and early printed works about the lives of African Americans in Massachusetts from the late 17th century through the abolition of slavery in the state in 1780.

The Case for Ending Slavery: Primary sources and lesson plans arranged around five topics relating to slavery, the end of slavery, and the Civil War.

Images of the Antislavery Movement in Massachusetts: Online displays of photographs, paintings, and other visual materials illustrating the role of Massachusetts in the national debate over slavery.

Books and Manuscript Collections

Please note: The links below go to bibliographic descriptions and collection guides for the printed and manuscript materials.

John Brown collection, 1861-1918.

Collections relevant to African American history at the Massachusetts Historical Society: An Overview.

William Lloyd Garrison papers, 1833-1882.

Liberator. Boston, Mass.: William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp, 1831-1865.

Mayer, Henry. All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

Reynolds, David S. John Brown, Abolitionist : The Man who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. New York: Alfred A. Knopf: Distributed by Random House, 2005.

Catharine Maria Sedgwick papers, 1798-1908.

Stevens, Charles Emery. Anthony Burns: A History. Boston: John P. Jewett and Co., 1856.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly. Boston: J.P. Jewett; Cleveland: Jewett, Proctor & Worthington, 1852, c1851.

Theodore Parker papers, 1826-1865.


Exhibition: 22 February - 24 May 2013

"'Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land': Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865" displays many important manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts from the Society's collections that relate to the Abolitionist movement in Boston. Visitors can view such items as the imposing table for The Liberator, which has not been on display in the Society's building for many years. The exhibit is open Monday through Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM.

Additional Online Resource

The Case for Ending Slavery features curricular resources and more than 50 primary sources from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Library of Congress that reveal how slavery, and debates about slavery, contributed to the formation of the United States.

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