A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

No Union with Slaveholders

The violent reaction to the antislavery movement, not just in the South, but also throughout the North—and in Boston—caused abolitionists to reevaluate their goals and methods. William Lloyd Garrison and his followers became even more radical in outlook, arguing for a complete reform of society and for disunion—the secession of the North from the South—to break the immoral Constitutional connection with slavery. Garrison added “No Union with Slaveholders” to the masthead of The Liberator.

Disunion also threatened the abolitionist movement. The “Garrisonians” believed that the political system was hopelessly corrupt, while their opponents organized first the Liberty and then the Free Soil Party. The American Anti-Slavery Society split over the participation of women in the movement, and Garrison’s warm friendship and close working relationship with Frederick Douglass ended in discord.

The items displayed below illustrate a range of reactions to both William Lloyd Garrison and the antislavery movement. Included are a journal entry describing a mob scene in Boston, the branded hand of a "slave stealer," and a letter written by Harriet Beecher Stowe just after she finished her antislavery-themed novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Our Fanaticism! All Men Are Created Equal!..., Garrison antislavery banner
Cotton, paint, silk fringe, 1843
Bradley Newcomb Cumings journal, 19-23 October 1835, page 186
The branded hand of Captain Jonathan Walker
Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes, 1845
Letter from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Horace Mann, 2 March 1852
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Engraving by R. Young, 1853


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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