Abolitionist Law and Legal Definition

Abolitionist is a person who favors doing away with slavery. Abolitionism was a movement in Western Europe and the Americas to end the slave trade and set slaves free. The slave system aroused little protest until the 18th century, when rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man.

The first American movement to abolish slavery came in 1688 when German and Dutch Quakers of Mennonite descent in Germantown, Pennsylvania wrote a two-page condemnation of the practice and sent it to the governing bodies of their Quaker church, the Society of Friends. John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was another American abolitionist, who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery. William Lloyd Garrison was also a prominent abolitionist who used the newspaper to tell Congress and the world that slavery must be abolished. In 1833 Garrison and others formed the National Antislavery Society which published books and papers about slavery.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was another great American abolitionist who was also an author. Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom and made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South.

After the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, by United States President Abraham Lincoln abolitionists continued to pursue the freedom of slaves in the remaining slave states, and to better the conditions of black Americans generally. The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 officially ended slavery in the United States.