The Abolition Movement

Timeline: 1830 - 1839

Painted portrait of William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison. Public Domain

The abolition of slavery began in 1688 when German and Dutch Quakers published a pamphlet denouncing the practice. For more than 150 years, the abolition movement continued to evolve.

By the 1830s, the abolition movement had captured the attention of African-Americans and whites were fighting to end the institution of slavery in the United States. Evangelical Christian groups in New England became drawn to the cause of abolitionism. Radical in nature, these groups attempted to end enslavement by appealing to the conscience of its supporters by acknowledging its sinfulness in the Bible. In addition, these new abolitionists called for the immediate and complete emancipation of African-Americans—a deviation from previous abolitionist thought. 

Prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said early in the 1830s, "I will not equivocate...and I will be heard." Garrison's words would set the tone for the transforming abolition movement, which would continue to build steam up until the Civil War.


  • The National Negro Convention is held in Philadelphia. The Convention brings together forty freed African-Americans. Its aim is to protect the rights of freed African-Americans in the United States.
  • Race riots in Cincinnati along with strong enforcement of Ohio's "Black Laws" encourages African-Americans to migrate to Canada and establish free colonies. These colonies become important on the Underground Railroad.


  • Garrison publishes The Liberator, one of the most widely read antislavery publications.
  • The Nat Turner Rebellion takes places in Southampton County Virginia.


  • Maria Stewart, a prominent political activist begins her career as an abolitionist and feminist.


  • The Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society is formed.
  • Garrison establishes the American Antislavery Society in Philadelphia. Within five years, the organization has more than 1300 chapters and an estimated 250,000 members.


  • Great Britain abolishes slavery in its colonies.


  • Women organize societies such as the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Women such as Lucretia Mott, Grace Bustill Douglass are members.
  • Antislavery petitions flood the offices of congressmen. These petitions are part of a campaign launched by abolitionists.


  • Various abolitionist organizations rally together and sue in the Commonwealth v. Aves case in which a slave traveled to Boston with her mistress from New Orleans.
  • Sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke begin their careers as abolitionists.


  • Presbyterian minister and abolitionist Elijah Parish Lovejoy establishes the antislavery publication, Alton Observer.
  • The Vigilance Committee is established by abolitionist and businessman Robert Purvis to help runaway slaves.
  • The Antislavery Convention of American Women gathers for the first time. This interracial association was comprised of various women's antislavery groups.
  • The Institute for Colored Youth is founded. It is one of the earliest black colleges in the United States and is renamed Cheyney University.


  • Angelina Grimke addresses the Massachusetts legislature concerning not only the abolition movement but also the rights of women.
  • Philadelphia Hall is burned by an anti-abolitionist mob.
  • Frederick Douglass runs away from slavery and travels to New York City.


  • The Liberty Party is formed by abolitionists to use political action to fight against slavery.
  • Abolitionist Lewis Tappan forms the Friend of Amistad Africans Committee to fight for the rights of Africans involved in the Amistad case.