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American Intellectual History 101: The Institution of Slavery


The American Intellectual History 101 series explores major public intellectuals and their contributions to the developmental process of American intellectual history from the American Revolution to the Civil War through the discussion of significant texts that add to the public issues of the moment. This article series aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the establishment of the new republic and its institutions of individualism, transcendentalism, civil disobedience, women’s rights, and the cult of domesticity and slavery by diving into the core values that have shaped the United States. Aiming to present the ideologies and worldviews of the United States of America, this analysis includes many thinkers and cultural pioneers to demonstrate the roots of some notions which made the U.S. a unique nation with distinct goals and ideals that have influenced the world.

This series will be divided into seven articles:

American Intellectual History 101: The Institution of Slavery

Since it exacerbated societal inequality, slavery has been one of the largest problems in the United States for many years. However, the origins of slavery go much before the U.S history. It is assumed that the institution of slavery dates back to 6000-2000 BCE as evidenced by the reference found in the Hammurabi Code of 1754 BCE which states "If anyone takes a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death” (Slavery in History, n.d). Apart from Mesopotamia and Sumer, other ancient societies like Egypt and Greece also practiced slavery. Notably, in Greece, slaves constituted a significant portion of the population, making up around a third. The economy of Greece heavily relied on slave labor (Slavery in History, n.d). Slavery's historical roots trace back to civilizations like Mesopotamia, Sumer, Egypt, and Greece. However, its lasting impact persisted through diverse societies and time periods. These initial occurrences of slavery, whether defined by inflexible social hierarchies or relatively adaptable systems, established the foundation for the extensive and lasting exploitation of human labor. The notion of owning and controlling individuals persisted through the ages, transitioning from Greeks to Romans, Vikings to Britain, and feudal Europe, leaving a trail of historical inequalities and systemic injustices. These patterns culminated in the complex and deeply ingrained system of slavery that took root in the United States. The path of slavery through diverse civilizations and eras ultimately paved the route for the profoundly disturbing inequalities that afflicted American society for centuries. This perpetuated a legacy that continues to echo in modern conversations about race, power, and social fairness. Historian John Blassingame portrays the horror black people experienced during shipping from Africa to the Americas;

Taken on board ship, the naked Africans Slavery In America were shackled together on bare wooden boards in the hold, and packed so tightly that they could not sit upright. During the dreaded Mid-Passage (a trip of from three weeks to more than three months)... the foul and poisonous air of the hold, extreme heat, men lying for hours in their own defecation, with blood and mucus covering the floor, caused a great deal of sickness. Mortality from undernourishment and disease was about 16 percent. The first few weeks of the trip was the most traumatic experience for the Africans. A number of them went insane and many became so despondent that they gave up the will to live... Often they committed suicide, by drowning or refusing food or medicine, rather than accept their enslavement (Slavery in America, 2018, p. 10).

As Black people have been crushed under the institution of slavery for decades, they were deprived of their command over their own life and agency resulting in a "culture of poverty and family dysfunction"(Penningroth, 2009, p. 16). Slave owners frequently sold or traded enslaved individuals without regard for their familial relationships, causing immense pain and suffering as loved ones were forcibly separated, sometimes never to see each other again even though most of them attempted to find their loved ones during the Reconstruction era (Bellamy, 2022). This systematic cruelty inflicted deep and lasting wounds on generations of African American families, leaving a legacy of trauma that continues to impact communities to this day. Abolitionists utilized the threat of separation to argue against the institution of slavery, just how owners used the development of familial bonds to their own benefit. Frederick Douglass began the story of his life by looking at how slavery affected his own family. Douglass was a slave in Maryland before fleeing and becoming an abolitionist who fought vehemently to abolish slavery. He said that despite having "heard it whispered" that his owner was his father, he had never met him. Amidst the struggles endured by black individuals under the weight of slavery's oppression, passionate abolitionists emerged to voice a resounding condemnation of the institution (Bellamy, 2022). Their compelling arguments exposed the contradictions and cruelty of slavery, contributing to the eventual transformation of a nation divided by the chains of bondage.

In their impassioned and groundbreaking works, notable abolitionists in the United States brought forth powerful arguments that reverberated across the nation, challenging the moral and social foundations of slavery. Frederick Douglass, in his iconic speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?", delivered an eloquent critique of American hypocrisy, exposing the stark contrast between the ideals of liberty celebrated on Independence Day and the grim reality of bondage endured by millions. William Lloyd Garrison, through his address to the 'Friends of Freedom and Emancipation in the United States,' fervently condemned slavery as a grievous sin and called for immediate and unconditional emancipation. His resolute voice echoed the urgency for justice and equality. David Walker, in "An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World," stirred the hearts of fellow African Americans, advocating for self-empowerment, resistance, and the dismantling of oppressive systems. These abolitionists, each in their distinctive way, challenged complacency, shook the foundations of injustice, and contributed to the eventual transformation of a nation divided by the chains of slavery.

Figure 1: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Buttre, 1855).

Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Speech

Frederick Douglass emerged as a towering figure in the fight against slavery in the United States. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (Trent, 2023), he was born into enslavement but escaped to become a prominent abolitionist, writer, and speaker. Douglass' first-hand experiences as an enslaved individual provided him with a poignant perspective, which he eloquently conveyed through his speeches and writings. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, remains a seminal work that vividly depicts the brutality and dehumanization of slavery. His tireless advocacy for equality, education, and human rights earned him recognition as a leading voice in the abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglass, a towering figure in the fight against slavery, left an indelible mark through his powerful speeches and writings. His legacy is exemplified by his poignant speech titled "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?". Douglass's impactful speech, 'What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?' delivered on July 5, 1852, masterfully highlighted the stark contradiction between the lofty ideals of freedom and equality celebrated on Independence Day and the harsh reality of enslavement faced by African Americans. Through his adept rhetoric, he condemned the nation's hypocrisy, poignantly asking, "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?" Douglass's ability to lay bare the moral incongruity of the celebration further fueled the abolitionist movement and compelled audiences to confront the inherent injustice of slavery (Trent, 2023). His speech remains a testament to his unwavering commitment to challenging systemic oppression and fostering societal change.

In his speech, Frederick Douglass delineates a distinction between white and Black people within the context of American history. He underscores the significance of the 4th of July as a celebration of independence, drawing parallels to the Passover for the emancipated. Douglass critiques the British government's past rule over the colonies, contrasting the colonists' perception of oppression with the British view of their actions. He praises the American colonists' perseverance in seeking justice through respectful means despite facing indifference. Through this, Douglass establishes a clear separation between those who sought freedom and justice, symbolized by the American colonists, and those who enforced unjust rule, represented by the British government (Douglass, 1852). Frederick Douglass conveys a profound admiration for the signers of the Declaration of Independence while also critiquing the limitations of his viewpoint in assessing their greatness.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men [...] and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory (Douglass, 1852, p. 3).

He acknowledges their bravery and greatness, attributing them as figures who brought renown to their era. Despite acknowledging his potentially biased perspective, Douglass expresses his genuine admiration for the remarkable achievements of these individuals, emphasizing their roles as statesmen, patriots, and heroes. He pledges to join in honoring their memory due to the positive impact they had and the principles they fought for. Douglass highlights their exceptional commitment to their country over personal interests, recognizing it as a rare virtue deserving of respect, particularly the willingness to sacrifice one's life for the nation. He emphasizes how the signers risked everything — lives, fortunes, and honor — for the cause of their country, driven by a strong admiration for liberty that overshadowed other concerns. Douglass acknowledges their complex nature, as they were proponents of peace yet willing to embrace revolution to escape oppression. They exhibited a balance of quietness and agitation, showing forbearance within limits and a deep belief in just order while rejecting tyranny. Douglass argues that their principles of justice, liberty, and humanity were not negotiable, unlike slavery and oppression.

Frederick Douglass proceeds by passionately addressing the stark inequality and hypocrisy inherent in the celebration of American independence, particularly from the perspective of an enslaved person.

Figure 2: Frederick Douglass (circa 1866).

...I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn (Douglass, 1852, p. 4).

He laments the vast disparity between the jubilation of the Fourth of July festivities and the harsh reality faced by millions who remain in chains. Douglass emphasizes the stark contrast between the joys of liberty enjoyed by the citizens and the continued suffering of those in bondage. He underscores the painful irony in inviting him, an enslaved person, to participate in the festivities that symbolize freedom while he is denied that very freedom. Douglass asserts that to ignore the plight of the enslaved and to speak lightly of their suffering would be a betrayal of his conscience and a disregard for the profound injustice of slavery. He boldly condemns the nation's hypocrisy, highlighting its past declarations and present professions as false and contradictory in the face of perpetuating slavery. Douglass aligns himself with the oppressed, using the platform to call into question the nation's commitment to its constitution, the principles of liberty, and the teachings of the Bible. He firmly denounces slavery as a great sin and disgrace to America, rejecting any attempt to equivocate or excuse its perpetuation.

Douglass continues by stating that he will not elaborate further on the inconsistencies within the nation. He presents a scathing indictment of the presence of slavery in the United States, declaring it to be a stain on the nation's ideals and values. Douglass asserts that the existence of slavery renders the nation's claims of republicanism, humanity, and Christianity hollow and deceptive. He accuses slavery of tarnishing the nation's reputation on the international stage, corrupting its politicians, undermining religious foundations, and making it a subject of scorn and mockery.

The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a by word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union (Douglass, 1852, p. 13).

Douglass portrays slavery as a force that disrupts the nation's unity and progress, describing it as an antagonistic element that hinders growth, education, and improvement. He contends that slavery cultivates negative qualities such as pride, insolence, vice, and criminal behavior. He goes on to describe it as a curse upon the land and the people that support it. Despite these damaging effects, Douglass criticizes his fellow citizens for clinging to slavery as if it were a fundamental pillar of their aspirations. He issues a powerful plea for change, comparing slavery to a venomous creature hidden within the nation. He implores his fellow citizens to recognize the danger it poses and to rid themselves of this "hideous monster" (Douglass, 1852, p. 13). Douglass concludes by urging his audience to take action, to tear away the shackles of slavery, and to crush it forever under the weight of the nation's collective determination. In essence, the end of his speech encapsulates Douglass's condemnation of slavery as a moral, political, social, and economic scourge that undermines the very foundations of the United States. He calls upon his fellow citizens to acknowledge its destructive nature and to take decisive steps toward its eradication.

Figure 3: "Frederick Douglass" (Warren, 1876).

Frederick Douglass's impassioned plea for the abolition of slavery, as culminated in his powerful speech, echoes with a profound urgency that still resonates today. With eloquence and unwavering conviction, he exposes the contradictions between the nation's professed ideals of freedom and the harsh reality of human bondage. Douglass's call to "tear away" the hideous monster of slavery underscores his fervent belief in the inherent rights and dignity of every individual (Douglass, 1852, p. 13). By challenging his audience to confront the moral enormity of their nation's actions and to take decisive steps toward justice, he ignites a flame of awareness and activism that extends far beyond his time. Through his words, Douglass not only condemns the institution of slavery but also provides a timeless blueprint for collective action and progress toward a more equitable and harmonious society.

“Address to the Friends of Freedom and Emancipation in the U.S” by William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison, a dedicated reformer and pivotal figure in the abolitionist movement, fervently advocated for the immediate abolition of slavery. Co-founder of the New England Anti-Slavery Society and the American Anti-Slavery Society, Garrison's unwavering commitment is exemplified through his influential anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator. Garrison's influence, built upon moral persuasion and non-violence, shaped the abolitionist movement centered in Boston. While his view of the Constitution as pro-slavery distanced him from political activism, Garrison's dedication to moral persuasion and non-violence was instrumental in shaping the Boston-centered abolitionist movement, which notably influenced later abolitionists. Garrison's impact persisted, with his stance evolving to support the Civil War only upon Lincoln's announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation (National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, n.d.).

Figure 4: "William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist, journalist, and editor of The Liberator" (Wikimedia, 1870).

Garrison's views aligned with a call for justice, freedom, and resistance to tyranny. He paralleled the actions of American revolutionaries in 1776 with the plight of enslaved African Americans. Garrison's stance underscored that the principles of the Declaration of Independence should apply universally, including to the issue of slavery. He critiqued the Constitution as accommodating slavery, highlighting the hypocrisy of the Founding Fathers who proclaimed human rights while actively enslaving others. Garrison's critique emphasized the disparity between the nation's ideals and its actions, shedding light on the complex moral landscape of American history. It underscores the stark contrast between the principles of liberty and equality and the harsh realities of slavery in early America, shedding light on the complex moral landscape of the nation's history. Garrison critiques the hypocrisy inherent in the actions of the Founding Fathers, who professed to recognize the universal brotherhood of humanity in words but actively enslaved their fellow men. He highlights their willingness to buy, sell, and treat human beings as commodities while simultaneously presenting themselves as champions of human rights during their fight against British oppression (2005, p. 442).

Garrison questions why virtues are attributed to the Founding Fathers that they did not genuinely possess and challenges the idea that they held no bias in the formation of the government. By referring to the "iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah," Garrison draws a parallel between the biblical context and the state of the North and South in America, suggesting that both regions are steeped in moral corruption and hypocrisy (Hollinger & Capper, 2005, p. 442). He subsequently examines specific clauses in the Constitution, such as the three-fifths compromise, the Fugitive Slave Clause, and the pledge to protect states against domestic violence. These clauses, according to Garrison, further highlight the accommodation of slavery within the framework of the United States (Address to the Friends of Freedom and Emancipation in the U.S., 2023). The motto "NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS", as advocated by William Lloyd Garrison and the anti-slavery society, encapsulates their vehement stance against any form of alliance or collaboration with individuals who supported or participated in the institution of slavery ( Hollinger & Capper, 2005, p. 442). This motto reflects Garrison's uncompromising belief that slavery was a grave moral evil that demanded an absolute rejection of any association with those who perpetuated it.

Figure 5: "William Lloyd Garrison" (Jocelyn, 1833).

The Constitution which subjects them to hopeless bondage, is one that we cannot swear to support! Our motto is, 'NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS,' either religious or political (Hollinger & Capper, 2005, p. 442).

William Lloyd Garrison encapsulates his resolute determination and unwavering commitment to the abolitionist cause. Garrison emphasizes that his actions are not driven by blind impulse but are the result of careful consideration of the potential consequences. He acknowledges the challenges and adversities they will face - reproach, persecution, and potential danger, even to the point of losing their lives. Despite the hardships that await, he emphasizes their readiness to face them. Garrison outlines the range of negative responses they anticipate, from being ridiculed and scorned to being branded as disorganized and traitors. Despite the harsh judgment and potential backlash, he asserts their conviction in the righteousness of their stance and their belief in the eternal foundation of their cause. He conveys their unyielding faith in their position and their faith in God as sources of strength and guidance. Garrison's call to "secede" from the government is not a call to armed conflict but rather a call to detach from a system that perpetuates slavery and to peacefully resist by refusing to support it (Hollinger & Capper, 2005, p. 443). He advocates for civil disobedience, encouraging individuals not to fill government offices or send representatives who would act against their principles. He urges the dissemination of a declaration of disunion from slaveholders, the holding of mass meetings, and the assembly in conventions to bring about change through collective action.

Black Abolitionist David Walker’s Pamphlet "An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World"

David Walker, born around 1797 in Wilmington, North Carolina, emerged as a prominent figure in the fight against slavery and for the rights of African Americans. Born to a free mother and an enslaved father, Walker's upbringing in the oppressive landscape of slavery deeply influenced his convictions (, 2020). By 1825, he had settled in Boston, where he established himself as a clothing shop owner and an integral member of the city's African American community (, 2020). Engaging actively in various abolitionist organizations, Walker's advocacy extended to his writings, including contributions to the New York publication Freedom's Journal. In 1829, In his pamphlet An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, David Walker powerfully advocated for immediate emancipation of enslaved African Americans and the recognition of the heir equal rights. This courageous document not only marked a pivotal moment in the fight for freedom and equality but also placed Walker's own life and freedom at great risk, emphasizing the immense dedication and sacrifice he undertook in the pursuit of justice.

Figure 6: "David Walker" (Black Books Matter, n.d.).

Walker starts his pamphlet by declaring that their condition as Black people is at its worst in this “Republican Land of Liberty” he says, sarcastically (Walker, 1995, p. 133). Walker vehemently denounces the extreme degradation and suffering experienced by African Americans in the United States.

I promised to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the most incredulous, that we, the colored people of these United States of America are the most wretched, degraded, and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began, and that the white Americans having reduced us to the wretched state of slavery, treat us in that condition more cruelly (they being an enlightened and Christian people) than any heathen nation did any people whom it had reduced to our condition (Walker, 1995, p. 134).

He asserts that the condition of the colored people in America is even worse than that of any other group in history who were subjected to similar oppression. Walker directly compares the treatment of enslaved African Americans by white Americans, whom he identifies as an enlightened and Christian society, to the cruelty exhibited by heathen nations toward those they subjugated. He challenges his readers, including professing Christians, philanthropists, and even tyrants, to find any historical precedent demonstrating a more wretched and cruel treatment of a people. By referencing the condition of the Israelites under the Egyptians, Walker highlights the stark contrast between the narrative of liberation in the Bible and the harsh reality faced by African Americans in the United States. He appeals to the conscience of his audience, urging them to recognize the deeply unjust and inhumane treatment that African Americans have endured.

Figure 7: Believed to be a Portrait of David Walker (Marshall, circa 1830).

Walker critically addresses Thomas Jefferson's assertion of racial inferiority and the deeply unjust treatment of African Americans as he continues his discussion on the condition of Black people.

Here, let me ask Mr. Jefferson (but he is gone, to answer at the bar of God, for the deeds done in his body while living), therefore I ask the whole American people, had I not rather die, or be put to death than to be a slave to any tyrant, who takes not only my own, but my wife and children's lives by inches? Yea, I would meet death with avidity far in preference to such servile submission to the murderous hands of tyrants (Walker, 1995, p. 135).

He challenges Jefferson's viewpoint, expressing astonishment that a man of such intellectual stature could label a group of people in chains as inferior. Walker laments that Jefferson's views perpetuate a narrative that justifies the enslavement and oppression of African Americans. He employs powerful rhetoric to illustrate his disdain for submission to tyrants, even at the cost of death, rather than accepting a life of servitude. Walker criticizes the American people as a whole for allowing the pervasive and brutal mistreatment of African Americans, referencing the cruel practices of the white population, which he describes as unjust, jealous, unmerciful, and avaricious. He contrasts the actions of the whites to those of heathen societies, arguing that while heathens were bad, the audacity and extent of white cruelty, such as throwing enslaved people into the sea and committing various atrocities, is unparalleled. Walker's condemnation is unapologetic and directed at the systemic oppression faced by African Americans. He positions African Americans as the victims of a society that not only tolerates but also perpetrates these injustices. His words are a call to action, urging his fellow African Americans to empower themselves and pass down the truth to the next generation.

Figure 8: "David Walker" (Black Mail Blog, n.d.).

Walker criticizes the actions of Christians and enlightened individuals from Europe and parts of Asia. He laments that instead of enlightening and uplifting African Americans, these supposed champions of enlightenment have exacerbated their suffering and degradation. Rather than sharing the religious and intellectual blessings that God had provided, they have subjected African Americans to a wretched state that is even more intolerable than if they had been left to their own devices. Walker's language highlights the irony and hypocrisy of these actions, emphasizing the betrayal of supposed values of enlightenment and Christianity. Walker strongly condemns the practice of portraying African Americans as an inferior and distinct race, noting that this assertion serves as a justification for their continued subjugation and oppression. He criticizes the notion that such a belief is used to legitimize the exploitation and enslavement of African Americans by white people who desire to maintain a system of slavery. Walker's words convey a deep sense of outrage at the perpetuation of these falsehoods and the suffering they have caused. He suggests that while some may currently desire to keep African Americans as slaves, there will come a time when they regret their actions and the consequences of their choices. Walker's tone combines a sense of moral outrage and a call to self-awareness, urging his readers to recognize the inhumane treatment and unjustification of their actions and beliefs. David Walker critiques the concept of colonization and the underlying attitudes of white individuals toward African Americans. He begins by acknowledging that colonization was once proposed and temporarily supported by figures like Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Abraham Lincoln. However, Walker asserts that the theory's association with gradual emancipation and the shift towards immediate and unconditional emancipation led to its decline (1995). He points out that even prominent figures like Harriet Beecher Stowe depicted the challenges of colonization in their works. Walker then delves into his analysis of human nature, asserting that regardless of their circumstances, humans remain inherently the same (Walker, 1995). He emphasizes that while individuals may be subjected to wretched conditions, their essence as human beings, created in the image of God, remains intact. Walker implies that the notion of equality and the desire for freedom are intrinsic to humanity and cannot be extinguished, regardless of the efforts to suppress them (1995). Walker criticizes the intentions of the white colonizers, accusing them of acting out of fear and avarice.

The whites knowing this, they do not know what to do; they are afraid that we being men, and nor brutes, will retaliate, and woe will be to them; therefore, that dreadful fear, together with an avaricious spirit, and the natural love in them to be called masters, bring them to the re- solve that they will keep us in ignorance and wretchedness, as long as they possibly can… (Walker, 1995, p. 142).

He suggests that the whites fear retaliation from African Americans because they recognize that African Americans, being human beings, possess the capability and right to fight for their freedom and equality. He argues that white colonizers underestimate the intelligence and humanity of African Americans and treat them as if they were mere brutes to be controlled. Overall, Walker's analysis reveals his belief in the indomitable spirit of humanity and his condemnation of the oppressive attitudes and actions of those who seek to subjugate African Americans. He challenges the notion that African Americans can be forced into ignorance and wretchedness indefinitely, highlighting his determination to expose these injustices and inspire his fellow African Americans to resist and demand their rightful place in society.

Figure 9: "Frontispiece from the 1830 edition of David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World" (Wikimedia, 2004).

Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and David Walker were all influential figures in the abolitionist movement, each contributing unique perspectives on the issue of slavery. Douglass, born into slavery, used his personal experiences to emphasize the urgency of immediate emancipation. His narrative and speeches highlighted the brutal realities of slavery and the importance of education for African Americans. Garrison, a prominent abolitionist and editor of The Liberator, strongly condemned slavery as a moral evil and advocated for a complete and immediate end to the institution. He held that the Constitution was a pro slavery document and called for the dissolution of the Union. Walker, through his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, combined religious and philosophical arguments to denounce colonization and demand equal rights for African Americans. He challenged colonizationists and criticized white attitudes towards Black humanity. While Douglass and Walker focused on the urgency of immediate action and equal rights, Garrison's emphasis was on moral purity and the need to disassociate from the existing institutions upholding slavery. Together, these three voices showcased the multifaceted approaches within the abolitionist movement, united in their goal of ending the injustice of slavery.

In conclusion, the voices of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and David Walker echo through history as steadfast advocates for the eradication of slavery and the attainment of equality. Their powerful words, impassioned speeches, and fearless writings cut through the rhetoric of oppression, exposing the moral and ethical contradictions of a society that simultaneously celebrated freedom while perpetuating bondage. Through his eloquent speeches and autobiographical works, Frederick Douglass confronted the harsh realities of enslavement and demanded immediate change, illustrating that personal experience could be a potent weapon in the fight for justice. William Lloyd Garrison's unyielding dedication to moral purity and his fervent belief in non-violence as a means of persuasion made him a powerful moral force, aiming to dissolve the bonds of slavery by disbanding the very Union that upheld it. David Walker's audacious pamphlet sought to empower African Americans, urging them to rise against oppression and seize their rights as human beings. In the tapestry of history, the legacies of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and David Walker persist as beacons of courage and catalysts for change. Their unwavering commitment to justice and equality reverberates in modern discussions of social justice, fueling ongoing movements for a more just world. Douglass's narrative of personal struggle and triumph has inspired marginalized voices to assert their stories, while Garrison's moral integrity and commitment to non-violence continue to guide peaceful resistance and the pursuit of equality. Walker's call for self-empowerment echoes in contemporary demands for agency and representation. As modern society grapples with persistent inequalities, the echoes of these abolitionists' voices remind us that the power to challenge and reshape societal norms lies in the fervent words, unyielding conviction, and unbreakable spirit that fueled their pursuit of justice. Just as they illuminated the path to a more equitable world in their time, their enduring influence serves as a compass, urging us to chart a course toward lasting and transformative social change.

Bibliographical References

Bellamy, C. (2022, February 14). How Black Families Torn Apart During Slavery, Worked To Find One Another Again? NBC News.

David Walker: Boston’s Fiery Anti-Slavery Writer. (2020, February 12).

Equal Justice Initiative. (2018). Slavery In America. Slavery In America: THE Montgomery Slave Trade (pp. 8–30). Equal Justice Initiative.

Hollinger, D & Capper, C. (2005). American Intellectual Tradition: Vol. Volume 1: 1630-1865. Oxford University Press.

Penningroth, D. C. (2009). Writing Slavery’s History. OAH Magazine of History, 23(2), pp. 13–20.

The History Press | Slavery in history. (n.d.).

Trent, N. (2023, July 5). Frederick Douglass | Biography, accomplishments, & facts. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Walker, D. (1995). David Walker’s Appeal To the Coloured Citizens of the World.

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (1852, July 5). Mass Humanities. Retrieved August 10, 2023, from

Williams, H. A. (n.d.). How Slavery Affected African American Families. National Humanities Center. Retrieved August 24, 2023, from

William Lloyd Garrison. (n.d.). National Abolition Hall Of Fame And Museum.

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