Abolitionists Views of African Americans

Aug 2016
977
US&A
#1
Sometimes I wonder whether abolitionists considered black people to be entirely equal to themselves, or merely undeserving of slavery. Were there abolitionists who advocated for slavery as long as that slavery was kept within whatever bounds they felt were humane? How widely known was the treatment of slaves outside of the southern states?
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,681
Australia
#2
I believe that many, if not most, abolitionists in the US and Britain while believing that slavery was wrong, did not see black people as their equals. They would see nothing contradictory in this belief, nor consider it racist as we understand it today.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,078
Dispargum
#3
Abolitionists by definition wanted to abolish slavery. It was impossible for an abolitionist to tolerate slavery in any form. There probably were people who wanted to modify slavery and make it more humane but these people were not called abolitionists.
There were attempts to publicize the brutality of slavery - "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for instance or "Twelve Years a Slave." Stephen Foster wrote the song "My Old Kentucky Home" from the point of view of a slave who had been sold away from his family, but many Northerners preferred blissful ignorance. There are Civil War accounts of Northern soldiers invading the South and confronting slavery for the first time and being surprised and shocked at the brutality.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2012
4,379
Here
#4
Sometimes I wonder whether abolitionists considered black people to be entirely equal to themselves, or merely undeserving of slavery. Were there abolitionists who advocated for slavery as long as that slavery was kept within whatever bounds they felt were humane?
This has a number of factors...

1. As Clodio says, abolitionists were against slavery. Period.

2. As of the American Civil War, abolitionists probably made up only 5% of the population. Nonetheless, there was an abundance of abolitionist newspapers with fairly high circulation numbers. This worried the slave owners tremendously to the point they censored the U.S. mail in the southern states for decades.

3. Abolitionist who argued for full, political equality of black men (because no women of any race had political equality with men) were called "radical abolitionists." There numbers grew greatly between 1830 and 1860.

4. But I'm sure you could be for full political equality of blacks but not believe in say, interracial marriage, so you have to be clear on what you mean by "equal".

5. This one is a bit obvious, but.... there were far more black abolitionists than just Frederick Douglass, and I'm sure they felt blacks were equal to white men in every sense of the word.

How widely known was the treatment of slaves outside of the southern states?
By the time abolitionism really got rolling about 1830, there were only small numbers of slaves in the North and every state that hadn't abolished slavery to that point was ending it through gradual emancipation (NJ was the last to start gradual emancipation in 1804). The ending of slavery in the North was controversial at the time so it was well known what slavery in the North was like from the political arguments. But white northerners might not have cared about how cruel slavery was, but since the number of slave owners was very small, many northerners didn't care if it was abolished and didn't complain when it was.

But even in the South, after 1830 slavery was growing far crueler than it had been a generation or two earlier, so when it had slavery, the North never had that level of overall cruelty. But of course there were exceptionally cruel slave owners wherever slavery existed.
 
Nov 2017
789
Commune
#5
Uncle Tom's Cabin shows the standard abolitionist view of Blacks. They saw them as inferior children needing the guidance of the White Man and abolition was the best way to do this. Basically, it was the White American version of the British "White Man's Burden". This has been carried out in typical US historiography. It's the reason why Abraham Lincoln is far well-known than Nat Turner or even Frederick Douglass. Historians have tried to canonise the White Saviour narrative and erase the African American role in opposing slavery.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2016
9,560
USA
#6
Uncle Tom's Cabin shows the standard abolitionist view of Blacks. They saw them as inferior children needing the guidance of the White Man and abolition was the best way to do this. Basically, it was the White American version of the British "White Man's Burden". This has been carried out in typical US historiography. It's the reason why Abraham Lincoln is far well-known than Nat Turner or even Frederick Douglass. Historians have tried to canonise the White Saviour narrative and erase the African American role in opposing slavery.
White Man's Burden was about the British huh? :lol:
 

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