As the United States ushered in the nineteenth century, its societies witnessed an unprecedented increase in reform movements that revolved around calls for change within its borders. Before then, protestors lasted as long as it took for them to tire of their efforts. In other words, there was no commitment to ensuring that the American populace changed its attitudes in life and for that reason, reformations were impossible to sustain in the eighteenth century. Now, in the nineteenth century, the situation changed as social protests prevailed and the people created formal organizations to communicate messages. One such endeavor was in the formation of the American Antislavery Society in 1833 for abolishing slavery in the United States. The American Antislavery Society sought to sensitize slave owners to the plight of their human chattels and encourage them to liberate all persons of African descent from the yoke of bondage. To that end, abolitionism sought to emancipate black slaves and the American Antislavery Society was central to the effort; concurrently, in the success that came with the American Civil War, equality between the races proved impossible on the grounds of white supremacy.
Foremost, according to the social hierarchies of the American communities, whites were predominantly superior to the blacks and for that reason, the former group was within its rights to hold the latter faction as one would a beast of burden (Douglass, 1845, p.4). Concurrently, plantation owners of the South exploited the men and women who were either born or sold into the institution of slavery for free and hard labor. Meanwhile, in the industrial North, white factory owners hired black people to perform menial tasks for small wages. In other words, the low status of colored individuals created an unending reservoir of energy just waiting for one to tap on it as he or she pleased, they just happened to be whites. The American Antislavery Society sought to disrupt the social order and promote egalitarianism in all the States (Foner, 2011, 468). Immediately, there were concerns over the organization’s objectives, as the possibility of severe social and economic problems went hand in hand with the emancipation of slaves. As a result, political leaders and other prominent persons such as the wealthy planters of the Southern States opposed liberation for blacks and instead advocated the maintenance of existing traditions. Hence, Congress imposed the “gag rule” to ban talks of slavery and rendered the subject taboo within the political spheres of the country (Foner, 2011, p.475). On that note, it is no wonder that the primary advocators of slave emancipation were the minorities. After all, members of the American Antislavery Society were white women, freed blacks, and the occasional religious leaders including Theodore Dwight Weld (Foner, 2011, 475).
As evidenced by the American Civil War of between 1861 and 1865, where the seceded Southern States donned the Confederacy banner to take up arms against the Northern States of the Union, the American Antislavery Society achieved its objectives. Before the civil war, disparities between the pro-slavery South and the anti-slavery North propelled the latter to create the Republican Party that was “dedicated to preventing the further expansion of slavery” (Foner, 2011, p.512). In that logic, American politics changed as the divisions of the society made their way into the political spheres from the societal to national levels. Notably, the central issues in the divisions among States were the ideologies of white supremacy and the economy of slave ownership. As long as slavery was legal, every white person enjoyed liberties and opportunities that were otherwise unavailable to black individuals. Concurrently, the ridiculously cheap maintenance required for slaves made them a lucrative commodity for every Caucasian. Again on the life story of Frederick Douglass, the man informed readers of the meager provisions that masters would give their slaves on either a monthly or yearly basis. In his words, the total cost of everything given to slaves each year could not have cost “more than seven dollars” (Douglass, 1845, p.8). Meanwhile, the riches gained from slave-grown cotton warranted the crop’s nickname of “white gold” as white thrived on the same (Foner, 2011, p.418).
In conclusion, the American Antislavery Society was central to the nineteenth-century abolition movement that took place in the United States. The group contended with cultural norms that stemmed from white supremacy perceptions and economic interests of the Caucasians. Eventually, the emancipation of slaves after the American Civil War sealed its success.
Douglass, F. (1845). Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. Boston: The Anti-Slavery Office.
Foner, E. (2011). Give Me Liberty!: An American History (3rd ed., Vol. I). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Matsui, J. (2013). Kindling Backfires: Cultivating a National Antislavery Movement, 1836–1838. Slavery & Abolition, 34(3), 465–484.
The American Antislavery Society. (1833, December 4). Declaration of Sentiments of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Retrieved March 19, 2016, from UMass Amherst Libraries: http://scua.library.umass.edu/digital/antislavery/e449a5111833.pdf