ORGANIZATIONS

UGRR - Organizations

ORGANIZATIONS

Overview

American antebellum society was replete with a variety of organizations, societies, and associations centered around specific reform objectives. Most were organized along gender, religious, racial, or geographic lines. This section of the website highlights the organizations that worked toward abolitionist ends.

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Michigan Anti-Slavery Newspapers

In 1838 or 1839, William and Nicholas Sullivan published the American Freeman, Michigan’s first abolitionist paper. Within a year of production, Seymour B. Treadwell took over the paper to stabilize it, but financial troubles led him to dissolve the paper entirely. Treadwell started another paper called the Michigan Freeman. In 1941, the Michigan Anti-Slavery Convention elected Theodore Foster and Guy Beckley to create the Signal of Liberty. Based in Ann Arbor, the Signal of Liberty was the most successful abolitionist paper in the state.

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Michigan Anti-Slavery Societies

The American Anti-Slavery Society inspired the creation of many antislavery societies in Michigan. Elizabeth Chandler’s Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society was the first of its kind in Michigan in 1832. Four years later, the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society formed in Ann Arbor. In 1837, Robert Banks, William Lambert and Madison J. Lightfoot formed the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society.

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New York Committee of Vigilance

The New York Committee of Vigilance first convened on November 20, 1835. Founding members, including David Ruggles, vowed to protect and defend African Americans from injustice and help those seeking freedom obtain it. The committee’s success inspired the creation of similar vigilance committees in Michigan, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

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Ohio Anti-Slavery Society

The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society was founded in April 1835 by several abolitionists including Asa Mahan. John Rankin, Charles Finney and Theodore Dwight Weld. Quakers also made up a large portion of the organizations initial membership. Modeled after the American Anti- Slavery Society, the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society sent lecturers around the state to encourage abolitionism. The organization also spread its message through print, using James Birney’s newspaper, The Philanthropist, as its organ. Despite significant opposition, Ohio Anti-Slavery Society membership numbered ten thousand by the end of 1836.

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Refugee Home Society

Controlled by white officers, the Refugee Home Society was an organization that helped Canada-bound fugitives obtain land. Famous abolitionists Henry Bibb and George DeBaptiste served as its key black figureheads; DeBaptiste raised money between 1852 and 1855 so the Society could purchase 2,000 acres of land. Despite the vast acreage, the Society only managed to settle 150 men, women and children. Many accused DeBaptiste, Bibb and others of scheming to acquire land and money for themselves. Bibb’s death in 1854 helped end the Refugee Home Society; part of its failure may have been rooted in the way the community was organized.

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The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society

The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was the result of a schism in the American Anti-Slavery Society (AAS) between William Lloyd Garrison and Lewis and Arthur Tappan. The Tappan brothers felt that abolitionists should create their own political party to advance their struggle by voting. They also believed that women should not be involved in politics. Garrison disagreed with both viewpoints. He believed that women played an important part in the struggle to end slavery. These issues came to a head in 1839 at the AAS Convention in New York, causing the society to split in 1840 and form the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

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The Christian Recorder

The Christian Recorder is the longest running African American periodical in US history. First published in 1848, the Christian Recorder still remains the official organ of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Though primarily focused on religious issues, the paper frequently condemned slavery and followed the activities of the abolitionist movement. It highlighted other secular issues like education, voting rights and racism. After the Civil War, the Recorder continued to raise awareness of issues facing the African American community.

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The Colored American

Phillip A. Bell began publishing the Colored American as the Weekly Advocate but changed its name after two months. Its new name would serve as a reminder, to blacks and whites alike, that blacks were just as American as their white counterparts. The Colored American focused on issues affecting the black community, including slavery, abolition, education, politics and faith.

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The Emancipator

The first issue of the Emancipator was published on April 30, 1820 in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Elihu Embree published the paper to advocate the abolition of slavery, making it the nation’s first newspaper to focus entirely on abolition. Though short lived, the Emancipator enjoyed success boasting 2,000 subscribers by October when it went out of publication.

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The Liberty Party

In 1840, Former members of the American Anti-Slavery Society formed the Liberty Party in an effort to bring political power to the abolitionist cause and to get abolitionists into public office. The party did not get much voter support and competition from national third party organizations made it difficult for the Liberty Party to advance their cause. After three failed attempts to elect a member of the party in the 1840, 1844 and 1848 elections, the Liberty Party became politically insignificant.

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This program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program.