As the system of racialized slavery developed in colonial America, resistance to it was immediate. Those Africans who were enslaved struggled against their bondage, resisting creatively in many ways: by using the legal system, and through passive resistance to slaveholder demands, through outright revolt and rebellion. This resistance inspired efforts by others -- both free blacks and sympathetic whites -- to work for the end of slavery.
When Abdul Rahman was taken to the United States near the end of the eighteenth century, the movement for the abolition of slavery was underway, led by African Americans and white Quakers in the North, emphasizing a gradual end to slavery and grounding their arguments in religious principles. Abdul Rahman was granted his freedom and departed for Liberia three decades later. Only a scarce two years after that, a new phase of the movement emerged, calling for the immediate abolition of slavery. Just more than three decades after that, slavery in the United States was abolished and those who had been enslaved were emancipated.
Explore the array of approaches to ending slavery, from European Enlightenment ideas about common humanity to African American calls for divine justice, from Quakers seeking a peaceful and gradual elimination of slavery to fiery advocates for the immediate end to the "peculiar institution."
Celebration of the abolition of slavery in Washington, D.C., April 19, 1866
© Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-33937
Wood carving of Anthony Benezet (Source: Historical poetical and pictorial American scenes / by J.W. Barber, 1850)
© Courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.