Abolitionist Advocates

Charles Lenox Remond (1810-1873)

I have only to speak for myself…and in doing so, I speak and determine for the freedom of every slave.

From the 1830s through the end of the Civil War, Boston served as the influential nexus of the country’s anti-slavery movement. This city and its environs produced an extraordinary concentration of activists, orators, and writers dedicated to eradicating slavery in America.  Charles Lenox Remond, born to free parents in Salem, was a popular, prominent orator who served as the first full-time, professional African-American spokesman for abolition.  He traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe on behalf of the American and Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Societies.  During the Civil War, Remond recruited black soldiers for the storied 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.


Charles Lenox Remond
Orator, abolitionist, military recruiter.


Featured Items from the BPL Special Collections


JOSIAH WEDGWOOD, Anti-Slavery Medallion. England: ca. 1787.
Josiah Wedgwood, England’s renowned potter, was an early supporter of the abolition movement. His famous kneeling figure was reproduced on a variety of domestic objects and fashion accessories and later adopted as the device of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
*ZIBA OAKES, Manuscript Letters. 1860-1864.
Born in New England, Ziba Oakes moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and became one of the city’s most successful slave brokers. In February 1865, journalist James Redpath accompanied Union troops as they entered Charleston and he discovered these papers in Oakes’ deserted office, noting “what a tale of wickedness these letter books do tell!” Redpath presented them to William Lloyd Garrison, who displayed them to at a Boston anti-slavery fundraiser.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
*MASSACHUSETTS ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, Weekly Contribution Box. ca. 1840s.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
*WILSON ARMISTEAD, Five Hundred Thousand Strokes for Freedom. London: 1853.
*WILLIAM GOODELL, The American Slave Code. New York: 1853.
*OLIVE GILBERT, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave. Boston: 1850.
*JESSE TORREY, A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery, in the United States. Philadelphia: 1817.

BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
*HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. Boston: 1852.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s story of Uncle Tom, a slave who endures terrible hardships at the hands of his owners, drew international attention to the plight of enslaved blacks and became the bestselling novel of the 19th century, selling more than 300,000 copies in its first year.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
*Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston: Proceedings of the Presentation Meeting held in Boston, Dec. 17, 1855. Boston: 1856.
In September 1855, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled that a separate school for black students could not be maintained at taxpayer expense. This decision marked the first significant victory in a century-long struggle to end segregation. On the night of December 17, 1855, Boston’s prominent activists—including Charles Lenox Remond and William Lloyd Garrison—celebrated their victory at a dinner with speeches.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)

I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.

Boston’s presses churned out millions of pages pamphlets, broadsides, and fictional works in support of emancipation, inspiring reformers throughout the nation and the world. One of the towering figures of the American abolition movement, William Lloyd Garrison fought a sustained, thirty-five year battle for the abolition of slavery. With the first issue of his anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator, in 1831, Garrison established himself as an unwavering and outspoken advocate for the immediate emancipation of slaves.


William Lloyd Garrison. Leader of anti-slavery efforts, editor
of The Liberator.


Featured Items from the BPL Special Collections


THE LIBERATOR, Electrotype of the Third Engraved Heading. Boston: 1850.
This masthead for Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, was designed by Hammatt Billings, who also created the first illustrations for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was used continuously from May 1850 through December 1865, when the paper was discontinued.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
LEVERETT STREET JAIL, Padlock and Key. ca. 1800.
On October 21, 1835, Garrison was addressing the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society when an unruly pro-slavery mob stormed the building and pursued Garrison through the streets of Boston. He narrowly escaped with his life and was taken to the Leverett Street Jail in the West End for his safety overnight, where was secured with this padlock and key.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
UNITED STATES STATE DEPARTMENT, Secretary Seward’s Proclamation declaring the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 1865.
This type, set by Garrison himself, proclaimed the abolition of slavery with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865. Secretary of State Seward’s proclamation on December 18 ran in the second-to-last issue of the Liberator on December 22. Garrison shuttered the paper the next week, proclaiming that its 35-year goal of abolishing slavery had been achieved. The printed copy to the right was created from this type in 1902.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
Death masks–plaster or wax casts made of a person’s face soon after death–saw a popular revival in the 19th century. Generally created for the wealthy or for famous artists, writers, and political figures such as Garrison, death masks were often used as models for future portraits and busts.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
* Conservation funded by the Associates of the Boston Public Library