The Abolitionist Movement and Before the Civil War 1800-1860

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USI.31 Describe the formation of the abolitionist movement, the roles of various abolitionists, and the response of southerners and northerners to abolitionism. (H)
  • A. Frederick Douglass
  • B. William Lloyd Garrison
  • C. Sojourner Truth
  • D. Harriet Tubman
  • E. Theodore Weld
USI.35 Describe how the different economies and cultures of the North and South contributed to the growing importance of sectional politics in the early 19th century.
(H) USI.36 Summarize the critical developments leading to the Civil War.
  • A. the Missouri Compromise (1820)
  • Nat Turner Rebellion-(1831)
  • D. the Compromise of 1850
  • F. the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)
  • G. the Dred Scott Supreme Court case (1857)
  • H. the Lincoln-Douglas debates (1858)
  • I. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry (1859)
  • J. the election of Abraham Lincoln (1860)

Essential Question

Was the Civil War avoidable and why did it start?

What were the historical events that led to the start of the Abolitionist Movement?

  • The United States were divided by Northern states whose economy was based on manufacturing and industrialization and the Southern States whose climate (weather) and natural resources forced an economy based on the labor intensive farming of tobacco, rice, cotton, sugar cane and indigo.
  • The invention of the Eli Whitney Cotton Gin had a huge impact on slavery turning cotton into a cash crop in 1800, using the slave plantation system of farming.
  • The 1830 religious revival movement, referred to as the Second Great Awakening, inspired the establishment of Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movements in the North, in which people called for emancipation on religious grounds (religious ideas).
[Receipt for sale of Jane, age 18, and her son, Henry, age 1 and all future children, December 20, 1849]
  • Ownership of children that might be born in the future is defined in this photograph of a receipt for six hundred dollars paid by Judge S. Williams of Eufaula, Dec. 20, 1849 for Jane, a Negro woman aged 18 and her son Henry, one year old. This paper is owned by Judge Williams' grandson, Richard Malcolm McEachern, Eufaula, Ala.

What was the goal of the Abolitionist Movement?

  • The goal of the Abolitionist Movement was to abolish slavery. Various methods were employed to achieve their goal including:
  • Protest groups focused attention on slavery
  • Anti-slavery propaganda (ideas that would change peoples minds) by Journalists and Authors such as Anthony Benezet, David Walker, William Ellery Channing, William Lloyd Garrison, Elijah Lovejoy, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Political pressure as Abolitionists petitioned legislatures (they sent papers to congress asking for slavery to be stopped).
  • Militant (violent) Activists increased pressure to change things including John Brown’s raid at the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry

When did Abolitionist Movement begin?

  • The Abolitionist Movement was established in 1830. Up to the passing of the 13th Amendment slaves could only escape the bondage of slavery by systems such as the "Underground Railroad" or to spend many years working towards their goal of buying freedom from slavery.
Bell Rack-used to prevent slaves from escaping.


  1. Frederick Douglass (1818-95)- was a prominent American abolitionist, author and orator. Born a slave, Douglass escaped at age 20 and went on to become a world-renowned anti-slavery activist.
  2. William Lloyd Garrison(1805–1879)- was an American journalistic crusader who helped lead the successful abolitionist campaign against slavery in the United States. In 1830 he started an abolitionist paper, The Liberator.
  3. Sojourner Truth(c. 1797–1883)- She devoted her life to the abolitionist cause and helped recruiting black troops for the Union Army. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?" was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention.
  4. Harriet Tubman(c. 1820–1913)- Harriet Tubman escaped slavery to become a leading abolitionist. She led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom along the route of the Underground Railroad.
  5. Theodore Weld(1803–1895)-was one of the architects of the American abolitionist movement during its beginning years from 1830 through 1844, playing a role as writer, editor, speaker, and organizer against slavery.
  6. John Brown(1800-1859)- was an American abolitionist who believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States.

Missouri Compromise

  • The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed by the U.S. Congress in 1820. It allowed Missouri to become the 24th state in the United States. It also began the conflict over the spread of slavery that led to the American Civil War.
  • In the early 1800s Missouri was still a territory. In 1818 it applied to Congress to become a state. At that time there were 11 free states and 11 slave states in the United States. The admission of Missouri as a slave state would upset the balance of states.
  • In 1819 Maine also applied to be a state. Henry Clay, a member of Congress from Kentucky, then came up with a compromise. Congress agreed to admit Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. The compromise also banned slavery from any future territories or states north of Missouri’s southern border.
  • The Missouri Compromise stayed in effect for more than 30 years. It was broken by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed slavery north of the Missouri Compromise line.

Nat Turner Rebellion

  • On August 21, 1831, Turner and seven other slaves killed everyone in the Travis family. In the next two days, Turner picked up about 75 followers. They killed about 60 white people.
  • Then about 3,000 whites rose up to stop the revolt. Whites killed most of Turner’s men. Whites captured Turner, put him on trial, and put him to death on November 11, 1831.
  • Turner’s revolt frightened Southern whites. They blamed his rebellious spirit on his education, so they tried to stop slaves from learning to read and write. They also tried to stop slaves from gathering in groups. The rebellion scared the south so much, that they enacted stiffer laws for slaves.

Compromise of 1850


  • After the Mexican War, the United States took over the land that would become New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Texas, and western Colorado. In 1848 a settler discovered gold in California. This started a gold rush. The population grew quickly, and in December 1849 California asked to be admitted to the Union.
  • At the time, the country was divided over the issue of slavery. The new territory caused great tension between the North and the South. The South wanted slavery to be allowed there, and the North did not.

The Compromise

  • Henry Clay, who authored the Missouri Compromise as well, proposed a compromise:

For the free states, Clay suggested that California be admitted as a free state and that the slave trade (but not slavery) become illegal in the District of Columbia.

For the slave states, he suggested that the territories of New Mexico and Utah be open to slavery and that the Fugitive Slave Act become stricter.

  • The Congress discussed the proposal for several months. Senators Daniel Webster and Stephen A. Douglas helped Clay convince the other senators to approve the plan. Finally the Congress passed the laws that are known as the Compromise of 1850.
  • It was hoped that the agreement would bring peace over the issue of slavery to the country. However, it only postponed the American Civil War for 10 years.
Popular Sovereignty=States Decide Slavery

Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)

Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854
A law called the Missouri Compromise of 1820 ruled out slavery in the United States north of Missouri’s southern border. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 made it possible again.
  • This angered abolitionists, or people who wanted to end slavery. It led to violence in Kansas, where people fought and killed each other over the issue of slavery. The fighting brought the United States closer to the American Civil War.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act created Kansas and Nebraska as territories. The act allowed the people of each territory to decide whether or not to allow slavery.
  • Nebraska stayed fairly calm, but Kansas did not. People who supported slavery poured into Kansas from Missouri. They voted to allow slavery in 1855. Abolitionists came to Kansas from the Northern states. They did not think the vote in favor of slavery was legal. They held their own vote and set up another government.
  • The town of Lawrence was an abolitionist center. On May 21, 1856, a proslavery mob attacked the town. Three days later abolitionists led by John Brown struck back and killed five men. Over the next few years both sides made many violent attacks. The territory became known as Bleeding Kansas.
  • The people of Kansas voted against a pro-slavery constitution in 1858. By this time most of the people were against slavery. Kansas was admitted to the United States as a free state on January 29, 1861. The American Civil War began later that year.

Dred Scott Decision-1857

In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had no power to ban slavery in the territories, or areas that were not yet states. The ruling, called the Dred Scott decision, increased tensions between the pro-slavery South and the antislavery North.
  • Dred Scott was a black slave in Missouri. In 1834 he was taken to Illinois. Illinois was a free state, meaning that slavery was illegal there. Scott later lived in the territory of Wisconsin, where slavery was also illegal. When Scott was taken back to Missouri, he sued for his freedom. He argued that the time he had spent in a free state and a free territory had made him free.
  • Scott’s court case began in Missouri and made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled against him. In fact, the court said that he did not even have the right to file a lawsuit. The court also changed an earlier law that had banned slavery in territories north of Missouri. This angered people who were against slavery. The issue of slavery grew to be so much of a problem that it led to war between the states in 1861. The defeat of the South in the American Civil War finally ended slavery.
Created By
Pedro Menino


Created with images by cliff1066™ - "John Brown" • Wystan - ""Breaking Up of an Abolition Meeting in Michigan. Sketch by Charles M. __?__, University of Michigan."" • Boston Public Library - "My Bondage and My Freedom. Part I: Life as a Slave. Part II: Life as a Freeman. [Title page and frontispiece]" • hannibal1107 - "Boston Citizens break up an Abolitionist meeting" • Boston Public Library - "Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly [Title page]" • tornintwo2011 - "Photograph, Hilton Head, SC, Sorting Cotton" • Sangre-La.com - "jc7221.JPG" • Elvert Barnes - "175th anniversary of Nat Turner Slave Rebellion" • HPUPhotogStudent - "Every True Man's Dream" • Nathan Dumlao - "untitled image" • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, NPS - "Dred and Harriet Scott_3" • Reading Tom - "The Old Courthouse"

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