Conservative Quaker matters > Quaker abolitionists

Who were the Quaker Abolitionists and what did they do? I was told by my friend that they helped slaves escape, they tried to free slaves and they also abolished slavery. Is what my friend told me true?

May 18, 2007 at 09:14PM | Unregistered Commenterceecay

The answer to ceecay's question is mixed. Yes, many early Friends were active in the abolition movement where they worked to free slaves and to help freed men and women.

As early as the 1690's, Friends in Germantown, PA were circulating letters calling for an end to slavery in the Quaker colonies of West Jersey and Pennsylvania. John Woolman, a prominent travelliing Quaker minister wrote and spoke against it prior to the Revolution. Later generations of Friends were active in the "underground railroad", helping escaped slaves escape to Canada.

Unfortunately, Quakers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were products of their times, and many prominent Quakers in the mid-Atlantic states held slaves. The debate over slaves went through many Monthly Meetings, and Friends were often read out of meeting for refusing to free their slaves. Many cheerfully accepted this punishment rather than accept the loss of their slaves.

Even in Meeting for Worship, Friends attitudes on the races was far the racial equality we embrace today. Blacks attenders at meeting, when they were permitted to attend, were expected to sit on the back benches and were seldom encouraged to give vocal ministry.

As far as actually abolishing slavery in the United States, this was not accomplished through the work of Friends as much as by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and enforced at bayonet point by the Union Army. All slavery was finally out lawed in the US by the Thirteenth Amendment.

Nov 24, 2007 at 03:03PM | Unregistered CommenterGary Smith