American Experience: The Abolitionists
Radicals. Agitators. Troublemakers. Liberators. Called by many names, the abolitionists tore the nation apart in order to... More
Radicals. Agitators. Troublemakers. Liberators. Called by many names, the abolitionists tore the nation apart in order to make a more perfect union. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy, these passionate antislavery activists fought body and soul in the most important civil rights crusade in American history. What began as a pacifist movement fueled by persuasion and prayer became a fiery and furious struggle that forever changed the nation. Abolitionist allies Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimké turned a despised fringe movement against chattel slavery into a force that literally changed the nation.
In 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery, eventually joining William Lloyd Garrison in the antislavery movement. In the North, Douglass became a powerful orator, and reached tens of thousands more with the 1845 publication of... More
In 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery, eventually joining William Lloyd Garrison in the antislavery movement. In the North, Douglass became a powerful orator, and reached tens of thousands more with the 1845 publication of his autobiography. When threatened with capture by his former owner, Douglass fled to England, where he experienced life as a free man for the first time. Returning to the U.S. in 1847, he launched his own antislavery paper, The North Star, out of Rochester, New York, causing a rift with his mentor Garrison. Later that year, John Brown met with Douglass in Springfield, Massachusetts, and revealed his radical plan to raise an army, supply them with arms, and free the slaves. Douglass did not share Brown's enthusiasm for such violent tactics. In 1852, following the tragic death of her own young son and moved by the plight of slave families being torn apart by the Fugitive Slave Law, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin. An instant best seller that became wildly successful as a play, this influential fictional story helped change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans by depicting slavery through the eyes of its victims. In the spring of 1854, fugitive slave Anthony Burns was held in Boston's city jail, where he became a focal point for both pro- and antislavery advocates. Angry Bostonians attempted to free him, but President Franklin Pierce, an ardent Southern sympathizer, sent in the military to escort him to a ship in the harbor and eventually back to enslavement. All the attempts at compromise and resolution had only deepened the divide between North and South, touching off a crisis that was about to careen out of control.
American Experience: The Abolitionists Full Episodes
January 22, 2013
November 5, 2013
January 8, 2013