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Quakers and Abolition

Quakers and Abolition

Brycchan Carey
Geoffrey Plank
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Quakers and Abolition
    Book Description:

    This collection of fifteen insightful essays examines the complexity and diversity of Quaker antislavery attitudes across three centuries, from 1658 to 1890. Contributors from a range of disciplines, nations, and faith backgrounds show how Quakers often disagreed with one another and the larger antislavery movement about slavery itself and the best path to emancipation. Far from having monolithic beliefs, Quakers embraced such diverse approaches as benevolent slaveholding, both gradual and comprehensive abolition, and consumer boycotts of slave-produced products. These evolving and uneven conceptions of slavery and emancipation were similar to the varied views Quakers had on racial integration. Offering a nuanced interpretation of these controversial topics--one that often diverges from existing scholarship--contributors discuss how Quakers attempted to live out their faith's antislavery imperative. Essays address Quaker missions in Barbados; the interplay between African-American and Quaker communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; transatlantic correspondence between a colonialist Quaker and a freed slave who "returned-to-Africa" as a Liberian colonist; and the impact of Quaker-authored frontier literature. Not surprisingly, this complicated and evolving antislavery sensibility left behind an equally complicated legacy. Focusing on Great Britain, France, and the United States, contributors show how Quaker antislavery actions and writings influenced revolutions and antislavery in those countries. Yet the Quaker contribution is also a hidden one because it so rarely receives substantive attention in modern classrooms and scholarship. This volume faithfully seeks to correct that oversight, offering accessible and provocative new insights on this key chapter of religious, political, and cultural history. Contributors include Dee E. Andrews, Kristen Block, Brycchan Carey, Christopher Densmore, Andrew Diemer, J. William Frost, Thomas D. Hamm, Nancy A. Hewitt, Maurice Jackson, Anna Vaughan Kett, Emma Jones Lapsansky-Werner, Gary B. Nash, Geoffrey Plank, Ellen M. Ross, Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, James Emmett Ryan, and James Walvin.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09612-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    IN THE EARLY 1760s, WILLIAM BOEN was held as a slave under a Quaker master in western New Jersey. In 1762 or 1763, one of his neighbors, another Quaker, told him that his master was considering offering him his freedom. Boen had been legally owned by the same man since his birth in 1735. He said nothing in reply to his neighbor, not because he was hiding anything or trying to conceal his emotions, but because he had heard similar stories before, and he could not imagine that any of them were true. “I didn’t think much about it,” he...

  5. Part I Freedom within Quaker Discipline:: Arguments among Friends

    • 1 “Liberation Is Coming Soon”: The Radical Reformation of Joshua Evans (1731–1798)
      (pp. 15-28)

      EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY QUAKER REFORMER Joshua Evans, although little known today, was an important voice in Quaker antislavery, Indian rights advocacy, and American peace history. Recent transcriptions by Jon Peters and Aaron Brecher of all known extant manuscripts of Evans’s journals provides an opportunity to reexamine this figure, a friend and sometime neighbor of John Woolman, and a “beloved friend” of Elias Hicks. Evans was a critic of the developing capitalist economy. He perceived that people were increasingly implicated in the exploitation and oppression of enslaved people, the poor, Indians, even animals, and the land itself. For Evans, war was the fundamental...

    • 2 Why Quakers and Slavery? Why Not More Quakers?
      (pp. 29-42)

      QUAKERS HAVE HAD A GOOD PRESS for their responses to slavery in spite of the pervasive racism within and outside the meeting.¹ Nevertheless, before 1750 and after 1830, a Friend could be disowned for vigorous, public opposition to the meeting’s position on slavery. Neither Quakerism nor slavery remained the same between the 1670s and 1865. While there were common features, the institutions of slavery evolved over time in different regions. Major changes also occurred among Friends. Early Friends would have recognized a similarity in styles of worship, the practice of discipline, and the plain style of life among pre–Civil...

    • 3 George F. White and Hicksite Opposition to the Abolitionist Movement
      (pp. 43-55)

      ON MARCH 25, 1839, Deborah Ferris Bringhurst, a weighty Hicksite Friend, was sitting in meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, when she heard an unfamiliar voice break the silence. “I listened to one of the most extraordinary sermons I ever heard. It was ‘glorious in holiness’ & lucidly clear in opening the Scriptures and the most powerful logical reasoning ondivine truthsunder divine authority. My soul rejoiced in the evidence that Infinite Goodness is still raising up instruments to proclaim thegreat truthsof the Gospel.”¹ Two years to the day later, theNational Anti-Slavery Standardcarried an article about the...

    • 4 “Without the Consumers of Slave Produce There Would Be No Slaves”: Quaker Women, Antislavery Activism, and Free-Labor Cotton Dress in the 1850s
      (pp. 56-72)

      THIS CHAPTER DEMONSTRATES THE WAYS in which dress can be used as a powerful interpretative tool, in understanding how the Quaker family, and especially women, engaged with antislavery activism in the 1850s. It takes as a point of departure a pair of unique photographs, dubbed here the “free-produce photographs,” one of which is shown (see figure 4.1).¹ The photograph shows the Quaker Clarks of Street, Somerset, in the West Country of England: Eleanor Stephens Clark, her husband James Clark, and their twelve children. The Clark family is famous for the prosperous shoemaking company, C. & J. Clark, founded by brothers,...

    • 5 The Spiritual Journeys of an Abolitionist: Amy Kirby Post, 1802–1889
      (pp. 73-86)

      CLEARLY QUAKERS AS A GROUP WERE AMONG the most committed advocates of abolition in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They were also well represented in the woman’s rights movement, prison reform, campaigns for Indian rights, and a host of other efforts aimed at progressive social change. But the Society of Friends, like other religious denominations, embraced a diverse constituency. Not all Friends were abolitionists; indeed, some individuals, mainly merchants, benefited from slavery and the slave trade. Among those who advocated antislavery in some form, many only testified to their beliefs within Friends’ meetings. Others came to abolition via Quakerism but...

  6. Part II The Scarcity of African Americans in the Meetinghouse:: Racial Issues among the Quakers

    • 6 Quaker Evangelization in Early Barbados: Forging a Path toward the Unknowable
      (pp. 89-105)

      MANY HISTORIANS OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS are now aware that the island of Barbados was the Quakers’ first American “Cradle of Truth.” Beginning in 1656, and throughout the 1660s, missionaries such as Mary Fisher, Anne Austin, Henry Fell, and Richard Pinder brought their simple faith in the Truth and Inward Light to the island, where significant numbers of wealthy slaveholding planters and merchants were “convinced,” lending the Society legitimacy and status in Barbados.¹ We also know that Friends first began to engage with the moral problems of slavery in Barbados, as George Fox initiated a serious challenge to patriarchs...

    • 7 Anthony Benezet: Working the Antislavery Cause inside and outside of “The Society”
      (pp. 106-119)

      MORE THAN ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL’S WORK in the eighteenth century, that of Anthony Benezet served as a catalyst, throughout the Atlantic world, for the initial organized fight against slave trade and the eventual ending of slavery. His written work, which combined Quaker principles and Enlightenment thinking with knowledge gained through a deep study of Africa and her history, and his own contacts with black people as a teacher and philanthropist influenced men from Benjamin Franklin to John Jay and Patrick Henry in North America; from Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp, and William Wilberforce in England; to Condorcet and the Abbé Raynal...

    • 8 Aim for a Free State and Settle among Quakers: African-American and Quaker Parallel Communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
      (pp. 120-134)

      OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, I have given a fair amount of “public history” talks to local historical societies, cultural organizations, conferences, and meetings. With public audiences, the questions and discussions inevitably turn toward contemporary concerns about race relations. The discussions are not always comfortable because when the issue is race, people care a great deal about how the issues are presented and interpreted. My own interests have shifted from a focus on Quaker antislavery to an interest in how African Americans and Quakers interacted. The story presented here focuses on Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Greenwich Township, Cumberland County, New...

    • 9 The Quaker and the Colonist: Moses Sheppard, Samuel Ford McGill, and Transatlantic Antislavery across the Color Line
      (pp. 135-148)

      IN FEBRUARY 1849, IN A LETTER to a man named Samuel McGill, a Baltimore Quaker named Moses Sheppard shared his thoughts concerning slavery, the law, and individual conscience. Sheppard asserted his belief in the validity of the law of slavery, provided that an individual may be allowed to keep himself free of the institution. A man must not be forced to own a slave, nor should he be compelled to “arrest fugitive slaves,” but he insisted that one may not “annul a law that he dislikes,” which would produce a state of chaos.¹ Sheppard was personally opposed to slavery, yet...

    • 10 Friend on the American Frontier: Charles Pancoast’s A Quaker Forty-Niner and the Problem of Slavery
      (pp. 149-162)

      AMERICAN QUAKER VIEWS CONCERNING slaveholding evolved over many decades until the nineteenth century, when opposition to slavery became firmly established among the Quaker faithful. This broad consensus, however, was fraught with disagreements over how Quakers should oppose slavery, whether politics was the appropriate avenue for Quaker resistance, and when, if ever, pacifist Quakers should themselves call for immediate emancipation when violence seemed the only possible consequence. Much of this debate was carried out in the public sphere or in meetinghouses, where leading Quakers articulated their views about race and slavery, but the opinions and attitudes of the average Friend during...

  7. Part III Did the Rest of the World Notice?: The Quakers’ Reputation

    • 11 The Slave Trade, Quakers, and the Early Days of British Abolition
      (pp. 165-179)

      THE RISE OF BRITISH POPULAR SUPPORT for abolition of the Atlantic slave trade after 1787 was rapid and totally unexpected. In its origins and during its early days, Quakers were pivotal. They were the pioneers of demands for ending the slave trade, and their influence and assistance proved vital in the transformation of abolition from a marginal, minority topic into a popular political concern. But even the founding band of abolitionist Quakers were taken by surprise by the way British abolition blossomed after 1787. The intellectual roots of abolition can be traced back much earlier and, though abolitionist sentiment, on...

    • 12 The Quaker Antislavery Commitment and How It Revolutionized French Antislavery through the Crèvecoeur–Brissot Friendship, 1782–1789
      (pp. 180-193)

      J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’sLetters from an American Farmerwas long seen as the first expression of American literary consciousness.¹ Ending with a letter titled “What Is the American, This New Man?,” the first three letters in a book that contains twelve could understandably be seen as praising the new American nation at the time the book was published, and later at the heyday of American studies in the United States. But contemporary critics are now challenging this view, placing the book in its proper historical perspective and assessing Crèvecoeur’s personality in a more nuanced way.² My own...

    • 13 Thomas Clarkson’s Quaker Trilogy: Abolitionist Narrative as Transformative History
      (pp. 194-208)

      WHO WAS THOMAS CLARKSON? In his lifetime, he was the abolitionist par excellence, an advocate of social justice in a cause whose founders—the Committee for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave Trade—fit inside one small printing-house office. By the end of his life, abolitionists’ regard led to Clarkson’s election as presiding officer of the first international gathering of many dozens of antislavery’s leading lights. Clarkson’s visage graced the commemorative medal cast for the occasion, and his presence, surrounded by an admiring younger generation, was immortalized in B. R. Haydon’s massive group portrait.¹ Although his renown faded after...

    • 14 The Hidden Story of Quakers and Slavery
      (pp. 209-224)
      GARY B. NASH

      THE STORY OF QUAKER LEADERSHIP in the abolition movement has been known and proudly recounted by Friends and friends of Friends for two centuries. Though only a miniscule fraction of religionists in America, Quakers were indisputably in the forefront of the crusade to end slavery, just as they were on the front lines of other reform movements for penal reform, public education, women’s suffrage, Native American rights, civil rights, and the end of war. Yet the Quakers’ role in ending the Atlantic slave trade and chattel bondage has been obscured for generations, and it is nearly as obscured today as...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-244)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 245-250)
  10. Index
    (pp. 251-269)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)