Quakers soon became concerned about slavery. The notion of ‘that of God in everyone’ led naturally to equality. One human being owning another is totally incompatible with this.
A fundamental belief in the equality of all people has led Quakers to campaign actively against racism in many parts of the world.
Anti-Slavery in Britain
Quakers were prominent in the abolition of the slave trade and in the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. Today many Quakers work against modern forms of slavery.
Anti-Slavery in North America
Eliminating slavery among Quakers was the first priority, followed by total abolition, finally achieved in 1865. Today many Quakers campaign against modern forms of slavery.
Anti-Slavery in the modern world
Historic slavery was officially abolished in the 19th century. In the 20th century Quakers were part of a growing awareness of modern forms of slavery, and began to campaign against these.
Anti-Slavery: Pioneering Aspects of Modern Campaigning
The historic anti-slavery campaigners pioneered some of the key features of modern campaigning - logos, produce boycotts, direct action, and much else.
Anti-Slavery: Raising the Moral Issue
Many Quakers wrote well-informed and moving books and articles about the evils of slavery, and its immorality, and many others spoke movingly about it.
Anti-Slavery: Some Quaker Leaders
Quakers contributed to the abolition of slavery in many ways - organisational, financial, academic and activist. Here are some outstanding examples. The work still continues, as slavery persists in modern forms.
Eliminating Slavery amongst Quakers
In the early days of Quakerism, there were Quaker slave owners and slave traders. As the unacceptability of slavery became clearer, the first step for Quakers was to root it out within their own communities.
Quaker organisation and Anti-Slavery campaigning
Quakers in Britain quickly developed a strong network that linked meetings together. This network was a great source of strength in anti-slavery campaigning.
Aborigines Protection Society
The Society was set up in 1837 to advocate for the indigenous peoples in the British Empire. In 1909 it merged with the British and Foreign Antislavery Society to form what is now Anti-Slavery International
(1786 -1862) was an abolitionist and a feminist. Impatient with the slow progress towards abolition in Britain, she argued vehemently against compensation for slave owners. She also campaigned strongly for votes for women.
(1713-1784) was an educational reformer and committed teacher who did much for the beginning of free education for African Americans. He argued strongly against slavery, and for racial equality.
(1681-1759) campaigned for abolition amongst Quakers in 18th century Philadelphia. His methods were often dramatic, such as standing barefoot in the snow to illustrate the conditions under which slaves lived.
Boycotting Goods Produced by Slaves
Quakers were at the forefront of the movement to boycott goods produced by slave labour. In Britain they were active in the boycott of sugar from the West Indies. The "Free Produce Movement" was prominent in America.
Britain, Ireland and America in C17,and early Quakerism
This was a time of great political, religious, and social change in Britain and Ireland. British colonisation of North America and the Caribbean took off, and the transatlantic slave trade with it. This was the context in which Quakerism began.
(1729 - 1809) and his brother John opposed slavery. When they received land in Jamaica in payment of a debt, 32 slaves were included in the payment. They soon freed them.
(1769-1831) was influential both in Britain and the US in the campaign for the abolition of slavery. She was a key leader of the boycott of West Indian sugar, because it was produced by slaves. She was also a feminist.
Friends Industrial Mission Zanzibar
In 1890 Britain took over Zanzibar, where slavery was widespread. Quakers established an industrial mission on Pemba Island. They are credited with liberating about 1000 slaves, and providing education and employment.
(1720-1772) John Woolman is thought by many to be the central figure of 18th Century Quaker faith and social reform. His ministry still speaks to us today through his journal and other writings. He was very influential in the abolitionist movement in America.
(1793-1859) was a corn merchant and philanthropist in Birmingham. He worked for peace, the abolition of slavery, education and temperance. He helped revive the Adult School Movement.
(1798-1877) was an abolitionist, and a businessman. He was deeply involved in the Underground Railroad in Indiana and Ohio and his home was often called 'Grand Central Station'. Many escaping slaves passed through his care.
(1793-1880) was a prominent abolitionist and advocate of rights for women. She sheltered many runaway slaves and boycotted items produced by slave labour. She founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society and in 1848 co-organised the first women's rights convention in the US.
Quakers in Jamaica and Barbados
The first phase began with Britain, colonial America, early Quaker mission work, and the slave trade. But by 1750, there were few Quakers left. The second phase was originated in 1881 by US missionaries.
The Quaker Five in the 1787 national Abolition Committee
Five Quaker businessmen were prominent in this 12-member committee. Four were British and one was from Pennsylvania.
(1760-1846) although not a Quaker, was greatly influenced by them in his work for the abolition of the slave trade. He was a key member of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
(1789-1871) was an abolitionist who helped 2,700 runaway slaves to reach to freedom. He worked on the underground railroad for forty years and was known at the "station master" at Wilmington, Delaware.
(c1670-1742) was an early Quaker missionary in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and colonial North America. He also worked for William Penn in Pennsylvania for several years. He loved trees and brought many specimens back from his travels.
This was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by fugitive American slaves on their journey north to “Free States” or Canada. It spanned twenty-nine states, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Quakers were active in it.