William Lloyd Garrison

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William Lloyd Garrison
BirthplaceNewburyport, Massachusetts, U.S.

Garrison, William Lloyd,

1805–79, American abolitionist, b. Newburyport, Mass. He supplemented his limited schooling with newspaper work and in 1829 went to Baltimore to aid Benjamin LundyLundy, Benjamin,
1789–1839, American abolitionist, b. Sussex co., N.J., of Quaker parentage. A pioneer in the antislavery movement, Lundy founded (1815) the Union Humane Society while operating a saddlery in Ohio.
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 in publishing the Genius of Universal Emancipation. This led (1830) to his imprisonment for seven weeks for libel. On Jan. 1, 1831, he published the first number of the Liberator, a paper that he continued for 35 years (to Dec. 29, 1865), until after the Thirteenth Amendment had been adopted. In the Liberator, Garrison took an uncompromising stand for immediate and complete abolition of slavery. Though its circulation was never over 3,000, the paper became famous for its startling and quotable language. Garrison relied wholly upon moral persuasion, believing in the use of neither force nor the ballot to gain his end. His language antagonized many. In 1835 he was physically attacked in Boston by a mob composed of seemingly respectable people, and thereby won a valuable convert to his cause in Wendell PhillipsPhillips, Wendell,
1811–84, American reformer and orator, b. Boston, grad. Harvard (B.A., 1831; LL.B., 1834). He was admitted to the bar in 1834 but, having sufficient income of his own, he abandoned his law practice to devote his life to fighting for sound causes, chiefly
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. Garrison opposed the work of the American Colonization SocietyAmerican Colonization Society,
organized Dec., 1816–Jan., 1817, at Washington, D.C., to transport free blacks from the United States and settle them in Africa. The freeing of many slaves, principally by idealists, created a serious problem in that no sound provisions were
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 in his Thoughts on African Colonization (1832). He was active in organizing (1831) the New England Anti-Slavery Society and (1833) the American Anti-Slavery Society, of which he was president (1843–65). Garrison also crusaded for other reforms that he united with abolitionism, notably woman suffrage and prohibition. He went so far as to advocate Northern secession from the Union because the Constitution, which Garrison characterized as "a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell," permitted slavery. He burned the Constitution publicly at an abolitionist meeting in Framingham, Mass., on July 4, 1854, and opposed the Civil War until Lincoln issued the Emancipation ProclamationEmancipation Proclamation,
in U.S. history, the executive order abolishing slavery in the Confederate States of America. Desire for Such a Proclamation

In the early part of the Civil War, President Lincoln refrained from issuing an edict freeing the slaves despite
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. Garrison's preeminence in the antislavery cause has been characterized as a "New England myth," some arguing that while Garrison attracted attention, the effective fight against slavery was carried on by lesser known, more realistic men (see abolitionistsabolitionists,
in U.S. history, particularly in the three decades before the Civil War, members of the movement that agitated for the compulsory emancipation of the slaves.
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). Garrison, a difficult personality, was not himself a good organizer.


See his letters, ed. by W. M. Merrill (1971); William Lloyd Garrison … His Life Told by His Children (4 vol., 1885–89, repr. 1969); biographies by W. M. Merrill (1963), J. L. Thomas (1963), A. H. Grimké (1891, repr. 1969); study by A. S. Kraditor (1969); H. Mayer, All On Fire (1998).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Garrison, William Lloyd


Born Dec. 12, 1805, in Newburyport, Mass.; died May 24, 1879, in New York. American political figure, journalist, and poet.

From 1831 to 1865, Garrison published The Liberator, a weekly that played an important role in the development of the abolitionist movement. He initiated the establishment of a society to combat slavery (1832). During the Civil War (1861-65), having united with revolutionary circles of abolitionists, he fought actively for the emancipation of the slaves. Garrison’s literary works were also devoted to the struggle against Negro slavery.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Garrison, William Lloyd

(1805–79) journalist, abolitionist, social activist; born in Newburyport, Mass. With little formal education, he was a printer by trade who became editor of several small New England papers (1824–28). Turning his attention away from temperance to slavery, in Boston (1829) he delivered the first of his innumerable and inflammatory public addresses against slavery; later that year he joined Benjamin Lundy in Baltimore to help edit the Genius of Universal Emancipation. If not the first abolitionist, Garrison was one of the earliest to demand the "immediate and complete emancipation" of slaves. Founder/editor of The Liberator (1831–65), he continued his uncompromising attacks on slavery despite threats and harassment from pro-slavery opponents and often disagreement and dismay from other less absolute abolitionists. Cofounder and agent for the New England Anti-Slavery Society (1831) and its president (1841–63), he favored a peaceful separation of the North and South. To dramatize his contempt for the U.S. Constitution's acceptance of slavery, he publicly burned a copy in Framingham, Mass. (1854), but as a pacifist he opposed the actions of John Brown and others who supported violence. With the end of the Civil War and slavery, he turned his passions and energies to crusading for such reforms as prohibition, the plight of Native Americans, and, above all, women's rights. In 1840, when the world's antislavery convention met in London, he had refused to attend sessions because women were excluded.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.