Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quakers and Slavery

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) led and sustained the abolitionist movement in Britain and North America, particularly after the Quaker reformation of the eighteenth century. Quaker women provided vital leadership in many of the female anti-slavery societies established in the nineteenth century. For example, Hicksite Quakers Lucretia Mott, Esther Moore, and Lydia White were among the founding members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Historians cite the PFASS as being in the vanguard of the abolitionist movement both for its activism and for its integrated membership.

In November 2010, Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges will join with the McNeil Center of Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania to host an international conference on Quakers and Slavery. To support the conference, the Quaker repositories at Swarthmore and Haverford have digitized numerous primary source materials, which are available through Triptych, a searchable online database of special collections from Swarthmore and Haverford as well as Bryn Mawr. Project staff have also developed Quakers and Slavery an online exhibit featuring links to the primary source materials in Triptych as well as commentary by established scholars, Quaker researchers, and project staff. Divided into three helpful categories — Themes, People, and Organizations — the commentary enhances users’ understanding of the primary source materials available through the project.

Several sections focus on the history of Quaker women in the anti-slavery movement:

Radical Quaker Women and the Early Women’s Rights Movement
Learn about radical Quaker women by exploring their role abolition in Pennsylvania and the early Women’s rights movement. Topics discussed include the American Anti-Slavery Society, rural Quaker women, and the first Women’s Rights Convention held at Seneca Falls, New York, 1848.

Rescue of Jane Johnson
In 1855, the slave Jane Johnson and her two children travelled through Philadelphia with their master, John Hill Wheeler. Johnson sent a message to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society that she wished to escape, and on July 18, Passmore Williamson, William Still, and five other free blacks confronted Wheeler and escorted Johnson and her children to freedom. The event was one of the first challenges to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. Passmore Williamson, William Still and the other free blacks were charged for their role in Johnson's 'abduction;' Lucretia and James Mott sheltered Johnson during the trial so that she could testify on her rescuers' behalf.

Biographical entries include a relationship map, which traces relationships among various Quaker supporters of abolitionism including:

Ruth Dugdale and Sarah B. Dugdale
Ruth Dugdale (1801-1896) rivaled her husband, Joseph, in her zeal for reform causes. She was a respected Quaker minister, and participated actively in anti-slavery, temperance, women's rights, and other movements in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Iowa.

Sarah B. Dugdale (1787-1880) was the mother of Joseph A. Dugdale and the progenitor of his liberal ideals. She was involved in the American Anti-Slavery Society nearly from its founding, continued to participate in Progressive Friends societies and other reform movements until her death in 1880.

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880)was a prominent Philadelphia Quaker minister and a leader in reform movements, especially antislavery, education, peace, and women's rights.

The site also includes important resources such as a glossary of Quaker terminology (many with links to primary sources explaining those terms), an interactive map, and a timeline of the anti-slavery movement.

Images from Quakers and Slavery.


Liz Opp said...

I found my way here through a round-about sort of way, which I won't go into.

First of all, thank you for lifting up some of the women who were part of the abolition movement. It's important that their voices not get lost.

Second, and more to the point of this comment, I'm sad that you have no reference here about a (relatively) new book that's received some press, at least in Philadelphia and among unprogrammed Quakers in the U.S.: Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship.

The book is co-written by two American Quaker women, one of African descent and the other of European descent. It was 7 years in the making and has MUCH to say about Quakers, enslavement, and the broader work of "racial justice" over the centuries and into the 1900s and early 2000s.

As a Friend, I have appreciated the revealed truths and undoings of the "legendary" abolitionist work of Quakers that this book provides. It was by no means the whole of the Religious Society of Friends that worked to end slavery.

In fact, it was a very, very few Friends--who struggled much within their own religious bodies--who worked tirelessly in the abolition movement: many Friends were reluctant to free the Africans they had enslaved and were instead more closely aligned with their non-Quaker peers in terms of behavior, from what I understand...

In addition, I am in touch with one of the authors to find out if she knows about and/or will be attending the "Quakers and Slavery" event you mention here, since I see nothing in the program that points to the important work that lies within Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship.

Thanks for reading me.

Liz Opp(enheimer), The Good Raised Up

Julie Holcomb said...

Thank you for the citation for Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship. I was unaware of this title. Have you read Ryan Jordan's Slavery and the Meetinghouse? You might find that of interest.