Learn American History through 50 pop songs

The Anti-Slavery Movement


The Anti-slavery movement in the United States came about in the 19th century when some began to question the morality of slavery and to call for its abolishment.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

The anti-slavery movement
Was born from the apparent
Hypocritical statement
That ‘all men are created equal’

Yet the South was built upon toil and the North reaped the spoils
Of free labor for years by slave blood, sweat, and tears

Enter abolitionism
And William Lloyd Garrison
Shouting ‘bout evils
In his paper The Liberator

About a poison in our country, the institution of slavery
A nationwide disease, he called for it to cease, cease, cease

The Underground Railway saved
Many thousand runaway slaves
Layin’ out a secret way
To travel north to freedom

A network of safe-haven stations, conductors bravely led them
Such as the amazing Harriet Tubman, 19 trips 300 slaves – she saved them!

Fredrick Douglass was a slave
Escaped in 1838
People soon cried at the speeches he made
He rose to heights unheard
A black man who president’s served

“If there is no struggle there is no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom
Yet depreciate agitation
Want crops without plowing the ground
Want rain without thunder and lightning
They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters
Power concedes nothing without a demand
It never did… and it never will”

(Fredrick Douglass)

The anti-slavery movement
Was born from the apparent
Hypocritical statement
That ‘all men are created equal’


Anti-slavery movement— A period of reform in the United States when many began to call for an end to the institution of slavery.

“all men are created equal”— This is a line from the Declaration of Independence. During the anti-slavery movement the hypocrisy of this statement juxtaposed with slavery was apparent to many.

Abolitionism— A movement which called for an end to slavery in the United States.

William Lloyd Garrison— A prominent American abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer best known as the editor of the radical abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.

The Liberator— An abolitionist newspaper founded by William Lloyd Garrison in 1831.

slavery— A form of forced labor in which people are considered to be the property of others. Slavery existed in the United States from its inception until 1865.

The Underground Railroad— An informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to freedom with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause.

Conductors— guides who helped lead slaves who were escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman— An escaped slave who made thirteen trips to help other slaves escape via the Underground Railroad.

Fredrick Douglass— An escaped slave who became an abolitionist, author and orator who spoke out and wrote passionately against slavery.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What is abolitionism?

Name three abolitionists and what they did for the anti-slavery movement.

What was the Underground Railroad?

Tier 2 Questions

Compare and contrast Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass.

Why was Harriet Tubman called a conductor? Why were safe houses called ‘stations’?

Tier 3 Questions

Pretend you are an enslaved teenager escaping with Harriet Tubman as your conductor. Explain how you feel. Describe what you see. Explain what you have left behind and what you believe lies ahead.

Test Prep Questions

1) Prior to the Civil War, abolitionists reacted to the situation described in the poster by

  • (1) supporting the Underground Railroad
  • (2) opposing the Emancipation Proclamation
  • (3) banning freed slaves from Northern states
  • (4) proposing a stricter fugitive slave law

2) Abolitionists in the pre–Civil War period were most likely to support the

  • (1) removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia
  • (2) passage of the Fugitive Slave Act
  • (3) activities of the Underground Railroad
  • (4) use of popular sovereignty in the territories

3) Which person’s action was most closely associated with the abolitionist movement?

  • (1) William Lloyd Garrison’s publication of The Liberator
  • (2) Booker T. Washington’s commitment to African American education
  • (3) Thurgood Marshall’s legal argument in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
  • (4) Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the Birmingham march

4) William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe are best known for their efforts to

  • (1) create free public schools
  • (2) begin the temperance movement
  • (3) expand the rights of women
  • (4) oppose the practice of slavery


Historical Context: Throughout the 1800s and the early 1900s, reformers sought to solve the social, political, and economic problems of the period. Various methods were used by reformers to address these problems.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, answer the questions that follow each document.

  • Discuss the social, political, and/or economic problems addressed by reformers in the 1800s and early 1900s. In your discussion, include the methods used by reformers to expose these problems.

Based on this newspaper article, what was one goal that William Lloyd Garrison was trying to achieve?

Thematic Essay 1

Theme: Reform Movements
Reform movements have been an important part of United States history.

Task: Identify two reform movements in the United States since 1800 and for each reform movement

  • Describe the historical circumstances that led to the need for reform
  • State one goal of the movement and discuss two actions taken by the government, a group, or an individual in support of this goal
  • Evaluate the extent to which the reform movement has made an impact on the United States

You may use any reform movement in the United States from 1800 to the present. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include the abolitionist movement, Populist movement, Progressive movement, women’s rights movement, civil rights movement, and the labor movement.