"Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land": Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865

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In the decades leading up to the Civil War, Boston became a center of the national antislavery movement, and in 1831 William Lloyd Garrison, "all on fire" for the cause, began publication of The Liberator, the country's leading abolitionist newspaper. There was strong resistance to the radical movement  not only in the slave-holding South, but among Northerners as well. Open at the MHS through May 24, "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land": Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865, features manuscripts, broadsides, artifacts—including the imposing stone for The Liberator—and portraits of key players to illustrate the role of Massachusetts in the national debate over slavery, and to demonstrate how the movement was communicated and followed.



Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • The Society’s recently acquired maquette of a sculpture of William Lloyd Garrison by Anne Whitney as well as the first issue of the paper in which Garrison wrote, “—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch.—AND I WILL BE HEARD.”
  • A daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes shows the right hand of Captain Jonathan W. Walker, an ardent abolitionist. He was branded with the letters, "S.S.," for slave stealer, for attempting to help Florida slaves escape to freedom.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe's letter to educator and reformer Horace Mann in which she announces that she has completed  what would arguably become the most influential work of fiction in American history—Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • A diagram showing the drill developed by the secret Anti-Man-Hunting League to run off slave catchers.
  • A letter Mary Blanchard wrote to her father, Benjamin Seaver, describing the crowds gathered in Boston on June 4, 1854 to watch the procession that marched Anthony Burns from the courthouse to the waterfront and back to slavery in Virginia.
  • An anguished plea Burns wrote to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. asking for help in securing his freedom and two checks totaling $1,300 used to purchase his freedom.
  • The final issue of The Liberator.