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Emancipations of Slaves and Women in the Early Nineteenth Century

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Essay title: Emancipations of Slaves and Women in the Early Nineteenth Century

In three decades prior to the outbreak of Civil War, the Northern United States abounded with movements yearning for social transformation. The two most important movements, the ones that struck deeply at the foundations of American society, that ones that were so influential that they indeed provided the historical background to the two immense issues that Americans continue to debate and struggle with, were the crusades for the abolition of slavery and the equality of women.

In the early nineteenth century, the people who challenged the idea of slavery and the adversity of women were usually slaves and women themselves. They were the ones once considered the “less-humans” without any right to speak, yet they were the ones directly suffered from oppression. The anti-slavery movements took place in the aftermath of the American Revolution and prior to the outbreak of Civil War. Being evoked by the sinful nature of slavery, people like William Lloyd Garrison, a Massachusetts printer and editor, began to make verbal actions against slavery. In January 1, 1831, Garrison published the first issue of The Liberator (Rankin 50), which was to be one of the very first vehicles for radical abolitionism. The sentiments of women’s rights came afterward the experiences in anti-slavery movements. Sarah and Angelina Grimkй were among the very effective anti-slavery speakers. As active reformers, women gradually developed organizational skills that were necessary for another thorough social transformation. They learned to appeal persuasively in order to speak to large groups of men and women about the importance of social transformation. In the service of anti-slavery, women had found their voices. At the First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, the Declaration of Sentiments, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was signed by 32 men and 68 women (Rankin 79). Claiming that “all men and women are created equal” (Rankin 81), the signers called upon granting women the right to vote, to own property, to sign legal documents, to serve juries, and to enjoy equal educational and professional accesses along with men. Therefore, these two movements were actually united in such a way that they both promoted the expansion of the American promise of liberty and equality by supporting and empowering one another. Nonetheless, these two movements were separated as a matter of causality that one is the offspring of the other. It was the abolition of slavery enkindling the argument of women’s rights.

How could such remarkable events take place in such particular time? As many events happened coincidently, the ongoing of anti-slavery movements were largely catalyzed by religion. The impact of the Second Great Awakening on the anti-slavery movements was probably one of the most influential initiators to the movements. It was influential due to its message that “salvation was available to anyone willing to eradicate individual sin and accept faith in God’s grace”, which outpoured an evangelical fervor that totally reshaped American Protestantism (Roark 250). Under the spherical influences of the Second Great Awakening, the idea of slavery was considered a big moral issue. If slaves were humans, they would and should be introduced into Christianity, but Christians cannot be slaves, so slavery was anti-Christian. Permeating almost every aspect of life in the early nineteenth century, religion served as a resilient preacher in countering slavery. Many abolitionists were active members of religious communities; some of them had religious backgrounds while growing up, so it was their belief system that helped building them the grounds for the anti-slavery movements. Furthermore, the abolitionists were spurred by the European Enlightenment ideals like democracy, liberty, equality, rights, etc. It was the great French political philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau who first proposed “man is born free” in his work Of the Social Contract. Thomas Jefferson adopted the same idea in The Declaration of Independence, which had promised freedom to be one of the fundamental values in the Unites States ever since, and slavery was an obvious antithetical to such value. Therefore, slavery was contrary to the American way of life and had to be annihilated. Besides, the abolitionists were mutually inspired by each other’s ideas. Frederick Douglass, one of the pioneers of abolition, quoted Garrison’s words in the first issue of The Liberator to show his values in his bestseller: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Rankin 69).

How did these two movements proceed? The abolitionists used different strategies to popularize their propagandas. Literatures were among their most frequency usages; they

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