Few men or women worked harder or longer for the abolition of the slaves than William Lloyd Garrison. He was converted to the cause in the late 1820’s and immediately began printing and lecturing on the necessity of immediate abolition. In 1831, with the backing and support of Boston’s African-American community, Garrison founded The Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper that would become one of the most influential and outspoken voices for abolitionism and women’s rights in the mid-nineteenth-century. Garrison continued to serve as the editor of the controversial newspaper until its last issue was printed in December 1865.
In 1831, Garrison helped found the New England Anti-Slavery Society, the first organization dedicated to the immediate abolition of slavery. The group proved so successful that two years later, Garrison and several other abolitionists met in Philadelphia to form the American Anti-Slavery Society. As the most prominent voice in the abolitionist movement, Garrison was called upon to write and print a declaration of the organization’s views and principles.
One of Garrison’s most influential followers was Frederick Douglass, a former slave. After Douglass, whose political philosophies had been forged through reading the Liberator, recounted his experiences at an anti-slavery rally in 1841, Garrison and others recruited him as a representative for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. He became of fixture of the abolitionist movement from that time on and in 1845 Garrison printed Douglass’s famous autobiography.
William Lloyd Garrison was a deeply spiritual man and he hoped that abolitionism could be brought about naturally and peacefully through a moral reform of the nation. As a confirmed pacifist he viewed the increasing violence and unrest leading up to the Civil War with some uncertainty. He hoped for a peaceful solution, but when violence came, as in 1859 with John Brown’s abortive slave revolt and insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, Garrison felt that he was morally bound to side with the oppressed over the oppressor.