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The most significant 19th century reform movement was that of the Abolitionists.  Abolitionists, who were unpopular in both the north and south, sought to end the institution of slavery.  By 1800, slavery had completely died out in the northern states.  Most northerners prior to the Civil War

(Click here to hear Garrison speak)

took an indifferent view of slavery.  Many felt it was wrong and would not have tolerated it in their own states; however they did not feel the need to protest or fight it in the south.  Northerners also feared that freed slaves might some day come and replace them in their factory jobs.  Southerners sought to defend the institution of slavery at all costs.  Slaves were vital to their cotton production and to their economy.  A large question about slavery also loomed on the horizon.  Would slavery be allowed to expand into the western territories?

     Abolitionists hoped to bring the issue of slavery to the public's attention.  They wanted to persuade people that slavery was wrong.  "I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard." (Garrison)  William Lloyd Garrison was one of the most prominent voices against slavery prior to the Civil War.  Garrison created an anti-slavery society and published an anti-slavery newspaper called "The Liberator".  Garrison believed that slavery was evil and needed to be abolished "by whatever means possible". 

     Another prominent abolitionist was named Fredrick Douglas.  Douglas had been a former slave who had taught himself to read.  He had escaped from Maryland and his freedom was eventually purchased for him by several English admirers.  Douglas was tall, intelligent, and well spoken.  He spent his time touring the north giving speeches about the horrors of slavery.  His words and experiences captivate his audiences and brought the injustice of slavery to light.  Other former slaves such as Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape captivity along the Underground Railroad.