The American Anti-Slavery Society was established in 1833, but abolitionist sentiment antedated the republic. For example, the charter of Georgia prohibited slavery, and many of its settlers fought a losing battle against allowing it in the colony, Before independence, Quakers, most black Christians, and other religious groups argued that slavery was incompatible with Christ's teaching. Moreover, a number of revolutionaries saw the glaring contradiction between demanding freedom for themselves while holding slaves. Although the economic center of slavery was in the South, northerners also held slaves, as did African Americans and Native Americans. Moreover, some southerners opposed slavery. Blacks were in the vanguard of the anti-slavery movement. Abolitionist literature began to appear about 1820. Until the Civil War, the anti-slavery press produced a steadily growing stream of newspapers, periodicals, sermons, children's publications, speeches, abolitionist society reports, broadsides, and memoirs of former slaves.
The Library of Congress has a wealth of material that demonstrates the extent of public support for and opposition to abolition. Broadsides advertise fairs and bazaars that women's groups held to raise money for the cause. Other publications advertise abolitionist rallies, some of which are pictured in prints from contemporaneous periodicals. To build enthusiasm at their meetings, anti-slavery organizations used songs, some of which survive. The Library also has many political and satirical prints from the 1830s through the 1850s that demonstrate the rising sectional controversy during that time.
Although excellent studies of the abolition movement exist, further research in the Library's manuscripts could document the lesser known individuals who formed the movement's core. Other promising topics include the roles of women and black abolitionists and the activities of state and local abolitionist societies.