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Bondage to Freedom: The Struggle for the Abolition of American Slavery

The Abolitionist movement was a social and political endeavor to end slavery in the United States. Though it was seen as radical by many Americans, abolitionists' fierce devotion to the cause ultimately led to the eradication of slavery in the United States.

The abolitionist movement emerged in Northern states, namely New York and Pennsylvania. The abolitionists gathered many anti-slavery ideas from the activists in Britain who were trying to bring an end to the slave trade. In 1833, the slave trade in Britain was abolished and the Anti-Slavery Society was created in the United States. Under the direction of William Lloyd Garrison, the Anti-Slavery Society exposed the horrors of slavery through Garrison's newspaper The Liberator.

Garrison befriended Frederick Douglass, who escaped his enslavement and became one of the most influential abolitionists in history. Douglass published My Bondage My Freedom  (1855), an autobiography detailing his life as a slave and escape to freedom. His book quickly became a best seller pulling on the emotions already surfaced by Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Douglass played a key role in the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's position on emancipation.

Douglass wasn't the only escaped slave who publicly spoke out against slavery. Sojourner Truth travelled the country making speeches and advocating with other abolitionists like Douglass, Wendell Phillips, and William Lloyd Garrison to advocate for the cause. During the war, Truth met with President Lincoln in October 1864.

While abolitionists had one set goal, to end slavery, they were a divided group. Some abolitionists, such as Garrison, wanted an immediate end to slavery even though this would divide the North and South more quickly. Moderates called for a gradual abolition of slavery. Others such as John Brown called for violence in the face of slavery's cruelty and advocated for armed rebellion.

While Lincoln wasn't an abolitionist he was an anti-slavery politician. South Carolina voted to secede from the Union in December 1860 due to his election. The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 marked the beginning of the Civil War. In September of 1862, Lincoln announced that his Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation declared that all enslaved persons in rebel territory were hereby freed. This Proclamation transformed the war from a conflict to save the Union into a war to end slavery. Two years later, the Thirteenth Amendment passed through the U.S. Congress. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits slavery except as punishment for a crime and cemented the end of slavery throughout the country.