William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison was an outspoken abolitionist for most of his life.  He started Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper, which he published weekly from 1831 to 1865.  Garrison also published articles in support of woman's suffrage. 

Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1805, the son of a merchant sailing master.  However, with the Embargo Act, passed by Congress in 1807, Garrison’s family fell on hard times.  In 1818, Garrison worked for a variety of newspapers to help supplement his schooling.  Several of his articles were published in the Salem Gazette.  Then in 1826, Garrison decided to start his own newspaper, the Newburyport Free Press.  Unfortunately this paper failed, so Garrison took a job as the assistant editor of the Genius of Universal Emancipation, which was published in Baltimore, Maryland.  Joining this paper marks the start of Garrison’s abolitionist career.  By 1830, he was the co-editor of the paper. 

On January 1, 1831, Garrison published the first issues of the Liberator, his own anti-slavery newspaper.  Through not only the paper, but speaking engagements as well, Garrison sought the immediate emancipation of all African Americans.  In the 1830s this was a surprising and uncommon idea; most of those who did support emancipation felt it should be at a gradual rate.  Garrison stressed passive resistance and nonviolence.  Garrison reached very few people with his paper.  There were only 400 subscriptions its second year. 

In 1832, Garrison helped form the New England Anti-Slavery Society.  This society was the first to request immediate emancipation.   Founded in 1833, also with Garrison’s help, the American Anti-Slavery Society became the second organization calling for immediate emancipation.  The American Anti-Slavery Society was made up of many abolitionists: Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, and Theodore Dwight Weld.  However, Garrison was seen as very radical.  He believed the current Constitution of the United States was illegal since it allowed for slavery.  These radical views caused a split in the organization.  Garrison and his followers wanted to create a new government that prevented slavery and gave all men equal rights.  Garrison served as president of this new organization, the Liberty Party, from 1843 to 1865.  For his views Garrison was despised by many Southerners.  The state of Georgia even offered a five thousand dollar reward for Garrison’s arrest and conviction. 

Garrison also played a role in the woman suffrage movement.  Starting in the 1830s he argued that women should be allowed to hold leadership positions in abolitionist organizations.  He also fought to ensure women could join the Anti-Slavery Society.  However, women were never allowed to; they were allowed to join the Liberty Party.  He continued to speak and write about woman’s suffrage for the rest of his life.  Garrison died on May 24, 1879 of kidney disease.