Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, 1831:
The early abolition movement in North America was fueled both by enslaved people’s efforts to liberate themselves and by groups of white settlers, such as the Quakers, who opposed slavery on religious or moral grounds. Though the lofty ideals of the Revolutionary era invigorated the movement, by the late 1780s it was in decline, as the growing southern cotton industry made slavery an ever more vital part of the national economy. In the early 19th century, however, a new brand of radical abolitionism emerged in the North, partly in reaction to Congress’ passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and the tightening of codes in most southern states. One of its most eloquent voices was William Lloyd Garrison, a crusading journalist from Massachusetts, who founded the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator in 1831 and became known as the most radical of America’s antislavery activists.
Antislavery northerners—many of them free Black people—had begun helping enslaved people escape from southern plantations to the North via a loose network of safe houses as early as the 1780s called the Underground Railroad.