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[Detail] Experience and personal narrative of Uncle Tom Jones...1858

Abolitionist Newspapers

William Lloyd Garrison called for an immediate end to slavery in America. This position, echoed in his abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, placed him at odds with other abolitionists—even those working with him in the American Anti-Slavery Society. For example, in Correspondence, between the Hon. F. H. Elmore . . . and James G. Birney, one of the secretaries of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Birney describes the publications Emancipator and Human Rights as “organs of the Executive Committee” of the society (page 18).

Although Garrison was directly affiliated with The Liberator and, at least indirectly associated with the Emancipator, Joseph Alden claims in “‘Emancipator’ and ‘Liberator’” that the newspapers were at odds with one another. Alden explains that the Emancipator offered a moderate approach by focusing solely on ending chattel slavery while The Liberator called to end the Constitution, the Sabbath, the Protestant Church, and the ministry:

In all their "antics," the Liberator party of non-resistants, as opposed to the Emancipator party of voting abolitionists who organized as the Liberty party, were encouraged and hounded on by slaveholders . . . But neither of the above institutions has been abolished . . . while chattel slavery is legally dead. Hence the Emancipator and its co-laborers . . . accomplished their work by political action while the Liberator "died a natural death," without accomplishing one of its darling objects, except talking and doing nothing else.

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The formation of the Liberty party that Alden refers to marked a philosophical split in the American Anti-Slavery Society when a number of moderate abolitionists left the organization. These members united to form the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and the Liberty party in 1839.

  • What is the role of an abolitionist newspaper?
  • Who is the target audience of the abolitionist newspaper? How does this compare to the function and audience of a general newspaper?
  • How is content influenced by the political ideology of a newspaper’s writers and editors?
  • Do you think that newspapers should always appeal to a certain part of their audience?