William Lloyd Garrison was one of the most influential and well-known early 19th century abolitionists, a man who used his influence as editor of a prominent anti-slavery newspaper to maintain pressure on Northern politicians and ensure that abolition remained a political priority before and during the Civil War. Garrison also supported other anti-slavery voices, most notably Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass, the former slave who gave the movement tremendous moral authority and a strong international presence.

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Born in New Brunswick, Canada, Garrison was raised by a mother with strong religious convictions, which she passed on to her son. Garrison’s dedication to the cause of emancipation began at an early age, though he had originally supported the idea of resettling blacks in West Africa (Cain, 1994). He drew the ire of slave merchants and Massachusetts business interests that trafficked in slavery, and narrowly escaped being killed in the 1830s by an angry Boston mob.

Having helped bring about abolition, Garrison continued pressuring the government for further civil liberties, including black voting rights and women’s suffrage. The Liberator went out of circulation after the Civil War (Stewart, 6), but Garrison continued to publish articles in Boston newspapers into the 1870s calling for the continued advance of civil rights for all citizens, regardless of race or gender. Garrison also helped strengthen international cooperation, particularly between America and Great Britain, in the ongoing effort to end slavery and race-based injustice.

  • Cain, William E. William Lloyd Garrison and the Fight Against Slavery: Selections from the Liberator. New York: MacMillan, 1994.
  • Stewart, James. William Lloyd Garrison at Two Hundred: History, Legacy and Memory. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2008.