An abolitionist was someone who wanted to end slavery, especially in the United States before the Civil War — when owning slaves was common practice.

Back when many landowners in the United States forced slaves to work their land, abolitionists believed that slavery violated the basic human right of freedom, and organized to make slavery illegal, writing anti-slavery literature, proposing new laws, and smuggling slaves into free Canada. The Latin root abolere means “destroy,” and an abolitionist is generally a person who wants to destroy any law or practice, like the abolitionists who fight to end the death penalty.

Definitions of abolitionist
  1. noun
    a reformer who favors abolishing slavery
    synonyms: emancipationist
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    Henry Ward Beecher
    United States clergyman who was a leader for the abolition of slavery (1813-1887)
    John Brown
    abolitionist who was hanged after leading an unsuccessful raid at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (1800-1859)
    Frederick Douglass
    United States abolitionist who escaped from slavery and became an influential writer and lecturer in the North (1817-1895)
    William Lloyd Garrison
    United States abolitionist who published an anti-slavery journal (1805-1879)
    Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe
    United States writer of a novel about slavery that advanced the abolitionists' cause (1811-1896)
    Arthur Tappan
    United States abolitionist (1786-1865)
    Sojourner Truth
    United States abolitionist and feminist who was freed from slavery and became a leading advocate of the abolition of slavery and for the rights of women (1797-1883)
    Harriet Tubman
    United States abolitionist born a slave on a plantation in Maryland and became a famous conductor on the Underground Railroad leading other slaves to freedom in the North (1820-1913)
    Theodore Dwight Weld
    United States abolitionist (1803-1895)
    type of:
    crusader, meliorist, reformer, reformist, social reformer
    a disputant who advocates reform
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