The Liberator (anti-slavery newspaper)

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Liberator v.1, no.1, 1831

The Liberator (1831-1865) was an abolitionist newspaper founded by William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp in 1831.[1] Garrison co-published weekly issues of The Liberator from Boston continuously for 35 years, from January 1, 1831, to the final issue of December 29, 1865. Although its circulation was only about 3,000, and three-quarters of subscribers were African Americans in 1834,[2] the newspaper earned nationwide notoriety for its uncompromising advocacy of "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves" in the United States. Garrison set the tone for the paper in his famous open letter "To the Public" in the first issue:

... Assenting to the "self-evident truth" maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights -- among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My consicence in now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; -- but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. ...

The Liberator faced harsh resistance from several state legislatures and local groups: for example, North Carolina indicted Garrison for felonious acts, and the Vigilance Association of Columbia, South Carolina, offered a reward of $1,500 ($25,957.20 in 2005 dollars) to those who identified distributors of the paper.[3]

The Liberator continued for three decades from its founding through the end of the American Civil War. Garrison ended the newspaper's run with a valedictory column at the end of 1865, when the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States. It was succeeded by The Nation.[4]

Composing stone of The Liberator

Woman’s rights advocacy

The Liberator also became an avowed woman’s rights newspaper when the prospectus for its 1838 issue declared that as the paper’s object was “to redeem woman as well as man from a servile to an equal condition,” it would support “the rights of woman to their utmost extent.”[5] In January and February 1838, the Liberator published Sarah Grimké’s “Letters on the Province of Woman” in the paper, and later in the year published them in pamphlet form as [1]Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman. During the following decades, the Liberator promoted women’s rights by publishing editorials, petitions, convention calls and proceedings, speeches, legislative action, and other material advocating woman suffrage, equal property rights, and women’s educational and professional equality. The Liberator’s printers: Isaac Knapp, James Brown Yerrinton (1800-1866) and James Manning Winchell Yerrinton (1825-1893), and Robert Folger Wallcut (1797-1884), printed many of the woman’s rights tracts used in the 1850s.

Contents Online

All of the following articles were written by Garrison.

1850 Liberator masthead, designed by Hammatt Billings

See also


  1. Boston Directory, 1831, Garrison & Knapp, editors and proprietors Liberator, 10 Merchants Hall, Congress Street<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Ripley, C. Peter (1991). The Black Abolitionist Papers: Vol. III: The United States, 1830-1846, p. 9. UNC Press. ISBN 0-8078-1926-3.
  3. Clark, Carmen E., "Garrison, William Lloyd", in Vaughn, Stephen L. (ed.) (2007). Encyclopedia of American Journalism, p. 195. CRC Press. ISBN 0-415-96950-6.
  4. The Anti-Slavery Reporter, August 1, 1865, p 187
  5. Liberator, Dec. 15, 1837.


External links