Turning America Against the Sins of Slavery


In this chapter, Streitmatter speaks to the role of the press during the abolitionist movement. Through the first amendment, African Americans were able to publish their works, spreading awareness about the truths of slavery across the nation and encouraging the move toward abolition. Frederick Douglass spoke to his experience in slavery, using impactful rhetoric which moved his readers and inspired them to be a part of the abolitionist movement. Douglass wasn’t alone, too. Writers like Maria Stewart, William Lloyd Garrison, and Reverend Elijah Lovejoy consistently wrote for abolitionist journals, each persisting through consistent lashback, threat of physical harm, and in Lovejoy’s case, murder. Writers who published their experiences as slaves brought forth the truth of the cruelty of slave owners. Publications started protests, journalists like Garrison published anti-abolitionist critiques to his writing, and responded to them with rebuttals, thus fueling the movement. Similar to Paine during the American Revolution, abolitionist editors used simpler rhetoric to reach mass audiences. The newspapers and journals for the black press raised awareness to what was truly occurring in the South. They displayed and spoke to the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery. In the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, the press drove the push for abolitionism.

Discussion Question:  Consider: “If men and women committed to the cause hoped to end slavery, they’d have to enter the rough-and-tumble of politics” (20). With all of the movements for equality for African Americans, how did this statement (or did this statement) carry all the way through, even to Black Lives Matter? That is, is this statement still accepted? Are people accepting that for actual change, sometimes you have to enter that “rough-and-tumble” political mindset? 


  • Reverend Elijah Lovejoy– editor of an abolitionist weekly, proslavery forces destroyed four of his printing presses. The fourth time they destroyed his property, Lovejoy tried to stop the destruction and was killed. His death propelled the movement, however, showing that slavery posed danger not only for African Americans, but for all Americans
  • William Lloyd Garrison – the most famous abolitionist editor for one of the anti slavery papers, the Liberator. He had debates with proslavery editors and participated in public demonstrations, such as burning the Constitution. He helped raise awareness to the nation about the truths of slavery.
  • The Liberator Boston weekly abolitionist papers edited by William Lloyd Garrison. Labeled as the “archetype of advocacy journalism in American history (21).  
  • Abolition Movement– a movement to eliminate slavery 
  • Alton Riot– public protests after the murder of Elijah Lovejoy. To remind American citizens about the murder, protestors created the slogan: “LOVEJOY the first MARTYR to American LIBERTY. MURDERED for asserting the FREEDOM of the PRESS” (20). Emphasized that direct action must be taken, and American citizens couldn’t just expect for the slave owners to let the people go.
  • Freedom’s Journalthe first black newspaper, founded in New York City in 1827. It shortly ended its publication, with difficulties finding advertisement and struggles with financing.
  • Maria Stewart– a black woman who wrote in favor of the abolition of slavery in the Liberator in 1831. Took on a more radical nature through her rhetoric, accusing “white America of practicing ‘fraud’ and committing sins of Babylon (27).
  • North Star– paper created by Frederick Douglass, where Douglass spoke to his experience as a slave. This paper was read in the U.S., Europe, and the West Indies.


A copy of The Liberator news, African American Registry, date: 1/1/1831, https://aaregistry.org/story/the-liberator-news-begins-circulation/

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