November 5, 2010

Quakers and Slavery Conference with Historian Gary Nash

I was lucky to get to attend part of the Quakers and Slavery Conference being held at the University of Philadelphia this week and weekend. I got to listen to leading American Colonial Era historian, Gary Nash.

His lecture was about why the first abolitionists--the Quakers have been forgotten in American history textbooks and what can be done about it.

It was very fun, I wish I could have seen more of the conference but I had classes and homework. The topic is really interesting as some Quakers did own slaves, including William Penn. It's strange that so little is ever said about the 1700s-1860s Quaker views on slavery. William Penn did promote "humane treatment" of slaves including the right for slaves to marry and the right to an education. 

It is especially interesting to me because historically Pennsylvania has had a large number of Quakers and had always been considered one of the safer places for escaped and freed slaves to go to. Some people don't even realize that there were slave owners in Pennsylvania or that there were different kinds of slavery. Not all slaves lived on plantations; in urban settings, many slaves did the work of house servants and most slave owners only owned one or two slaves.

Henry Brown, a slave from Virginia, mailed himself to abolitionists in Pennsylvania in 1849. His journey was 27 hours and included transportation by wagon, steamboat, and train until he arrived in Philadelphia. Henry Brown published his story, alerting authorities, to the dismay of many abolitionists who were planning on mailing other slaves to freedom.




  1. Stephanie Ann,

    This post if fascinating.
    We have a friend, you have her blog posted as Aspiring Homemaker, who is a part of our group and she portrays a slave girl. At one event she was Charity who was being helped by the Georgia Quakers. Very good. Check her closely, you will fall in love with her spirit and her portrayals.


  2. Thanks, I absolutely love Mia's blog, although we have never met.

  3. Funnily enough, Quakers as abolitionists were mentioned just today in our class on Canadian history.

  4. This must be a fashion change - I read a lot of books published in the 1960s about Quakers and the abolitionists movement as a child. Maybe I was just really interested in the topic though - my great-something grandparents were Quakers who ran a station on the Underground Railroad in Ohio in the 1830s & 40s.

  5. Dreamstress, how cool! I think it is becoming a lot more popular. The issue is that their contributions were being left out of school textbooks or mentioned in a sentence or two. I'm glad textbooks are shifting to include more common people rather than rich politicians and military leaders only.


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