Definition of abolitionist noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//ˌæbəˈlɪʃənɪst//
; NAmE NAmE//ˌæbəˈlɪʃənɪst//
jump to other results
a person who is in favour of the abolition of something CultureslaverySlavery has been practised in many countries, but played a particularly important role in the history of the US. The first slaves, who were considered to be the property of another person and to have no rights of their own, were taken from Africa to North America by the Dutch in 1619 and by the time of the American Revolution (1775) there were 500 000 slaves, mostly in the South. Slaves were taken from Africa in ships in very bad conditions, with many dying during the trip. Once they arrived, they worked mainly on cotton plantations where the quality of their lives depended on the treatment they received from their master.After the Revolution, northern states made slavery illegal, but it continued in the South. It became illegal to bring slaves into the US in 1808, but by then many were being born there, so slave markets continued. In the 1830s opposition to slavery grew from the abolitionist movement, whose leaders included William Lloyd Garrison who published an anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator and Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote a famous novel about a slave called Uncle Tom's Cabin. In 1831 a former slave, Nat Turner organized an uprising of slaves in Virginia and in 1859 a white man, John Brown tried to free some slaves. The work of the Underground Railroad had more effect, trying to help slaves escape to the North, and some people hoped to end slavery by sending slaves back to Africa, creating the new country Liberia in 1822. Laws were made to restrict slavery, but the South wanted it to expand and politicians found it increasingly difficult to agree. In 1820 the Missouri Compromise said that Missouri would be admitted to the US as a slave state (= one where slavery was allowed) and Maine as a free state (= where slavery was not allowed). However, conflict between the North and South increased and in 1861 the slave states left the US, marking the start of the Civil War.After the North won the Civil War and brought southern states back into the US, slavery was ended, but conditions did not improve for many slaves. Some moved to the North, but many of those who stayed in the South continued to work on the plantations where they were paid for their work but didn't get enough money to pay for food and clothes.The British were also involved in slavery from the 17th century when many slaves were taken from Africa to British colonies in the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations. Many businessmen made a lot of money from the triangular trade between Britain, Africa and the West Indies. They transported cloth and iron goods to West Africa and exchanged them for slaves who were then taken to the West Indies and exchanged for sugar which was taken back to Bristol and other British ports for sale in Europe. The Quakers were among the first people to campaign against slavery and it was made illegal in Britain in 1772, but campaigns led by William Wilberforce and others then grew for the total abolition of the slave trade. It was not until 1807 that it was made illegal for British ships to carry slaves and for British colonies to import them, and slavery was not finally abolished in the British Empire until 1833, when all slaves were set free and their owners were compensated.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: abolitionist