William Lloyd Garrison

Depending upon which area you live in, you may or may not have seen the PBS American Experience special The Abolitionists that aired last year. The special detailed those who fought to end slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War (or, more accurately, those who fought to end slavery whose battle started the Civil War). One of the men featured was William Lloyd Garrison, a Boston writer and printer whose publication The Liberator served as the voice of the anti-slavery campaign.

Garrison moved to Boston as a young man in 1828, and in 1831 started up the influential paper, printing over eighteen hundred editions over the course of forty years until the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and the 13th Amendment all came into being. Garrison firmly believed that the way to change minds and hearts was through the written word - through "moral-suasion" - and not through violence (in sharp contrast to fellow abolitionist John Brown). Garrison spent his career centered in Boston, printing his paper there, and delivering lectures against slavery at Park Street Church and Faneuil Hall, among other locations. He is buried in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, and there is a bronze memorial statue dedicated to him in the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

In the last edition of The Liberator Garrison looks back over his life as a journalist and printer:

Commencing my editorial career when only twenty years of age, I have followed it continuously till I have attained my sixtieth year—first, in connection with The Free Press, in Newburyport, in the spring of 1826; next, with The National Philanthropist, in Boston, in 1827; next, with The Journal of the Times, in Bennington, Vt., in 1828—9; next, with The Genius of Universal Emancipation, in Baltimore, in 1829—30; and, finally, with The Liberator, in Boston, from the 1st of January, 1831, to the 1st of January, 1866;—at the start, probably the youngest member of the editorial fraternity in the land, now, perhaps, the oldest, not in years, but in continuous service,—unless Mr. Bryant, of the New York Evening Post, be an exception.

Whether I shall again be connected with the press, in a similar capacity, is quite problematical; but, at my period of life, I feel no prompting to start a new journal at my own risk, and with the certainty of struggling against wind and tide, as I have done in the past.

I began the publication of The Liberator without a subscriber, and I end it—it gives me unalloyed satisfaction to say—without a farthing as the pecuniary result of the patronage extended to it during thirty-five years of unremitted labors.

Copies of the The Liberator, as well as other works by Garrison, are kept at the Boston Public Library Special Collections.