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According to Dictionary.com, Abolitionist - (noun) (especially prior to the civil war) - 1. A person who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the United States.  2. A person who favors the abolition of any law or practice deemed harmful to society.

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A slave is a person who is owned by another person.  Slaves were considered the personal property of the owner, who was called a slaveholder or master.  There was slavery in the United States for nearly 250 years.  Blacks were captured and first brought by ship to America from Africa in 1619.

Slaves were sold to work as servants or field hands on many plantations.  They received no pay for their labor.  Owners merely gave them the minimum amount of food, clothing, and shelter.  Slaves had no rights, they could be bought or sold whenever the master chose.  Members of slave families were often separated, and were beaten to make obedient and easy to manage.

Many laws were passed to ensure that slavery continued.  It was illegal for slaves to learn to read or to write;  to beat drums; to hold religious services without a white person present.  It was illegal for slaves to own guns;  to hit or fight back against a white person;  to own property;  to gather in groups of more than five;  to buy or sell goods;  to vote;  or to marry.

Abolitionists were a group of people mostly black and some whites, fought against the evils of slavery.  Some abolitionists wanted to do away with slavery peacefully and gradually.  While others thought that there should be a big rebellion to end slavery all at once.  Yet another group thought that all blacks should return to Africa and form colonies.  Regardless of their methods, they all believed that slavery had to end.

In the United States, a law passed that no new slaves could be brought into this country after 01/01/1808.  But slavery still continued.  In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves.  But, slavery did not really end until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1865.

After slavery ended the abolitionists then turned their efforts to helping the newly freed slaves.  They worked to ensure that all blacks had the same rights as whites.  Blacks Americans and all Americans owe a lot to the brave men and women who fought to end slavery.  A nation is only free when everyone is free and treated equally on All Levels.  

Excerpt from A Gift of Heritage - Historic Black Abolitionists