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Former featured article candidateAbolitionism is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
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On this day...A fact from this article was featured on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "On this day..." column on January 1, 2008.

This article was the subject of a Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment, between 18 January 2022 and 5 May 2022. Further details are available on the course page. Student editor(s): Bmduncan2 (article contribs).


Portugal abolished slavery in 1761. Please correct this misleading article. 2001:818:D816:2900:87C:8D65:5DD8:7EE0 (talk) 19:58, 8 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wiki Education assignment: HIST 2010 Early U.S. History[edit]

This article was the subject of a Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment, between 23 August 2022 and 9 December 2022. Further details are available on the course page. Student editor(s): Addiashley, Ballout22 (article contribs).

— Assignment last updated by Brooklyncox22 (talk) 18:25, 15 September 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Misleading definition[edit]

The way McPherson is quoted ia a little misleading, it seems to disqualify generations of abolitionism from being abolitionist anymore. Some examples:

- John Jay is an acknowledged abolitionist, only passed gradual law. Horace Greeley stated: "To Chief Justice Jay may be attributed, more than to any other man, the abolition of Negro bondage in this state."
- Jan 1 1808 was a holiday with many African Americans after the abolition of the slave trade. Abolitionists at the turn of the century believed that if the slave trade were eliminated, slavery itself would also go away. This large phase of abolitionist activity over decades shouldn't be considered disqualified.
- In "The Struggle for Equality" McPherson didn't study all of abolitionism over centuries. He studied very little prior to the election of 1860 and concluded less than a decade later. So if he only intends one decade, the wiki should say that.
- Britain's 1833 law is gradual, not immediate. McPherson probably didn't intend to disqualify this law from being considered abolitionist. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:05, 10 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is a fair point. In his introduction, McPherson sets the scope of his book. He begins that paragraph with
"Anyone writing about abolitionists confronts the problem of defining the term. and this becomes more difficult for the period after 1869. Even before emancipation, of course. the antislavery movement was beset by factionalism. At times it seemed as if there were almost as many kinds of abolitionists as there were individuals in the movement. In The Struggle for Equality I defined "abolitionist" as one who before the Civil War had agitated for the immediate. unconditional, and total abolition of slavery in the United States. The same general definition will serve again here (with the addition, as explained below. of "second generation" and "third generation" abolitionists)."[1]
He regards this as a good working definition but he's not making a claim to universality and even points out how it must be modified as his scope changes. NebY (talk) 14:33, 10 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  1. ^ James M. McPherson (1995). The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the Naacp. Princeton University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-691-10039-5.
The definition as stated by McPherson is really good the way I see it. When McPherson writes that "all so-called abolitionists prior to 1830 are inelligible to be considered 'true abolitionists' in any way" because they all held questionable views, he is correct. Anybody who supported 'gradual abolitionism' is not a true abolitionists. I used to think the British were the good guys, but I did not know until recently that what they actually did was only a gradual abolition and nothing more. That is not real abolitionism. Also, Britain refuses to pay any reparations either for hundreds of years of slavery which also makes them inelligible. They still have systemic issues to work out. Further, any 'abolitionist' who owned slaves, such as Ben Franklin(who is mentioned in the article) is inelligible as well. You cannot be both a racist and an abolitionist. I think this article could be much improved by quoting more from the great and eminently qualified scholar historian Ibram X. Kendi, who surely also agrees with McPherson that there were no abolitionists of any kind prior to Garrison. ~~ — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:56, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've a lot of sympathy with your view - except that sadly, someone can be an abolitionist and still be a racist in other ways - but you highlight something that's implicit in McPherson too, that there are multiple definitions of "abolitionist" and multiple claims that people were or weren't abolitionists. Under our WP:NPOV policy, as I read it, the article shouldn't adopt just one of those definitions or use it to determine who it mentions and how.. NebY (talk) 20:57, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What is our subject, or what should it be?[edit]

Do we want this article to be about the activist movements to abolish slavery, or about the actual abolition of slavery? Or should we have two articles?

This article began as a brief look at the nineteenth-century movement to abolish slavery in the United States and the prominent activists in the movement.[1] As it grew to cover more countries it also broadened in scope, discussing not just the abolitionists such as the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade or the Société des Amis des Noirs but also the various acts and Acts of abolition such as France's 1315, 1794 and 1848, Britain's 1807 and 1833, and many more. A lot of recent additions have been about abolition.

Still, the title's remained Abolitionism, so much of our current content looks off-topic. On the other hand we don't have an article titled Abolition of Slavery; that redirects here. Should we have a separate article? Or rename this one? Or what? NebY (talk) 19:21, 26 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]