William Lloyd Garrison’s “The Liberator”

William Lloyd Garrison was one of the most ardent abolitionists in the United States before and during the Civil War. He spoke out for the immediate and total abolishment of slavery in the United States during a time when men could be killed for such radical views. Not only did he speak out, he also started one of the most well known abolitionist periodicals. He called his paper “The Liberator” and he based it out of Boston, Massachusetts.

The first issue of “The Liberator” was published on January 1, 1831. William Lloyd Garrison was the paper’s editor, though there were other contributors. He also had a guest editor-Edmund Quincy-who would stand in for him on occasion. The paper was strictly anti-slavery and called for the immediate release of all slaves. Garrison was determined that his voice be heard and his opinion be unaltered despite the risk. In one edition of “The Liberator,” William wrote this of his fervor for abolishing slavery and the seemingly apathetic approach that people were taking to the issue, “I am in earnest-I will not equivocate-I will not excuse-I will not retreat a single inch-AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”

“The Liberator” did not get many subscribers, just a few hundred. Despite the fact that Garrison could have used the money subscribers would have brought him, he was more interested in getting his opinion out there and hoping that people would start agreeing with him. So, he got his views out there in another way.

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During the years that William Lloyd Garrison was publishing “The Liberator,” newspapers often participated in copy exchanges. Two papers from different cities would exchange a single copy. Oftentimes, a paper would print a story or part of a story from a far away paper in their local one. News in those days traveled a lot this way.

“The Liberator” participated in copy exchanges with several papers, even in the pro-slavery south. These papers would print a portion of what was in the paper, along with a rebuttal. This rebuttal would then make its way back to “The Liberator,” which could rebut the rebuttal. This is how Garrison got his voice heard beyond the boundaries of Boston. When the Civil War was over and most of Garrison’s wishes had come true, he stopped publishing “The Liberator.” The last issue was published on December 29, 1865.

William Lloyd Garrison’s views and the views expressed in “The Liberator” were radical even by some abolitionist’s standards. At the time, many abolitionists did not like the idea of living in society with numerous freed African-Americans. Freeing all of them at once would force ‘whites’ to live in a society full of freed ‘negroes.’ The ignorance of many citizens led them to fear this, for reasons many of us would be shocked to hear someone present today. Garrison did not care what these people thought. He was of the belief that we would one day live in a country where ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ had equal rights. He was attacked for these views several times. It would be nice to see the looks on those people’s faces if they could see the United States today.

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The Liberator and Beyond, retrieved 5/29/10, sujal.net/cities/laterlife.html

William Lloyd Garrison, retrieved 5/29/10, pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1561.html