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Robert McNamara

William Lloyd Garrison

By January 14, 2013

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As the abolitionist movement grew in the decades before the Civil War, William Lloyd Garrison became a central figure in the cause of ending slavery in America.

Trained as a printer, Garrison started an anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator, in Boston in 1831. Controversy soon followed.

Within a year, a grand jury in North Carolina issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of "seditious libel." Southern newspapers gleefully noted that Garrison, if he dared venture into the South, would be subjected to "whipping and imprisonment."

Garrison was even attacked in the North, both in print and on the street. An angry mob in Boston paraded him through the streets with a rope around his neck in 1835 before the mayor of the city calmed the crowd.

In 1854, as fugitive slave cases inflamed passions, Garrison, at a July Fourth gathering, burned a copy of the U.S. Constitution. The document had institutionalized slavery, which Garrison found repugnant.

Garrison's strident activities generally kept him apart from ordinary politics. But he remained a leading voice in the crusade against slavery.

More: Biography of William Lloyd Garrison

Illustration: William Lloyd Garrison/Library of Congress

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