John Woolman: Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes

(1754)

Impact

Evidence that Woolman succeeded emerged shortly after he presented his tract to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Rather than reject him, as they had prior opponents of slavery, Quaker leaders authorized his work for general publication to Quaker communities both in the American colonies and England, declaring it the official position of the Virginia Yearly Meeting in 1754. This marked a significant departure from past accommodations on the question of slavery, ushering in a new era of Quaker leadership in what would become the abolition movement. It might be said that Woolman transformed the decline of Quaker hegemony in Pennsylvania politics into a spiritual opportunity, successfully reinvigorating the spiritual life of the Society of Friends.

Woolman’s public denunciation of slavery came on the eve of catastrophe for Quaker America, providing a new vision for one of America’s great faiths. One year after the completion of his Considerations, Native Americans and...

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Defeat of General Braddock in the French and Indian War (Library of Congress)

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