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Slave gives talk in Northfield
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The antislavery movement thrived in Massachusetts from the 1830s until the Civil War. Although it was not well received at first- William Lloyd Garrison had been set upon by mobs in Boston several times in the 1830s - its strength grew as many in Massachusetts came to feel that a conspiracy of slaveowning states was perverting the American system. The movement coordinated a number of highly successful antislavery petition drives in the mid-1830s, culminating in Congress passing a law in 1836 - the infamous "Gag Rule" - refusing to accept any more of them. These petition drives touched every town in Massachusetts. When the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed northern towns rose in horror. Some even publicly proclaimed they would refuse to obey the law. Through the 1850s, events in Kansas and a series of political crises turned increasing numbers in Massachusetts toward antislavery and its more radical offshoot, abolitionism. Antislavery activists used a number of techniques to build support for their cause including the personal testimony of former slaves. The most famous of these were Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, both of whom spoke many times in Massachusetts and throughout the north.
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