American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States

Go to the Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States

See also the Encyclopedia of Civil War Biography

and the Encyclopedia of Civil War Military Biography

Visit our Civil War Encyclopedia website

Presented here is an encyclopedia of slavery and abolition in the United States of America. 

This document is prepared using entries from historic primary and secondary works on the topic of slavery, anti-slavery and abolitionism in America.  It will cover the period in U.S. history from the Colonial era through the end of the Civil War in 1865.

The encyclopedia includes verbatim entries from a number of well-known sources published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  The researcher will have an opportunity to read from original sources, as written by numerous authors. This will provide a unique opportunity to read authentic accounts of the anti-slavery movement.  Many of the authors included in this work are noted figures in American political, social, economic and literary history.  Some were actually involved in the abolition and anti-slavery movements.  Some were noted period historians.

We have included historical articles on the history of abolitionism, as well as the history of slavery and the slave trade in America. 

The encyclopedia will have a comprehensive list of abolitionist and anti-slavery organizations, including their histories.  It will also include a list of prominent American abolitionists, anti-slavery activists and opponents of slavery, along with their biographies.  This list includes more than 500 names. In this list are African American and Caucasian abolitionists and anti-slavery activists. 

We have tried to include a wide variety and spectrum of individuals involved in the anti-slavery movement.  Therefore, the list of individuals that we have identified as abolitionists and anti-slavery activists contains individuals, regardless of their motives, whether humanitarian, or economic and political.  Some of these individuals were against slavery in principle, on moral grounds, while they possessed and exploited slaves themselves.  We are also including individuals regardless of their orientation toward the ending of slavery. 

In addition, we have included some of the more prominent pro-slavery political activists in the United States.  These individuals took an active part as opponents of the abolition movement.

It is our hope that this will provide an important new resource, using a wide variety of sources, for people interested in this important topic in American history.

All of the historic sources included in this encyclopedia are out of copyright and are in the public domain.

Among the primary and secondary sources we have used are:

Curtis, George Ticknor. Constitutional History of the United States, 2 Vols., 1889-1896.

Derby, George.  A Conspectus of American Biography. New York: James T. White, 1906.

DuBois, W. E. B. Suppression of the African Slave-Trade (Harvard Historical Studies, No. 1, 1896).

Hart, Albert Bushnell, The American Nation: A History. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906

Herring, James, and James Barton Longacre. National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans.  New York: Bancroft, 1833-1836.

Greeley, Horace.  The American Conflict.  Hartford: O. D. Case, 1864-1866.

Lieber, Francis, ed. Encyclopaedia Americana: A Popular Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, History, Politics and Biography. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1831-1845.

Morse, John T., Jr. American Statesmen, 32 Vols.  Boston: McMillan, 1899.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White, 1892.

Siebert, Wilbur H. The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. New York: Macmillan, 1898.

Smith, William Henry, A Political History of Slavery. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1903.

Von Holst, Herman E. Constitutional and Political History of the United States, 7 Vols., 1877-1892.

Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872.

Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske, eds. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, New York: D. Appleton, 1887-1889.


This compilation is a work in progress.  We intend to continue our research and add more entries to this encyclopedia. 

Special thanks to Amy Fiske for help in the preparation and organization of this compilation and manuscript.

Special thanks also to the staff of the West Virginia University Libraries.  Thanks to Jessica Tapia, Martin Dunlap, and Autumn Summers.


Access Encyclopedia here:

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

See Also Our Civil War Encyclopedia Website

Please see our website.  It is produced by the same editors as the American Abolitionists website.  There is much material on the Civil War, slavery and emancipation.  There is also much of material on Abraham Lincoln and the Radical Republicans, as well as other political leaders who opposed slavery.  In addition, we are posting a comprehensive list of abolitionists and anti-slavery activists from Scribner’s Dictionary of American Biography.