AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Abolitionists

Expand/Collapse AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Abolitionists


In the mid-19th century, the abolitionist movement in the United States sought the immediate emancipation of all enslaved people. These passionate antislavery activists—men and women, black and white, northerners and southerners, poor and wealthy—led the struggle that forever changed the nation. The videos in this collection feature historical reenactments and expert interviews that tell the story of some of the people and events that shaped this movement

  • Abolitionist Leader William Lloyd Garrison

    This video adapted from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” profiles William Lloyd Garrison, founder of The Liberator and the American Anti-Slavery Society, whose position on slavery generated strong resistance to the abolitionist cause.
    Grades: 6-13+
  • Ex-slave Frederick Douglass Joins the Abolitionists

    This video adapted from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” describes the contributions of Frederick Douglass, a former slave, to the abolitionist movement in the early 1840s.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin

    This video adapted from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” describes how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was an act of protest against the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and built support for the abolitionist movement
    Grades: 8-12
  • How the Mexican-American War Affected Slavery

    This video from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” describes how territory acquired by the United States in the Mexican-American War, and the Great Compromise of 1850 it generated, fueled greater division between abolitionists and slave owners.
    Grades: 6-13+
  • Southern Abolitionist Angelina Grimké

    This video adapted from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” describes the efforts of Angelina Grimké, the daughter of a prominent southern slaveholding family, to end slavery and obtain equal rights for women.
    Grades: 6-13+
  • Teaching and Learning About "The Abolitionists"

    This video shows a class of high school students engaging with media as a central part of a lesson on abolitionism.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Abolitionists - Two Abolitionists Unite

    Abolitionist activists Angelina Grimke and Theodore Weld declared their love for one another and got married in 1838. Watch more in this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - The Pottawatomie Massacre

    On the night of May 24th, 1856, John Brown and four of his sons dragged five pro-slavery men from their cabins, and hacked them to pieces with broadswords. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - The Massachusetts 54th

    With the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the war merged with the abolitionist cause. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - The Dred Scott Decision

    In 1857, the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision had the potential to legalize slavery everywhere in the United States. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - The Civil War Begins

    In April 1861, the American Civil War began, reuniting abolitionists who had grown apart in recent years. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - The Burning of Pennsylvania Hall

    In Philadelphia in 1838, a meeting of abolitionists -- among them Angelina Weld -- was disrupted when members of an anti-abolitionist mob threw rocks through the windows. Watch more in this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - John Brown Gathers his Arsenal

    John Brown put little stock in the idea of abolition through peaceful means. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Garrison Closes The Liberator

    After four decades and 1,803 issues, William Lloyd Garrison closed The Liberator after the 13th Amendment was added to the constitution. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Frederick Douglass Reacts

    In 1833, Frederick Douglass was sent to a slave breaker to be beaten back into submission. Watch more in this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Frederick Douglass Begins to Understand Slavery

    At six years old, Frederick Douglass had just begun his life as a slave when he witnessed his aunt get beaten brutally by her master. Watch more in this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Attack at Harper's Ferry

    In 1859 John Brown seized a federal armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, but failed to incite a revolution. Authorities found a link between Brown and Frederick Douglass. Learn more with this excerpt from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Photo Gallery: Significant Abolitionists

    Abolitionists -- men and women, white and black -- fought body and soul in the great American crusade to end slavery. Explore some of these leaders and their vocations, with this gallery from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Why We Made The Abolitionists

    The makers of "The Abolitionists" describe the legacy of abolition, and the diversity of ordinary men and women that played roles in abolishing slavery in the U.S. Watch more in this video from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Abolitionists - Map, Interactive: The Abolitionist Map of America

    Explore the story of the abolitionist movement in America through these interactive maps and tours from American Experience: "The Abolitionists."

    Grades: 9-12

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