Benjamin Lundy was an abolitionist opponent of slavery in the years before the American Civil War.
Lundy was born on January 4, 1789, in Hardwick, New Jersey. His parents belonged to the Society of Friends, and they raised their son to oppose violence and the enslavement of other human beings. At the age of nineteen, Lundy was living in Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia), where he was working as an apprentice to a saddle maker. It was in Wheeling that Lundy first became aware of the brutality of slavery.
Lundy eventually settled in St. Clairsville, Ohio. In 1815, he established the first society dedicated to the abolition of slavery west of the Appalachian Mountains. It was known as the Union Humane Society. It originally had just six members but eventually grew to include nearly five hundred people. He also contributed articles to Charles Osborn's newspaper, The Philanthropist. Osborn was also a member of the Society of Friends and this paper dedicated itself to slavery's abolition.
In 1819, Lundy moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Missouri recently had applied for statehood as a slave state. Lundy contributed numerous articles to local newspapers. He hoped to persuade Missourians to change their minds. With the adoption of the Missouri Compromise in 1820, Lundy failed in his mission.
Lundy returned to Ohio in 1822 and settled in Mount Pleasant, in Jefferson County . He began to publish his own antislavery newspaper that he called The Genius of Universal Emancipation. The paper attracted few subscribers in Ohio. Lundy felt that he could reach many more people and most importantly the slave owners themselves by moving the paper to Tennessee. He arrived in Jonesboro, Tennessee, in 1823. Tennessee slave owners did not approve of Lundy or his paper and he moved in 1824 to Baltimore, Maryland.
Arriving in Maryland, Lundy continued to publish his newspaper. He also began to present lectures across the North and hoped to educate Northerners about slavery's injustice. While giving a speech in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1828, Lundy convinced William Lloyd Garrison to dedicate his life to abolition. Garrison served as assistant editor of The Genius of Universal Emancipation for several months in 1829.
Northerners did not always appreciate Lundy's efforts. Many Northerners viewed slavery as immoral. Others believed that their quality of life would decline with an end to slavery. They felt they would now face competition for jobs and property from the freed African Americans. Some of these people were violently opposed to the abolitionists' plans. One such man was Baltimore resident Austin Woolfolk, a slave trader. He nearly beat Lundy to death in 1828. Other residents of Baltimore also threatened Lundy's life and prompted him to move to Philadelphia. In 1838, supporters of the slavery system in that city destroyed Lundy's printing press and other possessions. Lundy moved to Illinois where he hoped to reestablish The Genius of Universal Emancipation. Benjamin Lundy died of a fever in 1839 after publishing only a few issues of his newspaper in Illinois.