Ohio Anti-Slavery Society

From Ohio History Central

Finney, Charles G..jpg
Charles G. Finney, evangelist, hired as Professor of Theology at Oberlin College as a prerequisite to the Lane Seminary students’ transfers to the institution, ca.


Abolitionists established the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in Zanesville at a meeting held in April 1835. Among the organization's founders were prominent abolitionists like Asa Mahan, John Rankin, Theodore Dwight Weld, and Charles Finney. Many of these men were affiliated with Oberlin College. Other organizers of the society were Quakers from the area near Mount Pleasant, Ohio. The people at this meeting based their organization on the American Anti-Slavery Society, which had been founded in 1833. The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society's members pledged to fight for the abolition of slavery and the establishment of laws that would protect African Americans after they were free.

The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society employed lecturers to travel across the state. They hoped the speakers would convince Ohioans to join the abolitionist movement. The group also used James Birney's newspaper, The Philanthropist, to advance their cause. The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society did experience some initial success. In 1836, the organization grew from twenty chapters to one hundred and twenty in every part of the state. Its membership numbered approximately ten thousand people by the end of the year.

The goals of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society were opposed by many Ohioans. Some people believed that African Americans would flee the South, come to the North and take jobs away from other Ohioans. Pro-slavery advocates often attacked the abolitionists. On January 22, 1836, a group of white Cincinnatians urged the city government to prohibit James Birney from publishing The Philanthropist. Birney was undaunted. To prevent Birney from printing, a mob of white Cincinnatians destroyed the newspaper's printing press on July 12, 1836. Undeterred, Birney remained in Cincinnati and continued to publish his newspaper. The mob returned on July 30, 1836, and destroyed the printing press again. Abolitionist John Rankin also was the victim of mob violence. Pro-slavery advocates once tried to embarrass him by shaving his horse's tail and mane.

In 1836, the Ohio Anti-Slavery Convention held its annual meeting in Granville, Ohio. The community refused to allow the meeting to take place within the town's boundaries. The abolitionists met outside of the town in a barn that they dubbed "Hall of Freedom." A mob formed and attacked the abolitionists with fists and raw eggs. Despite this opposition, Ohio's abolitionists remained committed to ending slavery.

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