Skip to the content
Content starts here

Anti-Slavery Meetings Broadside #2012-0799

Broadside notice for anti-slavery meetings conducted by the Western Anti-Slavery Society.


This broadside was produced by the Western Anti-Slavery Society (WA-SS), an abolitionist organisation based in Salem, Ohio in the mid-1800s. The society was formed in 1842 as the Ohio American Anti-Slavery Society which was affiliated with the American Anti-Slavery Society (AA-SS) established in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison, a leading figure in militant abolitionism. At its peak in 1838 membership of the AA-SS rose to 300,000 men and women in over 2,000 affiliated chapters. From 1845 the WA-SS published the radical abolitionist newspaper Anti-Slavery Bugle, continuing until around 1860. The WA-SS was a radical group mostly led by evangelical Christians that campaigned for the non-slave states to secede from the Union in the years leading up to the American Civil War. The society relied on moral persuasion to advance its cause and was greatly influenced by the radical feminists of the era who often delivered fiery speeches at public meetings to incite radicalism and condemn any association with slavery. The society was dominated by Quakers, and its meetings were attended by members from many different denominations. The society was particularly critical of the organised churches that failed to dissociate themselves from slave owners and slavery; it similarly avoided affiliation with organised political parties, hence the inscription on the broadsheet ‘the Church and Government sustains the horrible system of oppression.’ The society adopted as its motto ‘No Union with Slaveholders’.

This broadside is typical of the abolitionist literature that began to appear from around 1820. Until the Civil War the anti-slavery press published newspapers, essays, poems, children’s books, illustrations, slave memoirs and song books. Commencing in the 1840s many abolitionist societies used songs as a means of stirring up enthusiasm at their meetings, often setting the pro-abolitionist lyrics to popular tunes (see for example The Anti-Slavery Harp: a collection of songs for anti-slavery meetings published in 1849). In 1865 Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, freeing all slaves.

Show Statement of values
Hide Statement of values

Statement of values

This broadside is significant as an example of the propaganda produced by the anti-slavery movement in the United States before the Civil War. The broadside was produced by the Western Anti-Slavery Society of Salem, Ohio, a radical abolitionist group formed in 1842 to campaign against slavery. The group was fierce in its condemnation of the failure of organised religion to proscribe slavery and remained apolitical. As one of thousands of affiliated abolitionist groups operating at that time the Western Anti-Slavery Society, and this broadside advertising its meetings, is an example of radical activism appealing to moral rights:

‘Joining the abolitionists was no rote profession of faith; it was an act of defiance of widely and deeply held social conventions, placing oneself in a position that courted disapproval, ostracism, and even physical attack. Those impelled to do so regarded one another as brothers and sisters in righteousness and sacrifice who had devoted their lives to eradicating slavery—a kind of commitment and identification previously found in religious sects, but now secularized and shifted into radical politics.’ (Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, c. 2005, p.406).

Apart from its historical significance in the context of human rights activism and the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, the broadside has spiritual significance to evangelical Christians aware of their tradition’s leadership of the anti-slavery movement and social significance for denouncing racism.

  • Anti-Slavery Meetings BroadsideAnti-Slavery Meetings Broadside —


Width 268mm
Height 414mm
Medium Letterpress; ink; paper.
Creator’s name Printed by Homestead Print, Salem, Ohio
Date created 1850