There never was an abolitionist movement within the Islamic world to end slavery, as Mohammed himself owned slaves.
The U.S. State Department in 1993 estimated 90,000 Southern Sudanese were captured and taken into slavery by North African Arabs. Yazidi and non-Muslim women have been forced into sex slavery by the Islamic State. UNICEF estimated 200,000 children a year are sold from West and Central Africa to be domestic, agricultural and sex slaves in neighboring countries.
The International Labor Rights and Education Fund works to rescue some of the hundreds of thousands of kidnapped children in India locked in rooms and forced to weave carpets.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has worked to free some of the thousands in southern Singh held in leg-irons due to unpaid debt and forced to harvest cane.
Accounts persist of young girls in Thailand sold into prostitution and slave chattels in Mauritania.
Twice as many women were sold in the Arab Muslim slave trade than men. “Prophet, We have made lawful to you … the slave girls whom Allah has given you as booty.” (Qur’an 33:50)
Both white and black male slaves were often castrated, though black male slaves suffered more, being cut “level with the abdomen,” resulting in high mortality rates. The Arabic word “Abd” or “Abeed” is the name used for both “African” and “slave.”
Generational indebtedness in India sees rural peasants born in debt, live in debt and die in debt. The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy heard accounts of the thousands held in North Korean slave labor camps.
The abolition of slavery movement developed in the western Judeo-Christian civilization. Saint Patrick’s “Letter To King Coroticus,” condemning his enslavement of Irish in the fifth century, was one of the first anti-slavery documents: “Thy sheep around me are torn to pieces and driven away, and that by those robbers, by the orders of the hostile-minded Coroticus … a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots. Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord. … You … sell them to a foreign nation that has no knowledge of God. You betray the members of Christ as it were into a brothel . … People who were freeborn have been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate Picts!”
The Medieval Catholic Orders of Mathurins and Trinitarians collected alms and ransomed captives from North Africa Muslim slavery. Bartolomé de las Casas in the 16th century championed ending the enslavement of native Americans. Quakers in the 17th century consistently lobbied to end slavery. In the late 18th and early 19th century, John Newton and William Wilberforce led the anti-slavery movement in England.
William Wilberforce stated: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Marquis de Lafayette had joined the American cause and fought in the Revolutionary War, being considered almost as an adopted son of General George Washington. After the war, Lafayette joined the French abolitionist Society of the Friends of the Blacks, which advocated the end of the slave trade and equal rights for Blacks. Lafayette’s plan to emancipate all slaves was thought impossible by some. Lafayette replied: “If it be a wild scheme, I had rather be mad in this way, than to be thought wise in the other task.”
Washington encouraged Lafayette, April 5, 1783: “The scheme … which you propose as a precedent, to encourage the emancipation of the black people of this Country from that state of Bondage in which. they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your Heart. I shall be happy to join you in so laudable a work; but will defer going into a detail of the business, ’till I have the pleasure of seeing you.”
In the last six years of Washington’s life, he attempted to take four of the farms on his plantation and make them into rental properties, thus transitioning away from slavery.
On May 10, 1786, George Washington wrote from Mount Vernon to Marquis de Lafayette: “Your late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country.”
In the 19th century, America had notable anti-slavery leaders. Founding Father Richard Bassett, who signed the U.S. Constitution, converted to be an enthusiastic Methodist Christian, freed all his slaves and paid them as hired labor.
John Jay helped draft New York’s first Constitution, proposing it abolish slavery, as he wrote to Robert Livingston and Gouverneur Morris, April 29, 1777, that there should be: “… a clause against the continuation of domestic slavery.”
John Jay was appointed by George Washington to be the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jay helped found the New York State Society for Promoting the Manumission (Freeing) of Slaves in 1785, filing lawsuits on behalf of slaves.
John Jay wrote to Benjamin Rush, March 24, 1785: “I wish to see all … discriminations everywhere abolished, and that the time may soon come when all our inhabitants of every color and denomination shall be free and equal partakers of our political liberty.”
Jay helped found New York’s African Free School in 1787 and supported it financially. Jay bought slaves in order to free them, writing: “I purchase slaves and manumit them.”
As governor of New York, John Jay signed an Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in 1799, prohibiting the exportation of slaves and making a path for children of slaves to attain freedom. John Jay was also president of the American Bible Society, 1821-1828.
Newspaper editor Horace Greeley stated in 1854: “To Chief Justice Jay may be attributed, more than to any other man, the abolition of Negro bondage in this state.”
John Jay’s son, William Jay (1789-1858), founded New York City’s Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. William Jay drafted the constitution for the American Anti-Slavery Society and served as its corresponding foreign secretary, 1835-1837.
William Jay was the first judge of New York’s Westchester County from 1820 to 1842, but was removed on account of his strong anti-slavery views. William Jay helped to found the American Bible Society in 1818.
William Jay’s son, John Jay II (1817-1894), was manager of the New York Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society in 1834. John Jay II was a prominent member of the anti-slavery Free Soil Party. John Jay II later helped found in New York a branch of the new political party dedicated to the social issue of ending slavery – the Republican Party.
Francis Scott Key labored for seven years before the Supreme Court to free 300 African slaves from the ship Antelope captured off the coast of Florida in 1820.
Jonathan M. Bryant wrote in “Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope” (2015): “Most startling of all, Key argued … that all men were created equal. … If the United States had captured a ship full of white captives, Key asked, would not our courts assume them to be free? How could it be any different simply because the captives were black?”
In 1841, two years before his death, Francis Scott Key helped former President John Quincy Adams free 53 African slaves in the Amistad case.
In his 1844 decision, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story helped establish the illegality of the slave trade, as portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 movie “Amistad.”
Salmon P. Chase coined the slogan of the Free Soil Party: “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men.”
A member of the newly created Republican Party, Salmon P. Chase defended so many escaped slaves that he was nicknamed “Attorney-General of Fugitive Slaves.”
Salmon P. Chase was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court where he admitted John Rock as the first African-American attorney to argue cases before the Supreme Court.
Cassius Marcellus Clay heard William Lloyd Garrison speak while a student at Yale and became an abolitionist. Cassius Marcellus Clay helped to found the Republican Party and served three terms as a Kentucky Representative till he lost his seat due to his strong anti-slavery views. In 1843, pro-slavery Democrats attacked Cassius Marcellus Clay and shot him in the chest, but he was able to fight them off with his Bowie knife. Clay began publishing an anti-slavery newspaper in 1845 called the True American. He received death threats and had to barricade his newspaper office doors. A pro-slavery Democrat mob broke in and stole his printing equipment. In 1849, while making an anti-slavery speech, Clay was attacked, beaten, stabbed, and almost shot, till he fought off his attackers.
Cassius Marcellus Clay helped pressure Republican President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. As Minister to Russia, Clay helped negotiate the U.S. purchase of Alaska.
Anti-slavery leader Rufus King was born March 24, 1755. Rufus King was a Harvard graduate who was an aide to General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War. At 32 years old, Rufus King was one of the youngest signers of the U.S. Constitution. Rufus King later served as U.S. minister to England, U.S. Senator from New York, and was a candidate for U.S. president.
In a speech made before the Senate at the time Missouri was petitioning for statehood, Rufus King stated: “I hold that all laws or compacts imposing any such condition as slavery upon any human being are absolutely void because they are contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God.”
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