Abolitionism Movements Abolitionists Performance and in the World


Abolitionism is the movement that emerged at the end of the 18th century in Europe with the aim of ending slavery.

Popular Movements

There were many popular movements that had an abolitionist character, such as the Conjuração Baiana or Revolta dos Alfaiates (1798), which took place in Bahia.

This movement was made up mainly of blacks and liberal professionals, from tailors to shoemakers. They sought to end Portuguese rule and, consequently, put an end to slave labor in the country.

Likewise, the Malês Revolt is part of the slaves’ struggle to obtain better treatment conditions and freedom.

The Abolitionists

The abolitionists opposed the slave regime and were individuals from different social classes. They ranged from religious, republican, political elite, white intellectuals, manumissioned, among others. Women also played a big role in this fight.

One of the most prominent abolitionists was the diplomat and historian Joaquim Nabuco (1849-1910), founder of the “Brazilian Academy of Letters” and articulator of anti-slavery ideals.

Thus, Nabuco was the main parliamentary representative of the abolitionists during a decade (1878 to 1888) when he fought for the end of slavery.

The journalist and political activist José do Patrocínio (1853-1905) collaborated with the campaign for the abolition of slavery in Brazil and, alongside Nabuco, founded the “Sociedade Brasileira Contra a Escravidão” in 1880.

In addition to them, Brazilian abolitionists deserve mention: André Rebouças (1838-1898), Rui Barbosa (1849-1923), Aristides Lobo (1838-1896), Luis Gama (1830-1882), João Clapp (1840-1902) and Castro Alves (1847-1871).

Note that several abolitionist leaders were Freemasons, such as José do Patrocínio and Joaquim Nabuco.


The abolitionist movement was plural and had several ways of expressing its support for the end of slavery. Usually, they organized themselves into clubs and Abolitionist Societies that had male and female sections.

From then on, they organized collections to buy the manumission of slaves, sent petitions to the government demanding abolitionist laws or proposed changes to projects that were being discussed in the Chamber.

Some printed their own newspapers and held events in order to spread the reasons why slavery should end to as many people as possible.

Abolitionism in the World

In this sense, Denmark deserves to be highlighted, the first country in the world to abolish slavery, in 1792, a law that only came into force in 1803.


There are controversies about Portugal being considered the pioneer country of Abolitionism, since in 1761, it puts an end to slavery in the country, a law sanctioned by the Minister Marquês de Pombal (1699-1782).

However, the Portuguese empire continued to transport slaves on slave ships to the Portuguese colonies and the definitive abolition only occurred in 1869.


Before African slavery, Spain benefited from Muslim slave labor especially for domestic purposes. However, the country was home to around 58,000 enslaved people at the end of the 16th century.

Only in the 19th century, with the restoration of King Fernando VII, did he prohibit the slave trade in 1817. However, Cuba and Puerto Rico, the colonies that most depended on slave labor, only abolished slavery in 1873 and 1886, respectively.


After the French Revolution (1789), France decided to abolish slavery in the country in 1794.

In 1821, the Society of Christian Morals was founded in Paris and, a year later, the Committees for the Abolition of Traffic and Slavery were created.

However, pressured by the landowners of the colonies, Napoleon Bonaparte decreed the return of slavery in these areas.

Only in 1848 did the slave regime disappear from the French colonial empire.


At the beginning of the 19th century, several British intellectuals, many linked to the Anglican Church, mobilized against the trade in human beings.

The United Kingdom, through the “Act against the Slave Trade”, in English, Slave Trade Act (1807), prohibited the trade of slaves.

Later, the “Slavery Abolition Act” , of 1833, freed slaves definitively throughout the British Empire.

Note that England was one of the countries to pressure the Portuguese government to end slavery in its colonies, including Brazil. This kind of pressure would continue post-independence.

Spain would also suffer all kinds of threats to do the same from England, as well as its former colonies that were gaining their autonomy.


Some northern states abolished slavery between 1789 and 1830. However, the freedom of slaves was only declared in 1863, through a law enacted by President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), which displeased the southern states. Lincoln’s attitude would lead the country to the Civil War .


  • The hymn “Amazing Grace” was composed in 1773 by John Newton, a slave trader who repented, converted and spent the rest of his life fighting for the end of slavery in England. The song is so popular that even members of the racist Ku Klux Klan use it in their ceremonies.
  • Camellias were the symbol of abolitionism in Rio de Janeiro because they were cultivated by former slaves from Quilombo do Leblon.


Abolitionist movements defended their theses for humanitarian reasons and because slavery represented a degradation of human dignity. Another argument used was of an economic type, as it was considered that a free man is more productive than a slave. What is Abolitionism?

Some leaders and intellectuals were against this reform. Anti-abolitionists had their own arguments:

1) there are men who cannot be free because they were born to serve the powerful, What is Abolitionism?

2) the economic system can only function effectively if there is a large volume of workers under slavery,

3) not all slaves want to be freed, because with their release they lose the protection and security of their masters.

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