John Woolman was a Quaker preacher in the mid-1700s who was one of the first abolitionists in the American colonies. Woolman preached against the injustices of slavery. He also wrote numerous essays against slavery. Woolman even rallied other Quakers to join the abolitionist movement, and he persuaded slave owners to free their slaves.
In “The Journal of John Woolman,” a collection of writings from a journal that Woolman kept throughout his life, Woolman focused a lot on anti-slavery efforts. Woolman wrote, “I believed slave-keeping to be a practice inconsistent with the Christian religion.” Woolman noted the discomfort he felt when visiting people who owned slaves and did not care for them well.
Beginning in 1743, Woolman traveled to convince other Quakers to join the abolitionist movement. In 1754, Woolman published an anti-slavery pamphlet. Woolman even convinced some slave owners to free their slaves. Woolman was deeply convicted by the evil of slavery and convinced many that owning slaves was wrong. After Woolman’s death, his legacy lived on through many other anti-slavery advocates.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Woolman was a devout Christian who strongly believed in God’s divine love, a simple life, and fellowship. He believed that he first experienced God’s love at age 7. He highly esteemed the love of God, and thus he was a very tolerant man. Woolman thought slavery was a sin in the eyes of God.
In the first chapter of “John Woolman’s Journal, With other Writings of John Woolman,” Woolman wrote, “The Heart doth love and reverence God the Creator, and learns to exercise true Justice and Goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute creatures.—That as the Mind was moved, by an inward principle, to love God as an invisible incomprehensible Being, by the same principle it was moved to love him in all his manifestations in the visible world.—That, as by his breath the Flame of Life was kindled in all animal sensible creatures, to say we love God, and, at the same time exercise cruelty toward the least creature, is a contradiction in itself.”