Social Justice Activists | William Lloyd Garrison 


William Lloyd GarrisonWilliam Lloyd Garrison was born December 10, 1805 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  As his father abandoned his family when he was 3 years old, Garrison was no stranger to poverty.  His struggle for survival inspired him to live by the Franklinian  ideals of hard work and self-reliance. 

From the beginning, his mother, a devout Baptist, struggled to provide for him and his siblings. In an effort to provide for him, he was sent to live with a Baptist deacon acquainted with his family. While there, he received a rudimentary education.  At 8 years old, he was reunited with his mother and family.  Soon after William became an apprentice to a shoemaker, but the work proved too physically demanding. Instead he tried his hand at cabinetmaking but again was unsuccessful.  Though unorthodox today, at just 13 years old, he was appointed to a seven-year apprenticeship as a writer and editor under Ephraim W. Allen, the editor of the Newburyport Herald.  “It was during this apprenticeship that Garrison would find his true calling.” (“William Lloyd Garrison Biography,” n.d.)

Garrison pursued positions in papers that specifically championed the social issue of abolition, because he of his strong feelings on the subject.  William is quoted as saying, “Enslave the liberty of but one human being and the liberties of the world are put in peril.”  (“William Lloyd Garrison,” n.d.) He believed and advocated for the immediate emancipation of slaves and the provision of equal rights for every human being.

In 1830, at the age of 25, Garrison started his own abolitionist paper, The Liberator. As published in its first issue, The Liberator’s motto read, "Our country is the world—our countrymen are mankind." Further on in the issue, he stated,  "I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD." (Sparks, 1980).

Not content with the status quo, in 1832, William moved to action helping form the New England Antislavery Society. After taking a short trip to England in 1833, Garrison founded the American Antislavery Society, a national organization dedicated to achieving abolition.  He pressed his cause through articles, lectures, pamphlets, handbills and posters.  Though a self- professed pacifist, he was convinced to support the Civil War with the hopes to speed his dream of immediate emancipation of all American slaves.   With the Emancipation Proclamation and the conclusion of the Civil War, he finally was able to witness the fruition of all his efforts to win the emancipation of all American slaves.    

Though the road was not smooth William Lloyd Garrison continued to be a tireless crusader for justice, for the full rights of the emancipated slaves as well as for women’s rights and other injustices throughout the rest of his life.


Sources used & additional reading: Editors. ( n.d. ) William Lloyd Garrison Biography. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved      February 13, 2016, from  

Guyatt, N. (2007). Providence and the invention of the United States, 1607-1876. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press

Rohrbach,A. (2002). Truth stranger than fiction : race, realism, and the U.S. literary marketplace.. NY: Palgrave

Sparks, R. (1980). William Lloyd Garrison Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from William Lloyd Garrison and the Liberator. U.S. History Online Textbook. Philadelphia, PA:   Retrieved February 13 , 2016, from

William Lloyd Garrison. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2016, from