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William Lloyd Garrison: Biography, Facts & Accomplishments

Instructor: Kelly Beaty

Kelly has taught fifth grade language arts and adult ESL. She has a master's degree in education and a graduate certificate in TESOL.

In this lesson, you will learn about William Lloyd Garrison, a 19th century journalist who used his skills to bring about social change. You will learn about his work and the reasons for its significance.

Speaking Up for the Rights of Others

The Confederate Flag is a hot topic in the south these days! For some, it stands for southern pride... honoring the history of certain southern states. For a large number of Americans, however, it symbolizes a time when people of African descent were bought and sold as property. If William Lloyd Garrison were alive today, he would have much to say on this subject. He certainly spoke out against slavery when it was actually being practiced in the United States.

In this day of Facebook, Twitter, and online news sources, it is not difficult to speak out on behalf of those who are being denied their rights as Americans. This was not so during the 19th century, when printing and news circulation took a great deal of time. It was during this time that William Lloyd Garrison spread his conviction that slavery had to come to an end in the United States.

William Lloyd Garrison took these words from The Declaration of Independence quite seriously: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a white male, he never had these rights denied; however, this did not stop him for speaking up for others who were not so fortunate.

It is difficult for most of us in the 21st century to imagine a society that justifies owning other human beings as property, but this is exactly the kind of world William Lloyd Garrison lived in. Prior to the end of The Civil War in 1865, owning slaves was a common practice in America, mostly in the southern states. Southern states prized this right, often using the moral justification that those of African descent were inherently inferior to those of European descent. Garrison held the firm conviction that all people are worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Confederate flag

Hard Work and Real Experience

William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1805. His family was not wealthy, and Garrison had to work throughout much of his childhood. At this time in America's history, children were not required to attend school, and families like the Garrisons had to rely on income from their school-age children. As a 13-year-old young man, Garrison began a 7-year internship with a Massachusetts newspaper, and through this he gained real-life experience in writing, printing, and publishing. The knowledge he gained through this experience taught him what he needed to know about running a newspaper.

Journalism with a Purpose

The Liberator newspaper was William Lloyd Garrison's regular contribution to the abolitionist movement. Abolitionists were people devoted to the cause of ending slavery in the United States.

To help others become aware of the evils of slavery, Garrison started this weekly newspaper. It ran from 1830 until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The motto of the publication was Our country is the world - Our countrymen are mankind. This was a rather progressive concept for a time when many people believed those with dark skin to be less-than-human.

One of Garrison's articles, published in the January 8, 1831 issue of The Liberator, was called Truisms. This article included 24 statements designed to illuminate the realities of slavery. The following examples, taken from this list of statements, used satire to illustrate Garrison's point of view:

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