the friend online
22 December 2006

The Grimké sisters - preview

John Lampen remembers two Friends who played an important part in the anti-slavery movement

As we celebrate the Quaker share in the United Kingdom's abolition of the slave trade in 1807, it is healthy to remember that our Society, especially in the United States where slavery was not abolished until 1862, often fell short in its commitment to the cause

  • The Grimké sisters came from a slave-owning family in South Carolina and had witnessed appalling cruelty since their childhood
  • The memories the sisters contributed to the collection American Slavery as it is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (1839) are unbearable to read
  • In 1821 Sarah, aged almost thirty and deeply depressed by her father's death, read John Woolman's Journal and began to attend Charleston Meeting
  • But she found that she could neither change the culture of slavery nor endure to live in it, so she moved alone to Philadelphia, which for a woman in those days inevitably exposed her to gossip
  • She became a Quaker and adopted the plain dress with 'a feeling of much peace'
  • Angelina, thirteen years younger, stayed in Carolina
  • At the age of 22 she met the elders of her Presbyterian church, all slave-owners, and naively suggested that they should denounce slavery
  • Thinking no doubt that she would 'grow out of it', they tenderly counselled her
  • But after a visit from Sarah, she attended the Quaker meeting
  • Her family argued with her, her minister came to assure her that 'Your church still loves you; but it pities you for your delusion
  • ' She was finally expelled from the church and also moved north

  • John Lampen

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