Abolition Movement in Michigan


Michigan was the 26th state added into the United States of America, therefore we have been witness to what has been successful and what has been unsuccessful in regards to running a government. This is just one of the many reasons as why Michigan was an advocate for abolition. We saw what slavery did to the South, and we did not want those issues to come into the North. The abolition movement was also popular in Michigan due to our close proximity to Canada. In Michigan Voices by Rubenstein (page 90), it mentions that “Detroit, Port Huron, and Mount Clemens were used to transport slaves into Canada where they were free.” Canada in the mid 1800’s was a safe haven for fugitive slaves. Early settlers to Michigan were also quite religious, and viewed slavery as a sin. Hence the reason why the abolition movement was popular in Michigan.

Due to the abolitionist movement, slavery ended in 1865. This was great news, except if you were an African American. With the end of slavery, the African Americans expected equality, but what they actually received was low-class treatment. They were not allowed to vote, they could not drink out of the same water fountains, and had to sit in the back of the bus. The supporters of the abolition movement wanted slavery to end, but they still wanted to keep their servants. They ended up treating the African Americans as poorly as they could while still abiding by the law. I found it amusing how in 1870, people held a celebration in Detroit to celebrate the closing of the Underground Railroad (Rubenstein p.93). Sure, it was great for slavery to be over, but how did the treatment of the African Americans actually change?

Think of slavery as thunder, you hear it before the storm which in this case is the Civil War. Slavery went on for hundreds of years, and it all led up to the ginormous storm. This storm took place on American soil and eventually led to the termination of slavery in 1865. After every storm comes a rainbow, and in this case our rainbow is the end of segregation. This rainbow took a hundred years of advocating by the African Americans. There is a clear line between ending a slave labor system which seemed easy in the retrospect of history and accepting another racial group as equal. Accepting another race as equal is one of the hardest problems our nation has faced. The African Americans suffered through the Jim Crow Laws and the nasty remarks by white people. This issue is still going on today, as racial segregation has not fully ended.

Abolition terminated slavery in America, and a hundred years after, segregation was also terminated. However, segregation is not in the past completely. There are still some sprinkles from the storm of slavery glooming over America. The nation has not fully accepted another racial group as equal. On a wide scale, we have made some drastic movements toward full acceptance. In the past, Miss America was awarded to an African American, and our president was also of a different race. Segregation divided our nation, but we are putting the pieces back together one day at a time.

Works Cited

Rubenstein, Bruce A., and Lawrence E. Ziewacz. Michigan: a History of the Great Lakes State. Wiley, 2014.

9 thoughts on “Abolition Movement in Michigan

  1. I loved reading you post! I love that you related this as a storm. I never though of it like that but it really puts into perspective how slavery was. It is so sad to wrap my head around how African Americans are still treated today even after what happened in the past. Like you said there is still some sprinkles left from the storm. A though there is still segregation going on and not everyone sees everyone as equal there are some positives that we can pick out from this like you said. Miss America was an African American, we elected an African American president and had the first African American women in the White House. I know that racial segregation can’t happen over night or in a couple weeks but if we take the steps needed I believe that our nation can be put back together as one.

  2. Great post!!! I never thought about how slavery can be prepared to a storm. Great ideology! Even though slavery is abolished, racism is still in existent today in modern America. We are a nation divided just like we were during the Abolition Movement.

    1. Michelle I agree. When I was reading his post I wanted to keep reading when I got to the part where he was intertwining a storm to slavery. By using this ideology it intrigues readers to keep reading about this topic and I also think it really helps readers understand better what was happening and what is still happening today.

  3. I appreciated your references to a storm. We all are dealing with the storm in some way, but the message of acceptance is important. Unfortunately, acceptance, in general, is hard to come by in our society. Think of how people deal with those who have different cultures than us, different religious views, different political views, etc. We read and see it all around us: in the news, on TV, in music and movies, and on social media. Acceptance of those differences is a struggle, but to understand those differences can help. Learning about a person, regardless of those differences can be a step in the right direction. A law can’t force true acceptance. In the 5th edition Michigan by Rubenstein & Ziewacz (p. 87), laws forbade slavery, but people either ignored or circumvented those laws. But people’s attitudes and actions mean more than any law. It will take time and continued work in fostering the goal of acceptance.

  4. I like how you make sure to explain how Michigan was one of the great assets in the abolition movement, because of the proximity to Canada and the religious beliefs of the people who lived there. The low-class treatment of African Americans was shown through the different acts of inequality as you stated, even when they believed that they would be treated with equality as soon as they were removed from slavehood.

  5. Hello,

    Good job on your blog post, it is well thought out and organized. Your post made me think of a video I watched in an Early American History class I took last semester about slavery. I was never aware of how terrible slavery actually was and the punishments slaves endured. Owners would cut off their ears, brand them, separate them from families, rape women and castrate men. After going through these horrible punishments slaves deserved nothing more than equality but instead they were treated poorly and as outsiders. I wish every racist could watch the video we watched in class, it would give them a different perspective on slavery, segregation and African Americans.

  6. I really liked this post. I think it was very unique and well thought out to compare slavery to thunder and the aftermath of storms with rainbows, etc. In my first semester at Delta, I took Early American History and we watched a slavery video and that really put into perspective how awful it must have been for these slaves. I think we have made great strides in terms of racism, but not enough. Like you mentioned, we had an African American president and Miss America. Although we aren’t close, our country has come along way from considering these people of a different race as property where now, they are friends and family and simply Americans like everyone else.

  7. I can’t imagine how happy African Americans must have felt when slavery was abolished! No more beatings & torture…..Unfortunately those happy feelings didn’t last long because even though they were no longer slaves, society didn’t treat them equally. We have a long way to go in treating African Americans equally even today.

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