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Reading, Writing, and Editing The Liberator (1831-1865)

Hélène Quanquin, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle

The trajectory of The Liberator as a periodical is closely connected to that of its founder and editor William Lloyd Garrison. Trained as a printer, Garrison founded The Liberator in 1831, and published it weekly without any interruption until 1865 and the abolition of slavery.

Throughout his life as editor of The Liberator, Garrison maintained a personal connection with his newspaper, which Henry C. Wright called his “child.”He edited and printed it, and he was the one who made the decision to stop its publication, against the will of the majority of his fellow abolitionists. The identification was such that one of Garrison’s biographers compared The Liberator with a “journal.”[1] The Liberator was also a family business as Garrison’s children helped him edit the newspaper and read it carefully.

Focusing on the correspondences and diaries of Garrison, his relatives, and readers of The Liberator, this paper will focus on the way the newspaper was instrumental in the construction of communities of writers and readers. The survival of The Liberator depended on the free black community and we will in particular investigate the varying reading, writing, and editing experiences of The Liberator among different groups, as well as the way they interacted with one another.



Jacobs, Donald M.. “William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator and Boston's Blacks, 1830-1865,” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun., 1971), pp. 259-277.

Williams, Cecil B.. “Whittier's Relation to Garrison and the "Liberator",” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1952), pp. 248-255

Yellin, Jean Fagan. Women and Sisters: The Antislavery feminists in American Culture. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989




[1] Harriet Hyman Alonso, p. 4.

John F. Kennedy Institute