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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY

CLEVELAND ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY

The CLEVELAND ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, organized in 1833, aimed "to procure the speedy abolition of" slavery, according to its constitution. Counting among its integrated membership prominent businessmen, professionals, blacks (see AFRICAN AMERICANS), and WOMEN, the society opposed both colonization (as proposed by the CUYAHOGA COUNTY COLONIZATION SOCIETY) and the use of force to end slavery. Instead, members proposed "enlightening the public mind, in regards to the true character of Slavery." A May 1833 speech by Chas. B. Storrs, the controversial abolitionist president of Hudson's Western Reserve College, apparently prompted formation of the Cleveland Anti-Slavery Society: the constitution called it an "auxiliary to the `Western Reserve Anti-Slavery Society'" (chartered at the college in Dec. 1832).

Experienced reformers led the Cleveland Anti-Slavery Society, including physician DAVID LONG, pres.; his son-in-law, merchant SOLOMON L. SEVERANCE, secy.; law partners JOHN A. FOOTE and SHERLOCK J. ANDREWS; and bookkeeper Henry F. Brayton, active in NYC reform movements before returning to Cleveland in 1836. "Any person" signing the constitution became a voting member. Among early signers were at least 2 blacks: JOHN MALVIN, later a lecturer for the society, and Stephen Griffith, a mason. At least 30 local women were represented among the 131 constitution signatures. By Apr. 1836, the Cleveland Anti-Slavery Society had 70 members, by the following year, 200. However, at the 4 July 1837 annual meeting, Foote, Severance, and John M. Sterling--all members of the Cleveland society--led a meeting that created the CUYAHOGA COUNTY ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, apparently the dominant local antislavery organization after 1837. The absence of references to the Cleveland society after this date indicates that the county group replaced it. Only a single newspaper reference to the Cleveland Anti-Slavery Society exists after this date, in a Jan. 1859 issue of the Leader.