Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery, whether formal or informal. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historical movement to end the African slave trade and set slaves free. Tabor’s founding fathers were Abolitionists. The Spanish government enacted the first European law abolishing colonial slavery in 1542, although this law was not widely enforced. Later, in the 17th century, English Quakers and evangelical religious groups condemned slavery (by then applied mostly to Africans) as un-Christian; in the 18th century, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening in the Thirteen Colonies; and in the same period, rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man. The Somersett’s case in 1772, which emancipated a slave in England, helped launch the British movement to abolish slavery. Though anti-slavery sentiments were widespread by the late 18th century, the colonies and emerging nations that used slave labor continued to do so: French and English territories in the West Indies, South America, and the South of the United States.
After the American Revolutionary War established the United States, northern states, beginning with Pennsylvania in 1780, passed legislation during the next two decades abolishing slavery, sometimes by gradual emancipation. Massachusetts ratified a constitution that declared all men equal; freedom suits challenging slavery based on this principle brought an end to slavery in the state. In other states, such as Virginia, similar declarations of rights were interpreted by the courts not applicable to Africans. During the following decades, the abolitionist movement grew in northern states, and Congress limited the expansion of slavery in new states admitted to the union.
Revolutionary France abolished slavery in 1794, but it was restored by Napoleon in the French colonies in 1802. Haiti achieved independence from France in 1804 and brought an end to slavery in its territory, establishing the second republic in the western hemisphere. Britain banned the importation of African slaves in its colonies in 1807, and the United States followed in 1808. Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, the French colonies abolished it 15 years later, and slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865, after the American Civil War, with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In Eastern Europe, groups organized to abolish the enslavement of the Roma in Wallachia and Moldavia; and to emancipate the serfs in Russia (Emancipation reform of 1861). It was declared illegal in 1948 under the Universal Rights of Man of the United Nations. The last country to abolish legal slavery was Mauritania, where it was officially abolished by presidential decree in 1981. Today, child and adult slavery and forced labour are illegal in most countries, as well as being against international law, but a high rate of human trafficking for labor and for sexual bondage continues, believed to affect millions of adults and children.