Historical Abolitionist of the Month: Gerrit Smith
By Solveig Haugen
The fight to end slavery is rooted in history and extends until today. Each month we profile some of the brave men and women, both contemporary and historical, who have fought to eradicate slavery. Our historical abolitionist of the month is Gerrit Smith.
Gerrit Smith was one of the most influential abolitionists of the nineteenth century, leveraging his wealth and power for the cause. After Smith’s father transferred all his property over to him, he became the wealthiest landowner in New York. Throughout the course of his life, Smith would go on to donate around $8 million, equivalent to around $800 million today, to anti-slavery initiatives.
Smith bought the freedom of countless enslaved individuals and provided them with land and money to start a new life. He financially supported many abolitionist newspapers, the most notable being Frederick Douglass’s North Star. He also opened his home in Peterboro, New York as a station on the Underground Railroad. He graduated to a larger stage when he helped found and fund the anti-slavery Liberty Party, and then in 1852 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Today, Pope Francis is using his influence to aid the fight against human trafficking. Pope Francis is using his platform to spark a more globally cohesive attack on modern slavery. This week the Vatican hosted a workshop entitled, “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: the Commitment of the Cities.” This workshop invited world leaders to come together and discuss effective anti-trafficking initiatives. Human Rights First Bankrupt Slavery Campaign Ambassador, Mayor Bell, was one of the 60 mayors and government officials that was able to speak on this issue and pour insight on how to dismantle the business of trafficking.
While Smith and Pope Francis lived more than hundred years apart and acquired their influence from different sources, both promoted the battle against slavery. Now men and women from all sectors, business, government, and nonprofit, must follow the lead of both Smith and Pope Francis, and use their influence to end human trafficking.