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The First Recorded Demonstration Against Slavery in The United States

Black History Month is an annual observance in America. It is now a way of remembering and celebrating important people and events in the history of the African migration and history. It is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, while in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom it is observed in October.

Did you know that the first demonstration against slavery was recorded was in 1688 by the Quakers? In the house of Germantown’s Thönes Kunders, who hosted the Germantown Quaker meetings, the first written petition against slavery in the new world was created on April 18, 1688. Quakers have a long tradition of abolition. In the 17th century, the initial petition was established by four Pennsylvania Friends of Germantown. Quakers were also referred to as “The Society of Friends.” They viewed the slave trade as a severe crime against their compatriots and used the Golden Law to argue against such inhumane treatment. The Golden Rule; “We should do unto others as we would have done onto ourselves.”

The signers were troubled (Derick op den Graeff, Abraham op den Graeff, Francis Daniel Pastorious and Garret Hendericks) that many of the Quakers of Philadelphia decided to own slaves. About half of the British Quakers in the Philadelphia area, including William Penn, kept slaves at the time of the protest, six years after Philadelphia’s founding.

Right here in Philadelphia, the Four Friends demonstration against slavery and human trafficking, was raised at a “Monthly Meeting in Dublin.” The Dublin Monthly Meeting discussed the complaint and forwarded it to the Quarterly Meeting, claiming that it was too serious of concern to settle at their own meeting. The four Friends continued their initiatives and introduced themselves at the yearly meeting in Philadelphia, but it was not until 88 years later that slavery was formally denounced by the Quakers.

This rare document has twice been presumed lost over the centuries. It was recently rediscovered in 2005 and is now in the Special Collections of Haverford College. Below is the document that four Friends began a petition against slavery with.


Click the link here for the full transcription of the document! All information regarding this topic was found on the Library of Congress website, as well as Germantown meeting house website.



Jordan Greco

Jefferson '22

Hello, my name is Jordan! I am a nursing student who loves the beach, music, and cheesesteaks!
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