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Fri, 04.14.1775

The Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society is Formed

PSA Plaque

*The Pennsylvania Abolition (or Abolitionist) Society (PAS) was founded on this date in 1775.  It was also known as The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.   

PAS was the first American abolition society. It was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and held four meetings. Seventeen of the 24 men who attended initial meetings of the Society were Quakers, that is, members of the Religious Society of Friends, a branch of Christianity notable in the early history of Pennsylvania.  It was reorganized in 1784 as the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage (better known as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society) and was incorporated in 1789.  

After 1785, Benjamin Franklin was elected as the organization's president. The society asked him to bring the matter of slavery to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He petitioned the U.S. Congress in 1790 to ban slavery.  The Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which had members and leaders of both races, became a model for anti-slavery organizations in other states during the antebellum years. Prominent Black members included Robert Purvis.  In 1984 when the Society was revived, a Pennsylvania State Historical Marker was placed on Philadelphia's Front Street below Chestnut Street, at the site of its original offices.  

The Pennsylvania Abolition Society remains dedicated to the cause of combating racism in the 21st century. The oldest abolitionist organization in the United States, since the late twentieth century, it has worked to improve issues of criminal justice and the over-representation of African Americans in prison, reduction in harsh sentencing laws, and improve economic and environmental justice.  

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