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*On this date, in 1837, the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society was formed. Before the American Civil War, activists in northern cities formed anti-slavery organizations to promote the abolitionist cause. Detroit’s Anti-Slavery Society was founded the same year Michigan became a state. The new state constitution included a ban on slavery.
Abolitionists organized to fight the institution of slavery in the South and to agitate against northern newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press, which ran ads to recapture escaped slaves despite a ban on the practice. Black citizens Robert Banks, William Lambert, and Madison J. Lightfoot helped form the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society, which included well-known whites like Edwin W. Cowles, Robert Steward, George F., and A.L. Porter, as well as Shubael Conant, Society’s first president and for whom the Conant Gardens Historic District is named.
The Society demanded the abolition of slavery and focused on “the elevation of our colored brethren to their proper rank as men.” Despite a brief existence, the precedent set forth by the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society gave rise to more abolitionist groups, some public, some secret, that often employed more radical means of aiding their cause.