SOCIETY OF FRIENDS Although many individuals of varying religious and secular persuasions denounced the institution of slavery in the United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Society of Friends (Quakers) was the only group to collectively advocate abolition during the pre-revolutionary period. The Quakers — at least after the conversion or expulsion of recalcitrant slave-owning members — believed that slavery was inconsistent and incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.
Nor were the Quakers content merely to put their own house in order. Antislavery leaders within the Society of Friends realized that convincing fellow Quakers was not enough and that universal abolition of black servitude must be made the order of the day. Accordingly, Quaker propagandists and activists such as Anthony Benezet set out to convince non-Quakers as to the advisability and morality of abolishing the institution of slavery. It was in large part the result of this Quaker activism that Pennsylvania became the first American state to make provision for the gradual abolition of slavery in 1780. See also: FIRST EMANCIPATION.