Song of the Abolitionist



Background Notes

The Anti-Slavery Melodies songbook, from which this song was taken, was compiled by Jairus Lincoln (1794-1882), and published by Elijah B. Gill (1808-1874) in Hingham, MA, on the South Shore outside Boston.  Lincoln compiled this book, published in 1843, on behalf of the local anti-slavery society.  An abolitionist musical culture developed in the 1830s and 1840s, when abolitionist groups would include singing as part of their meetings.

The words of the song itself were written by the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and they were set to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne."  The song is meant to encourage abolitionists to stand strong and resist the proponents of slavery in the battle for freedom and liberty in the United States.  There is a lot of military imagery in the song, which was unusual, for Garrison was a pacifist.  Part of this may be due to his history.  In 1835, five years prior to this songbook's printing, Garrison was dragged through the streets of Boston by an angry anti-abolitionist mob.  In 1840 the abolitionist movement split into two groups, largely due to the increasing influence of women such as the Grimke sisters and Abby Kelley Foster.  The traditional abolitionists did not believe women should involve themselves in the anti-slavery movement.

Transcription of Primary Source

Song of the Abolitionist. 

Words by W. L. Garrison.  Tune – “Old Lang Syne.” 

1.  I am an Abolitionist!  I glory in the name;
Though now by slavery’s minions hissed, And covered o’er with shame;
It is a spell of light and power, The watch-word of the free;
Who spurns it in the trial-hour, A craven soul is he.

2.  I am an Abolitionist!  Then urge me not to pause,
For joyfully do I enlist In Freedom’s sacred cause;
A nobler strife the world ne’er saw, Th’enslaved to disenthral;
I am a soldier for the war, Whatever may befall.

3.  I am an Abolitionist!  Oppression’s deadly foe;
In God’s great strength will I resist, And lay the monster low;
In God’s great name do I demand, To all be freedom given,
That peace and joy may fill the land, And songs go up to heaven.

4.  I am an Abolitionist!  No threats shall awe my soul;
No perils cause me to desist, No bribes my acts control;
A freeman will I live and die, In sunshine and in shade,
And raise my voice for liberty, Of nought on earth afraid.

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
Anti−Slavery Melodies: For the Friends of Freedom: Prepared for the Hingham Anti-Slavery Society
96 pages
Lincoln, Jarius
Elijah B. Gill
Place of Publication: 
Hingham, Massachusetts
20 cm.
Old Sturbridge Village