Who’s My #1 Greatest American? William Lloyd Garrison

The PBS serises, The Abolitionists, is about 5 American anti-slavery activists:  Angelina Grimke, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, John Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The series includes two of my Top 10 Greatest Americans

Who is my greatest American of all time?  William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison was born to a poor family in 1805. As a young man he met Benjamin Lundy who published a newspaper called, the “Genius of Universal Emancipation” and was almost single-handedly speaking out against slavery. Garrison began to work with Lundy and caught a heart-felt vision for liberty and justice for all Americans.  He began to work passionately and tirelessly for freedom for the slaves which was a very unpopular cause at the time, even in the North. He insisted on immediate emancipation.

Garrison and a few others founded the Anti-Slavery Society which gradually grew to have a wide influence. In 1831 he began to publish the “Liberator”, a weekly anti-slavery newspaper which at great financial sacrifice, he published until all the slaves were freed in 1865.

This caused Garrison to be hated across American. He was almost killed by a pro-slavery mob in his home town of Boston. Almost every day he received letters containing threats of violence against him. The state of Georgia even put a $5000 price on his head.

Garrison, through his non-religious Christian faith, held to his view of non-violent resistance. He believed in using persuasion (which he called “moral suasion”) rather than violence. He saw slavery for the terrible crime that it was and boldly spoke out against it no matter what it cost him personally. With fiery words, a prophets passion, and a hero’s courage he forced the country to face it’s most crucial moral issue — the act of forcibly holding three million men, women, and children in life-long servitude, bondage, and degradation while hypocritically proclaiming human freedom.

The greatest American has been mostly brushed aside by historians or pictured as a crazy radical. His greatness for the most part has been missed by American historians. But Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, was strongly influenced by Garrison’s non-violent direct action and wrote about it in his book, “The Kingdom of God”.

An Indian man name Gandhi read Tolstoy’s work and adopted Garrison’s non-violent direct action using it to free the nation of India from British control. A Southern American pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr., went to India to visit Mahatma Gandhi and adopted non-violent direct action as the cornerstone for the American Civil Rights Movement.

William Lloyd Garrison is my hero. Oh that we had more people like him today. A wonderful biography of Garrison is: “All on Fire” by Henry Mayer.

About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. I have written two books: Mindrobics: How To Be Happy For The Rest Of Your Life and Your Sperm Won--Experiencing Your Value As A Championship Human Being. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I lead a non-traditional church in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing. We long to see the power and passion of the early church come to life in our time.
This entry was posted in Angelina Grimke, anti-slavery, biography, black history, Frederick Douglas, God, Harriet Beecher Stowe, history, human rights, John Brown, lifestyles, Nova, organic church, religion, self-help and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Who’s My #1 Greatest American? William Lloyd Garrison

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  9. K. says:

    … wheres Lincoln.

    • Steve Simms says:

      Good question. Thanks for asking. I would put Lincoln as the greatest US president. My standard for my Top Ten Americans is those Americans who best lived according to the principles of “all men are created equal” and “liberty and justice for all.”

      Although Lincoln helped to accomplish two great acts of freedom; 1) The Emancipation Proclamation and getting the 13 Amendment through Congress which freed the slaves in the USA, he didn’t believe in equal rights for blacks. He preferred colonization which meant sending blacks back to Africa. That keeps him off my Top Ten List.

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  15. banquet says:

    In New Zealand (1880s), Te Whiti at Parihaka ‘practiced’ non-violence.
    In 2003, descendants of Gandhi and MLKjng visited Parihaka.
    http://parihaka.com/ ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parihaka
    ~ alternative view of cult: http://www.antrocom.net/upload/sub/antrocom/070111/07-Antrocom.pdf

  16. Dan G says:

    Mr. Simms I just watched the PBS Series and I must say I feel very strongly about the life’s work of William Lloyd Garrison as being one of the greatest if not the greatest of any individual whether it be In this nation or any nation.. It is hard to believe that the Hall of Fame for Great Americans chose not to include him even though he was nominated. We have all heard of him but now I have a much greater feel for and understanding of his huge role in effecting the end of slavery in this country. Who I ask can be said to have accomplished greater?

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  18. Frank Eakin says:

    So happy that I found you through your post on our FB page. Wm Lloyd Garrison is my No. 1 hero as well. In fact, I started the Wm Lloyd Garrison Society, which helps fights human trafficking by helping to fund the top anti-human trafficking foundations. See the Foundations page on our site. We should talk some day. – Cordially, Frank Eakin

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