Photo of John Brown

Human beings are inherently conservative, tending to resist change until change becomes unavoidable. This habit has survival benefits, as too rapid a change can be dangerous.This is why most social reformers were ignored by most Americans in the early decades of the 19th century. But in 1861, change became unavoidable.

People from Activists

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  • Robert Purvis

    Photo of Robert Purvis

    Robert Purvis was a prominent abolitionist with an unusual background. His father was an English immigrant, his mother a second generation African American, and he also had Jewish ancestry. He grew up wealthy in Charleston, but was educated at Amherst College, moved to Philadelphia and devoted his life to abolitionism, helping the African American community, and supporting women's rights. Read more

  • Women's Rights National Historical Park

    Wendell Phillips

    Photo of Wendell Phillips

    A tireless social reformer, Wendell Phillips took up a number of 19th century progressive causes, including abolition, equal rights for women, universal suffrage, temperance, unionism and Native American citizenship. Read more