William Lloyd Garrison and Adoption

Portrait of William Lloyd Garrison by Nathaniel Jocelyn, oil on panel, 1833.



Garrison was born, his parents' fourth child, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. His father deserted the family before he was three (he never saw him again) and after a few years, when his mother moved to Lynn, Deacon Ezekiel Bartlett of the town offered to foster William, and he found a happy family life with the Bartletts. For some years he lived alternately with them and with his mother, was apprenticed for a short time unsuccessfully to a carpenter, and tried several other trades. Finally he was indentured to a newspaper owner when he was 14 and quickly learned the printing trade and editing and was an excellent journalist.

In early adulthood he became an ardent abolitionist and spent the decades fighting slavery, dedicating his journalism and publishing skills to the cause. He founded the Liberator, a famous abolitionist paper, in 1831 and published it for its entire life. In 1831 he also founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and in 1933 the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1835 he was nearly lynched at an anti-slavery rally. His voice and delivery were considered monotonous but he was on the extremist wing of the movement and his speeches were also very inflammatory. He spent seven weeks in jail in 1830 for libel, and his rhetoric was so extreme that he even antagonized other prominent abolitionists. Nevertheless he remains one of the most influential and effective of all white abolitionists.


Dever, Maria, and Dever, Aileen. Relative Origins: Famous Foster and Adopted People. (Portland: National Book Company, 1992) Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97 Dictionary of American Biography American Biographical Archive. (New York: K.G. Saur, 1989-91) "William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879." [Includes portrait]. Available at: