Slavery and Abolition Definitions

There are many terms that are used in respect of slavery and abolition; we have added a glossary providing definitions below for your reference.

A – E

Abolitionist – A person who attempts to bring an end to slavery.

Chattel – A possession belonging to a person, such as a pen, a book, or even a slave.

Conductor – Someone who escorted escaped slaves to safety by the Underground Railroad.

Emancipated – A slave that has been legally freed by their master.

Emancipation Proclamation – A document issued by President Abraham Lincoln on 1 January 1863 ending slavery in the southern states not under control of The Union.

F – O

The 14th Amendment – The 14th Amendment gave citizenship to all born in the United States regardless of race and defined voters as male.

The 15th Amendment – the 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote.

Freeman – An African American that was legally not a slave.

Fugitive Slave Act 1850 – A law that required all escaped slaves on free soil to be returned to their master if captured; citizens would be charged a penalty if they did not comply.

Indentured Servant – Usually a poor European who entered in to a contract to work for a set amount of years in return for shelter, food and travel to America.

Insurrection – An organised attempt by slaves to overthrow their owners, usually by violence.

Manumitted – A slave that has leegally purchased their freedom from their master at a reduced cost due to their years service, or at the full amount of their financial worth.

Master – A slave’s male owner, also including their owner’s male relatives.

Missouri Compromise – In order to maintain the peace between the north and the south, it was ruled that Missouri could be granted a slave state and that Maine was a free state. An amendment was made to establish an imaginary boundary across Louisiana, detailing

Mistress – A slave’s female legal owner, including their owner’s female relatives.

Overseer – An important job on a plantation; the Overseer would watch over the slaves, punish them when required, and capture any slaves who escaped.

P – Z

Pamphlet – A leaflet or small book that provides information or promote the author’s opinion; often used by abolitionists.

Plantation – A place that grew crops on a large scale, such as rice, indigo, tobacco, sugar or cotton, usually tended to by many slaves.

Planter – A person that owned a plantation.

Quaker – A religious group of very moral people that often lived in their own communities; many abolitionists were Quakers.

Racial Segregation – The act of keeping races apart; for example, African Americans were not allowed to be in the same coach as white people on trains.

Rebellion – An organised attempt by slaves to overthrow their owners, usually by violence.

Revolt – An organised attempt by slaves to overthrow their owners, usually by violence.

Shackles – Metal cuffs that were placed around the ankles or wrists of slaves, joined together by a chain.

Slave – A person legally considered to be the property of another, with very few rights to protect them.

Slaveholder – A person who owned slaves.

Slaver – A person who traded in slaves, selling them for a profit at auction.

Slave Hunter – A person who captured escaped slaves for a fee.

Station – A house owned by an abolitionist along an Underground Railroad route that was used to shelter escaped slaves brought to them by a conductor.

Station Master – An abolitionist who owned a house that was used as a station by the Underground Railroad.

Underground Railroad – A series of routes that conductors would lead escaped slaves to, stopping at the homes of various abolitionists and freemen (known as stations) on the way to Canada, where the slaves would be free. This distance was often made on foot and not by train as the name suggests.