South Charleston, Ohio Confrontation
In 1835, pro-slavery advocates in South Charleston, Ohio threatened abolitionists with bodily harm at an anti-slavery rally.
The arrival of a Mr. Eastman from New England sparked the confrontation between pro- and anti-slavery forces. Eastman desired to address residents about slavery's brutality. Typical of most white Ohioans during this era, most white South Charleston residents feared that, if slavery ended, newly-freed African Americans would relocate from the South to Ohio, depriving many whites of employment opportunities. Many of these same whites were also racist and had no desire to reside near African Americans.
Upon Eastman's arrival in the community, a committee of white South Charleston residents informed the abolitionist that he was not to speak in the town. Despite this harsh reception, Eastman proclaimed that he would still make his presentation. A number of Quakers resided in South Charleston, and they desired to hear Eastman's presentation. Charles Paist, one of these Quakers, offered the front porch of his home as a stage for Eastman. Eastman agreed and accompanied Paist to his home on Columbus Street.
At the time of Eastman's presentation, a mob of men and boys gathered outside of the Paist home. The mob was armed with eggs to throw at the abolitionist. Eastman decided to make his speech. During Eastman's entire presentation, Charles Paist's wife stood in front of the abolitionist. The mob refused to throw any eggs, fearing that they might hit Mrs. Paist. Following the speech, Eastman snuck out of the home's backdoor and traveled undetected through a cornfield to a safe house.
Instances like the pro-slavery confrontation in South Charleston routinely occurred across Ohio during the early nineteenth century. Many Ohioans feared the consequences of slavery's demise. Others increasingly believed that African Americans deserved at least their freedom if not true equality with whites. While violence did not erupt at South Charleston, oftentimes attacks against anti-slavery supporters occurred.
- "Abolitionism in South Charleston, Madison Township, Clark Co., O." The Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection. The Ohio History Connection. Columbus, OH.