Charles Osborn

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Quaker Meeting House Partition

Charles Osborn was a journalist and outspoken opponent of slavery in the years before the American Civil War.

Osborn was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1776. He was a member of the Society of Friends who were often called 'Quakers.'. Osborn actively sought converts to his faith. He addressed audiences on Quakerism across the United States and also in Europe. His faith also led him to be an outspoken opponent to slavery. In 1815, he began an abolitionist society in Tennessee. Osborn found little support in Tennessee. His society only had six members.

Osborn moved to Mount Pleasant, Ohio, in 1816. He began to publish an anti-slavery newspaper called The Philanthropist in September 1817. Osborn called for an immediate end to slavery. He hoped that his paper would educate white Northerners about slavery's injustice.

The Philanthropist was the first anti-slavery newspaper in the United States. Osborn emerged as one of the leading abolitionists in Ohio because of the paper. Other prominent abolitionists joined The Philanthropist, including Benjamin Lundy, who contributed several articles. In October 1818, Elisha Bates acquired the newspaper from Osborn. He continued to publish it until 1822. The Philanthropist enjoyed a wide circulation, principally in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Osborn flooded southern Ohio with copies of the paper. Many southern Ohioans had migrated there from slaveholding states. A few of these people continued to own slaves although this was a violation of the Ohio Constitution.

The paper remained true to Osborn's Quaker faith. It strongly opposed the enslavement of African Americans. The Philanthropist also encouraged its readers to abstain from drinking. Under Osborn's leadership, the paper rejected a gradual end to slavery as proposed by the American Colonization Society and other abolitionists of that time. Osborn contended that only the immediate emancipation of the slaves was acceptable. Upon Bates's becoming the editor, the paper continued to support the temperance and the anti-slavery crusades. The Philanthropist also devoted space to other issues such as internal improvements and public education.

In the early 1830s, Osborn moved his anti-slavery crusade to Indiana. In 1833, Indiana abolitionists selected Osborn as their representative to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. This was a meeting of abolitionists from across the world. They met together in London to discuss different strategies to attack slavery. Due to poor health, Osborn was unable to attend, but his selection to the convention shows the respect he enjoyed from his fellow abolitionists. William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent abolitionist claimed, "Charles Osborn is the father of all us Abolitionists."

From 1842 to 1847, Osborn resided in Michigan. Health problems slowed his fight against slavery. He spent much of his time overseeing his farm. In 1847, Osborn returned to Indiana, where he died in 1850.

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