By the late 1840's, slavery was a defining political issue in northern cities. The topic was hotly debated in Lowell and created unlikely political alliances.
Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison visited Lowell as early as the 1830's and labor reformers drew uncomfortable parallels between working conditions in the mills and slavery in the South.
Many labor reformers, however, strongly opposed the abolitionists. Yet several of Lowell's most prominent investors, such as Amos Lawrence, supported the abolition of slavery but opposed labor reform.
Frederick Douglas (above) the former slave and abolitionist, lectured, wrote, and campaigned tirelessly for the abolition of slavery. He appeared in Lowell many times. On one visit, he introduced city residents to escaped slave George Latimer who spoke about the evils of southern bondage.
(Inscription regarding the photo on the far right)
George Thompson (right of center) added an international twist to the American abolitionist movement. As a member of Parliament, he had been successful in ending slavery in the British West Indies. Wendell Phillips (left) and William Lloyd Garrison (center) drew upon Thompson's success by inviting him to Lowell, in 1834, to further promote and broaden the abolitionist movement.