Sarah Grimké Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States

Publication Year: 1836

Grimké, Sarah Moore. An Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States (New York: s.n., 1836). 
PHS Call number: PAM HT 913 .G75 1836 c.2

Source note

Sarah Moore Grimké (1792-1873) was the daughter of a prominent slaveholding family from Charleston, South Carolina. While living in Philadelphia with her father in 1819 and then after his death that same year, Grimké met Quakers who introduced her to the faith, especially through the writings of the abolitionist Quaker John Woolman. She moved permanently to Philadelphia in the 1820s and became a Quaker. Grimké’s younger sister Angelina joined her in 1829 in Philadelphia, and the two became active in the anti-slavery movement. Sarah and Angelina became the first two female agents of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1837. Their speaking tours and publications drew praise from many abolitionists and immense criticism from pro-slavery politicians, much of the press, and many churches. 

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Reading questions

1.    Who wrote this document? Do you think it is a reliable source of information for this topic?

2.    Why does Grimké specifically address the southern clergy on the subject of abolition (page 2)?

3.    What argument does Grimké make, using the Bible as evidence (pages 3-5)?

4.    Why purpose does Grimké have for quoting McDowell from his speech before the Virginia House of Delegates in 1832 (page 6)?

5.    What is Grimké’s rebuttal to the common argument at the time that “the Africans are a divinely condemned and proscribed race” (page 8)?

6.    What religious argument for abolition does Grimké make based on the work of the committee from the synod of Georgia and South Carolina (pages 12-14)?

7.    What reasons does Grimké give for rejecting a gradualist approach to abolition (page 16)?

8.    Based on this document, what do you think were Grimké’s views on the Catholic Church? Do you think these views were common or unusual at the time?

9.    What rebuttal does Grimké make from the Bible to the common argument that slaveholders simply inherited the system passed down from their parents and other predecessors and therefore should not be obliged to abolish it (pages 18-19)?

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Source type
History Topics
Abolition and Anti-slavery
Women's Rights
Time Period
Slavery, Sectionalism, and Social Reform (1815-1861)