First Protest in Germantown
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William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682, bringing with him Quakers from England. Penn and his followers embraced the practice of owning slaves established by Europeans who arrived before them.

Over time, Penn returned to England and Europe to recruit settlers for his colony. Among the recruits were German Quakers, who were unaccustomed to slavery.

Professor of history at UCLA, Gary Nash, says Quakers from the Rhineland region of Germany who settled in Germantown were especially shocked by slavery:

"They were Quakers; they believed in pacifism; they wanted - some of them had left Germany because they were trying to avoid being forced into a prince's army."
One of the German immigrants, Daniel Pastorius, is believed to have written the document which became known as the First Protest.

"These are the reasons why we are against the traffik of men-body... Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men, like as we will be done ourselves, making no difference of what generation, descent, or colour they are. And those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike?"
Pastorius submitted the Protest to the Quaker monthly meeting, a formal gathering of local Quakers. The year was 1683, and it was the first time white men in the New World formally protested against slavery.

Gary Nash:

"The meeting thought about it and they decided, as they said, it was too weighty, so they passed it on to the Quarterly meeting. Quarterly Meeting found it too weighty, so they sent it on to the Yearly Meeting. And the Yearly Meeting struggled with it, but they decided that they would not respond so in essence the issue was buried not to resurface for a long time."
The First Protest, the actual document, disappeared for 150 years. When it was rediscovered in 1844, black and white abolitionists publicized it as an early humane statement against slavery.

Phil Lapsansky is curator at the Library Company in Philadelphia:

"This is a first little certainly indicates a moral spark among these folk. Arguably, it can be said it doesn't last, since slavery will grow, prosper and thrive under Quaker rule in the Pennsylvania colony. But it's important as a first statement."
The four Quakers who met in Germantown to write the first protest were not trying to organize an anti-slavery movement, says Charles Blockson, a curator at Temple University:

"When they first spoke out against it they didn't for any notoriety about it, but they felt that something had to be said. And they did it in a quiet and formal way, but nevertheless their statement was heard around the world."
By the eve of the American Revolution, devout members of the Quaker religion agreed to stop personally participating in the buying, selling, and holding of slaves.

Again, Gary Nash:

"Everything has its beginning, and the beginning of their Anti-slavery movement does go back to this Germantown Protest of 1688."
In 1780, almost one hundred years later, Pennsylvania became the first northern state to adopt a gradual emancipation law. In the early 19th century, Philadelphia became a hub for the national abolition movement.

Joel Rose, WHYY News.
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