On January 4, 1816, the date of his 27th birthday, Benjamin Lundy invited several friends to his home in St. Clairsville to lay the groundwork for a national anti-slavery society. St. Clairsville served as an Underground Railroad headquarters, operated by local resident, Jonathan Judkins. On April 20, 1816, the constitution of the Union Humane Society was adopted in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. The purpose of the society was to end racial prejudice and assist freed slaves to become productive members of society. The Union Humane Society quickly grew to over 500 members.
Raised a Quaker, Lundy?fs life is described as filled with lessons in being a humanitarian. Lundy was first fully exposed to the horrors of slavery in Wheeling as he witnessed slaves chained and shackled and driven through the streets. The misery of the sight jolted Lundy into his declaration that he would make it his life?fs purpose to fight against the institution of slavery.
Lundy chose to fight through the pen, rather than the sword, spending his life, most of it in poverty and disappointment. He wrote for various publishers and eventually established his
own newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation.
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Lundy?fs prominence as a major anti-slavery reformer caused him to be a key target of slave traders. In 1828, he was assaulted and almost killed by Baltimore slavers. When Lundy pressed the court for prosecution of the offenders, the judge let it be known that Lundy deserved what he got, and the offenders were freed and went unpunished.
He consistently sought philanthropic support and because he could not afford a horse. He walked most of the time, sometimes covering miles in one day. Despite these hardships, he always maintained the hope that one day slavery would be abolished, simply because it was inhumane. While Lundy did not see the end of slavery, he was undoubtedly a central figure in the fight for freedom. Upon his death, the better known abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison stated, ?"To no man is the country so deeply indebted for the mighty impulse it has received on the subject of abolition, as the first cause of all protracted effort for the overthrow of slavery?..." (Dillon, 1966, p.261) Benjamin Lundy fell and died on August 22, 1839. He was 50 years old.