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Political and Social Movements

The Antislavery Movement

Which U.S. state was the first to abolish slavery?

Vermont was first, in 1777. On July 8 of that year Vermont adopted a state constitution that prohibited slavery. The first document in the United States to outlaw slavery, it read in part: “No male person, born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave or apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty-one years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives to the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent, after they arrive to such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.” Vermont’s constitution also gave suffrage to all men, regardless of race. Vermonters were the first to put a black legislator in the state house: Alexander Twilight (1795–1857) was elected as a representative in 1836. Twilight also earned another first: In 1823 he graduated from Vermont’s Middlebury College to become the first black person in the nation to earn a college degree.



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