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February 1, 2013

Program parallels lives of local abolitionists

AMESBURY — William Lloyd Garrison biographer Horace Seldon will present “One And One Make A Thousand: William Lloyd Garrison, one young abolitionist, from Newburyport, and John Greenleaf Whittier, one young abolitionist, from Amesbury, make Thousands of Abolitionists, from the Whole Nation” on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. at the Friends Meetinghouse, 120 Friend St.

Seldon is a recently retired national park ranger from the Boston African-American National Historic Site who says he had an “epiphany” that changed his life in 1968 with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He says his employment at the Boston African-American National Historic Site in Boston provided the opportunity to do historical interpretation on the Black Heritage Trail on the north slope of Beacon Hill in the 18th and 19th century. In doing so, he became convinced of the central importance of Garrison.

Cynthia Costello, president of the John Greenleaf Whittier Museum in Amesbury, says the similarities between the Quaker poet Whittier and Garrison, who were close friends, are wholly apparent.

“Both these extraordinary citizens put life, health, family, economics on the back burner when they decided to dedicate their lives to this one purpose, the destruction and elimination of slavery and inequality in this nation, which they considered the greatest sin against God and man,” she says in a press release. “Both were born poor, little opportunity for schooling, lives dedicated to basic tenets of freedom and equality for all and driven to expose the sin of slavery to the nation hoping to eradicate it in a peaceful manner.”

Both men were leaders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, attending the First Anti-Slavery Convention in newly dedicated Pennsylvania Hall in 1838. Pro-slavers put a torch to the hall where speakers like Garrison, Whittier and Angelina Grimke were featured.

Garrison was president and Whittier was the clerk and had offices in the building. When it went up in flames. Garrison and Grimke managed to save many of Whittier’s papers and barely escaped the fiery holocaust,

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