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John Woolman was an itinerant Quaker preacher, traveling throughout the American colonies, advocating against conscription, taxation, and, particularly slavery.
He is noted for his success in convincing the Quaker community to abandon slaveholding and advocate for abolition. The Journal of John Woolman is considered to be an important spiritual document, as shown by its inclusion in The Harvard Classics and its successor Great Books of the Western World.
At age 23 his employer asked him to write a bill of sale for a slave. He told his boss that he thought that slavekeeping was inconsistent with the Christian religion.
In 1754 Woolman wrote Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes. He refused to draw up wills transferring slaves. Working on a nonconfrontational, personal level, he individually convinced many Quaker slaveholders to free their slaves. He attempted personally to avoid using the products of slavery; for example, he wore undyed clothing because slaves were used in the making of dyes.
In his lifetime, Woolman did not succeed in eradicating slavery even within the Society of Friends in the United States; however, his personal efforts changed Quaker viewpoints. In 1790 the Society of Friends petitioned United States Congress for the abolition of slavery.