Theodore Dwight Weld

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Theodore Dwight Weld (November 23, 1803 – February 3, 1895), was one of the leading architects of the American abolitionist movement during its formative years, from 1830 through 1844.

Weld played a role as writer, editor, speaker, and organizer. He is best known for his co-authorship of the authoritative compendium, American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, published in 1839. Harriet Beecher Stowe partly based Uncle Tom’s Cabin on Weld's text and it is regarded as second only to that work in its influence on the antislavery movement. Weld remained dedicated to the abolitionist movement until slavery was ended by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.[1]

Early life

Weld studied at Phillips Academy from 1820 to 1822, when failing eyesight caused him to discontinue his studies. Several years later he entered the Oneida Manual Labor Institute in Oneida, New York. Weld then studied at Hamilton College, where he became the disciple of Charles Finney, a famous evangelist. Influenced by Charles Stuart, a retired British army officer, Weld joined the cause of black emancipation. Weld traveled about lecturing on the virtues of manual labor, temperance, and moral reform.

While a student at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Weld became a leader of the "Lane Rebels." This group of students held a series of slavery debates over 18 days in 1834 that divided the community. When the school's board of directors, including president Lyman Beecher, tried to prohibit the students from supporting abolitionism, Weld and a group of students left the seminary and were accepted by Oberlin College.


After 1830 Weld became one of the leaders of the antislavery movement working with Arthur and Lewis Tappan, New York philanthropists, James G. Birney, Gamaliel Bailey, and the Grimké sisters.

Weld married Angelina Grimké in 1838. From 1836 to 1840, Weld worked as the editor of the Emancipator. He also directed the national campaign for sending antislavery petitions to Congress and assisted John Quincy Adams when Congress tried Adams for reading petitions in violation of the gag rule.

In 1839, he and the Grimké sisters co-wrote the pivotal book American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. As Weld used pen names for all of his writings, he is not as well known as many other notable 19th century civil rights advocates.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia:

Many historians regard Weld as the most important figure in the abolitionist movement, surpassing even Garrison, but his passion for anonymity long made him an unknown figure in American history.[1]

In 1854, Weld established a school at Eagleswood, New Jersey. The school accepted students of all races and sexes. In 1864, he moved to Hyde Park, Massachusetts and opened another school dedicated to the same principles as his first academy.


Weld was the son of Ludovicus Weld and Elizabeth Clark Weld. He was brother to Ezra Greenleaf Weld, a famous daguerreotype photographer also involved with abolitionism.

A member of the very notable Weld Family of New England, Weld shares a common ancestry with William Weld, Tuesday Weld, and others. Theodore Dwight Weld's branch of the family never achieved the wealth of their Boston-based kin.[2][3]

Weld lived in Hampton, Connecticut, until his family moved to Pompey, New York. He married Angelina Grimké in 1838.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Columbia 2003 Encyclopedia Article Columbia 2003 Encyclopedia Article
  2. ^ Harvard Magazine, "The Welds of Harvard Yard" by associate editor Craig A. Lambert
  3. ^ Contrast Theodore Dwight Weld's views on slavery with those of distant relative Gen. Stephen Minot Weld Jr.

External sources


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