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Elihu Embree

First page of the first issue of The Emancipator, April 30, 1820.

An early voice in Tennessee for abolition, Elihu Embree was the son of a Quaker minister who moved from Pennsylvania in 1790 to the northeast corner of what would become the new state of Tennessee. Elihu and his brother Elijah were among the region's earliest and most prominent iron manufacturers in the region. Although a slave owner and positive deist as a young man, Embree became an ardent abolitionist at the age of thirty and turned the same skill and energy he had previously displayed in iron manufacturing to the antislavery cause. He became a leader in the Manumission Society of Tennessee, first organized in Greene County in 1815 under the leadership of Charles Osborn and John Rankin. After writing numerous abolitionist petitions to state and national governments, Embree began publishing The Emancipator in April 1820. The Jonesborough monthly became the first publication in the United States devoted exclusively to the antislavery cause. Embree entered into the debate over slavery with a fierce, polemical spirit, calling slaveholders "monsters in human flesh," and denouncing the Missouri Compromise with the demand "Not another foot of slave territory!" Slavery, he argued repeatedly in the pages of his popular newspaper, "is a shame to any people," and "freedom is the inalienable right of all men." Although his untimely death in 1820 of bilious fever ended his strong and prophetic voice, Embree's ringing denunciation of slavery was as harsh and severe as any condemnation uttered in the 1830s by better-known abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010