Walnut Hills played a central role in the beginning of the Abolitionist movement that demanded an end to slavery in the United States. Lane Theological Seminary opened to students in 1833, and in February, 1834, the students organized a series of debates about slavery. The students voted overwhelmingly that slavery should end immediately.
The formerly enslaved student James Bradley (see a recent posting) spoke on the question of whether emancipated slaves could take care of themselves. “They have to take care of, and support themselves now, and their master, and his family into the bargain; and this being so, it would be strange if they could not provide for themselves, when disencumbered from this load.”
The Walnut Hills debates stand out for the recognition that the African American community, free and enslaved, worked tirelessly to achieve emancipation through self-purchase. One of Bradley’s white classmates observed:
“Some important facts in regard to the character of emancipated negroes, and their ability to provide for themselves, have recently fallen under my observation in the city of Cincinnati. A large majority of the adult blacks in that city, are liberated slaves. Many of them earned with their own hands and paid six hundred, nine hundred, and some nearly fourteen hundred dollars for themselves individually, for themselves and their families. The majority of these have likewise acquired considerable property since their liberation. Many of them have already purchased their friends out of slavery! — and it is probable that at least one third of the adult blacks in this city, are employed in earning money to buy their friends and relatives now in slavery.”