When I grow up, I want to be John Woolman

Yesterday, I was reading excerpts from David Bornstein’s book, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas for a class that I am currently taking. This book has a lot of great things to say. The thing I like the most about it is the case studies that he brings up. These are people that I have usually never heard of before, but I have been effected by what they have done. They changed the world because it needed to be changed, not because they wanted recognition. One of these cases was particularly moving for me: the case of John Woolman. His story is moving me to action in a way that I hope it moves you, as well.

John Woolman

As many of you not-so-history-ignorant people probably already know, John Woolman was a Quaker abolitionist during the 18th Century in the United States. That right there is enough for him to be amazing. It’s easy enough to say you want to end slavery today. I mean, who wouldn’t commend someone today for fighting for such a “noble” cause? But back then, slavery was legal and pretty accepted. So, to take a stand against it took a very real amount of courage. 

However, John Woolman was not just an abolitionist. He convinced most U.S. Quakers to voluntarily emancipate all of their slaves. That takes a level of conviction that is difficult to understand. Furthermore, he walked all around the United States spreading this message, so he could better understand the plight of a slave. Let me say that again, he walked. Across states. Without a safe-guard of any kind. 

Obviously, Woolman was a pretty amazing person. All of us should be abolitionists, but a lot of what he did was time-period-specific, making it hard for us to follow in his example. One thing that he did, however, is something that I don’t do, you don’t do, but in my opinion we all should be doing. He refused to wear died clothing, because dye was made by slaves in the Caribbean. Many products we use today are produced by slaves. If we tell ourselves, as I do, that we would take a stand against slavery if we lived in the eighteenth century, then we need to take a stand now, and stop using

I got this image online, I really have 36 slaves working for me.

slave-made products. I know I buy clothes that have supply-line connections to slavery, even though there are free trade clothing brands. I want John Woolman’s heart for people who are enslaved, but I also lack it to an embarrassingly large degree. 

So, my goal is to start buying fair trade, or second hand, everything. Chocolate, coffee, clothes (the 3 Cs) are all produced quite frequently by slaves. Let’s use our buying power to stop this. We can be like John Woolman


To find out how many slaves you use, visit Slavery Footprint


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