Constitution of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, 1787
Constitutions were not only written to create governments; they were also used by organizations in civil society to lay out their structures and operational processes. In 1787, members of the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Abolition Society wrote a constitution to define their organization’s membership, structure, and goals. They recognized that American constitutions — both federal and state — could be interpreted to support their anti-slavery ideals.
By offering legal help to enslaved men and women, the Society hoped to exploit opportunities for freedom. Antislavery activists, a group that included many powerful African American voices, all aimed to find the best strategies for ending the injustice of human bondage.