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Rise of Sectionalism: 1815–1859


abolitionist movement

organization of 19th-century activists who campaigned to officially abolish—or end—slavery and racial prejudice

Bleeding Kansas

name used to describe the violent conflict in the Kansas Territory between proslavery and antislavery forces

chattel slavery

practice of buying, trading, and selling people for lifelong servitude. Chattel slavery is an inheritable status and so may be passed down to offspring.

Compromise of 1850

set of laws dealing with slavery passed in Congress in September 1850. The compromise permitted California to enter the Union as a free state, established the territories of New Mexico and Utah and gave them popular sovereignty to decide whether or not to allow slavery, created the strong Fugitive Slave Act, and abolished the slave trade in Washington, D.C.

Dred Scott decision

controversial 1857 Supreme Court ruling that determined slaves could not be citizens and that prior residence in a free state did not entitle an enslaved individual to freedom


process of giving enslaved workers their freedom

Harpers Ferry

site of a federal armory where in 1859 abolitionist John Brown led a raid to incite a slave rebellion

Kansas-Nebraska Act

act passed in 1854 that established the borders of the Kansas and Nebraska territories, gave the territories popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery, and repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820

Missouri Compromise

compromise passed through Congress in 1820 that helped maintain the balance of free and slave states in the Union while simultaneously establishing restrictions on the spread of slavery

Nat Turner's Rebellion

slave revolt led by Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831. Turner and his 16 followers killed 60 white men, women, and children before being captured and executed.


individual responsible for supervising working groups of enslaved laborers, usually on a plantation


large estate where cash crops are grown. In the South many plantations relied on enslaved labor.

popular sovereignty

political doctrine that the power of government lies in the hands of the people governed and that a government is legitimate only if it has the consent of the governed


tensions arising from socioeconomic and cultural differences that define one part of the country relative to others. In the pre–Civil War era, these tensions were primarily generated by the issue of slavery.

Seneca Falls Convention

woman's rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. The first such gathering in the United States, it was also called the First Woman's Rights Convention.


type of religious song that described the hardships of enslaved Africans

states' rights doctrine

governmental policy stating the Constitution protects the rights of individual states from federal government interference

The Liberator

abolitionist newspaper published by social reformer and journalist William Lloyd Garrison

Uncle Tom's Cabin

novel published by teacher and author Harriet Beecher Stowe. It described the evils of slavery and helped encourage antislavery support in the North.