Benjamin Lay: The Radical Quaker Who Fought Against Slavery

TLDR Benjamin Lay, a radical Quaker, used stunts and activism to bring attention to the horrors of slavery in the 18th century. His campaign against slavery, influenced by the Quakers' belief in equality, included boycotting products procured through forced labor and engaging in radical acts of protest.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 Benjamin Lay, a lesser-known figure than Benjamin Franklin, was a short-statured and hunchbacked man who became an early advocate against slavery in the 18th century.
05:20 Benjamin Lay, a Quaker born in 1681, was a radical activist who used stunts to argue against slavery and bring attention to the question of why Christians were justifying and participating in the institution of slavery.
10:13 The Quakers' unmediated relationship with the Bible and their belief in the equality of all humans influenced Benjamin Lay's campaign against slavery, and their radical activism included refusing to take off their hats and even engaging in nudity as a form of protest.
14:43 Benjamin Lay, a radical Quaker, holds true to the primal sense of radicalism that the Quakers had started to fade away from after the Restoration, disrupting Quaker meetings and objecting to their hierarchy of elders.
19:03 Benjamin Lay and his wife Sarah Smith move to Barbados in 1731, where he becomes aware of the horrific suffering and cruelty inflicted upon African slaves on the sugar plantations.
23:36 The mutilation of slaves' corpses after death is done to deter them from committing suicide and prevent their spirits from returning to Africa, and this sadistic treatment of slaves, including whipping, forced cannibalism, and other forms of torture, was widespread and notorious in the English Caribbean.
28:06 Benjamin Lay gradually realizes the horrors of slavery, including starvation and brutal punishments, after witnessing a naked African slave covered in blood and flies outside a fellow Quaker's plantation in Barbados, leading him to become an abolitionist.
32:33 The Lays, driven out of Barbados for their opposition to slavery, move to Philadelphia where they are appalled to find that slavery is also prevalent, leading them to launch a career of activism, including boycotting products procured through forced labor.
36:34 Benjamin Lay, in his fight against slavery, adopts increasingly radical stunts, such as smashing expensive China, standing outside in the winter with no coat, and even kidnapping a child of slave owners, making him highly unpopular among Quakers.
40:51 Benjamin Franklin's example of drawing up a will to free his slaves upon his death and his influence on the Quakers of Philadelphia played a part in bringing about opposition to slavery and eventually abolitionism in the broader American society.
45:28 The episode discusses the moral implications of investing in companies that engage in unethical practices, such as slavery, and highlights the power of imagery and boycotts in raising awareness and promoting change.
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