Woolman’s formal education was at a Quaker school but he had access to the large libraries of the Philadelphia Friends which widened his knowledge beyond the expected Quaker classics.
When he was 21 years old, Woolman moved to Mount Holly, not far from his home, and kept books for a shopkeeper.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania New Jersey-born Quaker John Woolman was an active and outspoken abolitionist from as early as the 1740s, when he traveled the south to observe slave labor personally.
He penned the essay Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, published in 1754, which stressed the equality of man without directly attacking slaveholders.
He was recorded as a minister by Burlington Monthly Meeting at the age of 22.
For 17 years he was Clerk of Meeting, a representative to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Woolman continued his journeys, turning his attention again to the south and to New England, where at Newport in 1760 he met with several economically powerful Quaker slaveholders who, in time.
would follow the example of their Philadelphia brethren.
In May 1772, following his recovery from pleurisy, Woolman embarked on what would be his last journey.
He decided to travel in steerage across the Atlantic to England rather than in cabin accommodation, remembering how his ‘fellow creatures’ – the black slaves – had made their passage from Africa.