Arthur Tappan (1786–1865) and Lewis Tappan (1788–1863) were successful merchants and prominent antebellum abolitionists. Brothers born in Massachusetts, Arthur and Lewis became wealthy through various business ventures from the 1820s through the 1840s. The two became involved in the abolition movement in the 1830s, and they used their wealth to advance the cause. In 1833, they formed the American Anti-Slavery Society with Theodore Weld and founded Oberlin College, which enrolled both black and white students. Lewis gave financial backing to the anti-slavery journal, the Emancipator. Their abolitionist efforts attracted attention from slavery advocates, and in 1834 Lewis’s home was attacked by a pro-slavery mob. During the Amistad trial in 1840, Lewis helped recruit John Quincy Adams to defend the captives and agitated for public support. In the 1840s, the brothers split from William Lloyd Garrison over Garrison’s expansion into other reform movements, and Arthur helped found the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. The brothers were incensed and radicalized by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, and Arthur began supporting the Underground Railroad. Their abolitionist efforts made the Tappan brothers two of the most influential anti-slavery advocates of the antebellum era.

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