James Birney was born in Danville, Kentucky on 4th February, 1792. A lawyer, after working in Danville, he was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in 1816. Two years later he moved to Alabama where he was elected to the Alabama Legislature in 1819. A strong opponent of slavery, Birley started his own newspaper, the Philanthropist.
A member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Birney was elected as executive secretary in 1837. Unlike William Lloyd Garrison, he believed that the organization should concentrate on political action. Three years later he travelled to England where he was appointed vice president of the World Slavery Convention. His book, The American Churches, the Bulwarks of American Slavery, was published in 1840.
In 1840 the Liberty Party selected Birley as its presidential candidate, but won only 7,000 votes. Four years later this was increased to 62,300 votes. James Birney died in Eagleswood, New Jersey, on 25th November, 1857.