Library Company of Philadelphia


Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

This year’s Black History Month marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century. While America’s Historical Newspapers includes The North Star, the forceful anti-slavery newspaper Douglass began publishing in Rochester, New York, in 1847, America’s Historical Imprints contains a wealth of primary source material recording, remembering, and celebrating his remarkable life and work.


 

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In his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, found in Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick writes of his parents.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means to knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

He continues, describing his relationship with his mother:

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

‘A covenant with death, an agreement with hell’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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This year’s first release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a work of American travel literature from the 1830s and a history of the United States containing, in part, a retrospective of that same period and of resistance to America’s peculiar institution during it. Also found in this month’s release is a collection of essays on morality that address slavery.        


Impressions of America (1836)

By Tyrone Power, esq.

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Tyrone Power (1797-1841) was born in Waterford County, Ireland. In his teens Power joined a group of travelling actors and went on to successfully earn a living acting at the leading London theatres and appearing at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. He travelled to the United States several times and recorded his Impressions during journeys made in the early 1830s.

Power offers this description of his arrival in Richmond, Virginia:

Whilst waiting at the landing-place amidst the bustle incident to shifting baggage, landing passengers, and packing carriages, I witnessed a wedding assemblage that amused me highly, and was no bad sample of slavery in the Old Dominion.

‘A covenant with death, an agreement with hell’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘The Privileged Order’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The December release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes three items by women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria V. Clayton and Sallie Holley. Each offers a different perspective on America’s peculiar institution.

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Address in Favor of Universal Suffrage for the Election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention (1867)

By Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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‘The Privileged Order’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Kill Him in the Case of Resistance’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The November release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an Englishman’s observations on the Atlantic slave trade, a Scot’s concerns for the emancipated slaves in the West Indies, and reflections on the American abolitionist movement and slavery by the third baronet of Wraxall.


Narrative of a Voyage to the Southern Atlantic Ocean (1834)

By William Henry Bayley Webster

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William Henry Bayley Webster served aboard the HMS Chanticleer during her scientific expedition in the South Atlantic from 1828 to 1830. Webster, the ship’s surgeon, recorded the manners and customs of various peoples he encountered traveling along the Atlantic coasts of Africa and South America. He makes notes of finding slavery in South America “at the Cape in its mildest form” and at Rio “in all its plenitude” but after arriving at Maranham in northern Brazil he offers more detail, writing:  

‘Kill Him in the Case of Resistance’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘A White Man’s Government’: Readex Introduces “African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883”

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Curated from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s acclaimed African American history archive, African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883, is a newly released digital collection of searchable books, pamphlets, and speeches. Its coverage begins with the conclusion of the Civil War and spans eighteen of the most formative years in African American history.

Reconstruction marked an end to slavery and a beginning to the enfranchisement of African Americans. Full citizenship, voting rights, land ownership, employment opportunities, and political participation were only some of the significant gains enjoyed, in theory, by African Americans during this period. Although these rights were granted by amendments to the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation, they were not, in practice, universally protected at local levels.


Using this new collection’s “Suggested Searches” feature, students and other researchers can explore these revealing primary source materials with ease.

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‘A White Man’s Government’: Readex Introduces “African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883”

‘The Market of Human Flesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a piece of travel literature describing America and its peculiar institution, a pamphlet bemoaning the ills of Reconstruction, and speeches and writings on the political aspects of slavery by abolitionist and senator Charles Sumner.


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A Tour in the United States of America (1784)

By John Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, Esq.

John Ferdinand Smyth Stuart (1745-1814) studied medicine at Edinburgh University, emigrated to America, and began his practice in Virginia. When the American Revolution began, Stuart, a loyalist, abandoned his home and served in the British Army. During the war he was captured and held prisoner, spending eighteen months in irons. Misfortune followed Stuart. After returning to England after the war, his pension for service was suspended. Moving to the West Indies, he was shipwrecked three times. Returning one more time to England, he learned his pension claims were too old to be heard. In 1814 he was knocked down and killed by a carriage.

Writing of his sojourn in America, Stuart recounts the country’s natural beauty but the charm of his prose is diminished quickly when he writes:

‘The Market of Human Flesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Seductive Spies, a Quest for Friendly Fumes, and a Lethal Love Triangle: Readex Report (October 2017)

In this issue: feminine charms reveal Civil War strategies; a dismembered body linked to a racially charged love triangle; and the dicey dealings of early American anesthesiologists.


Two Women Who Spied During the American Civil War: Going Undercover with Belle Boyd and Pauline Cushman in the Archive of Americana

Bruce D. Roberts, author of Clipper Ship Sailing Cards

Two Women 1b.jpgIn July 1861—just three months after the bombardment of Fort Sumter—unabashed Southern sympathizer Rose O’Neal Greenhow of Washington, D.C., was already engaged in espionage on behalf of the Confederacy. Well-placed in Washington society—and adept at bleeding information from the many men who found her attractive—Greenhow learned that Union troops under General Irvin McDowell would attack Rebel forces in Manassas, Virginia, within days... > Full Story

Seductive Spies, a Quest for Friendly Fumes, and a Lethal Love Triangle: Readex Report (October 2017)

‘There’s a Dark Man Comin': Readex Introduces "African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922"

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Curated from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s acclaimed African American history archive, African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922, is a newly released digital collection of searchable books, pamphlets and speeches. Its coverage begins with an 1883 decision known as the “The Civil Rights Cases” in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875, declaring the federal government could not prevent discrimination on the basis of race.

This ruling paved the way for the codification of Jim Crow laws that reversed the hard-earned gains African Americans had made during Reconstruction. Public education, transportation, and accommodations were only a few of the areas of daily life in the U.S. in which segregation was legally allowed.


Using this new collection’s “Suggested Searches” feature, students and other researchers can easily explore revealing primary source materials that provide stark reminders of the fierce sense of separation that permeated American society during this divisive era.

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‘There’s a Dark Man Comin': Readex Introduces "African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922"

‘The Grievances of the Fair Secesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The September release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an address on slavery by one of America’s Founding Fathers, a biography of William Pitt which contains a description of the Middle Passage, and a history of the 19th Colored Infantry Regiment.


 

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An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements on the Slavery of the Negroes in America (1773)

By Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) signed the Declaration of Independence, attended the Continental Congress, supported the American Revolution, and opposed slavery. He also founded Dickinson College, served as Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and was a leader of the American Enlightenment.

Rush viewed Africans as equals to Europeans and argues here that any differences are either products of slavery or only skin deep. He writes:

…we are to distinguish between an African in his own country, and an African in a state of slavery in America. Slavery is so foreign to the human mind, that the moral faculties, as well as those of the understanding are debased, and rendered torpid by it. All the vices which are charged upon the Negroes in the southern colonies and the West-Indies, such as Idleness, Treachery, Theft, and the like, are the genuine offspring of slavery, and serve as an argument to prove that they were not intended for it.

‘The Grievances of the Fair Secesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Readex Announces Major New Digital Collections for Fall 2017

Readex is pleased to announce five new digital collections for students and scholars in American studies, history, literature, politics, popular culture and many related areas.


Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900

Drama2.jpgIn the nineteenth century drama became the most popular form of entertainment in America while taking on myriad forms: historical plays, melodramas, political satires, black minstrel shows, comic operas, musical extravaganzas, parlor entertainments, adaptations of novels and more. All of these—more than 4,700 works in total—can be found in Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment. This unique and comprehensive collection sheds new light on an enormous range of heavily studied topics, including daily life in the United States; politics, both local and national; culture in all of its forms; and the shifting and evolving tastes of Americans from across the country. Learn more.


African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883

Readex Announces Major New Digital Collections for Fall 2017

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