Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

Seamus is an Editor who joined NewsBank in 2006 and continues to be an integral member of the Readex Digital Collections team. He currently leads a team indexing the Territorial Papers, curates derivative products, and writes blogs and training material. He received his B.A. from Marlboro College and remains a student of political science and economics. His hobbies include writing, gardening, and traveling.

Posts by this Author

“A Land under the Curse of Slavery”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The February release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes letters of dissent from within the Presbyterian Church, a compilation of judicial biographies titled Atrocious Judges, and a reminder that America’s peculiar institution was not limited to the South. 


Slavery and the Church (1856)  

By Smectymnuus 

Writing under the pseudonym Smectymnuus, the author rebuts arguments presented by the Reverends Nathan Lewis Rice and Nehemiah Adams. He explains “Smectymnuus” is derived from the initials of “the names of five Puritan Divines, who wrote a celebrated treatise in favor of their principles, under this title, in a period of persecution…” 

Alluding to his own potential persecution, the author justifies shielding his given name, noting:  

“A Land under the Curse of Slavery”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

“This Great and Glorious Country”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a philosophical exploration of death and future life, a moving slave narrative, and the autobiography of the U.S. Army’s first African American nurse. 


Death, Hades, and the Resurrection (1883) 

By Theophilus Gould Steward 

Educator, clergyman, and Buffalo Soldier, Theophilus Gould Steward was born to free African Americans in New Jersey in 1843. This work was published when Steward was 40, eight years before he joined the 25th U.S. Colored Infantry and two years after he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Wilberforce University.    

Steward begins Death, Hades, and the Resurrection by asking questions pondered since time immemorial: 

What is it to die? Do we live after death? Can anything be known of the experiences, and employments, of those beyond death? Is there any possible means of communication between the living and the dead? Is there any communication among the dead themselves? Are there any individual joys, or sorrows, among them? 

Steward turns to religion, specifically Christianity, to answer these seemingly scientific queries. He begins by acknowledging religion “has no self-evident axioms from which it may proceed, as science has; no list of experiments by which it can be tested beforehand; but claims Faith first, and investigation afterward.” But he then muddies that distinction: 

“This Great and Glorious Country”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“Tribal memories, ancestral superstitions, and racial wisdom”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The January 2016 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a Frenchman’s description of late 18th-century South Africa, a Briton’s account of early 19th-century America, and an African American’s early 20th-century compilation of folk rhymes.  


Travels into the Interior Parts of Africa (1790)

By Francois Le Vaillant 

Francois Le Vaillant was born in Paramaribo, Surinam, in 1753 to a wealthy French merchant. When he was about ten years old, his family returned to Europe where Le Vaillant would later study natural history and ornithology. In the 1780s Le Vaillant explored South Africa, amassing an extensive collection of birds from which he described many new species. This collection formed the basis for several multivolume works about the peoples and natural history of South Africa. 

 

“Tribal memories, ancestral superstitions, and racial wisdom”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“Hope, delusive hope”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Nathaniel Paul (1793?-1839)The December release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes two celebratory speeches: the first by Russell Parrott on the anniversary of the cessation of the slave trade, and the second by Nathaniel Paul in observance of the abolition of slavery in New York. Also included this month is an alluring tract by occultist Paschal Beverly Randolph. 


 An Oration on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1814)

By Russell Parrott

A relatively obscure figure in Philadelphia’s early African American community, Russell Parrott is best remembered for three speeches celebrating the abolition of slave trafficking. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves went into effect on January 1, 1808, and anniversary orations quickly became a regular feature of the annual cycle of celebrations in African American churches.

After some brief prefatory remarks, Parrott opines: 

“Hope, delusive hope”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“A Portrait of Artifice, Duplicity, Haughtiness, Violence, Rapine, Avarice, Meanness, Rancor, and Dishonesty”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The December release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an illustrated multi-volume history of Jamaica published in 1774, an examination of the early-19th century slave laws of Jamaica and St. Christopher, and a two-volume history of Haiti published in 1830. 


The History of Jamaica (1774) 

By Edward Long 

A British colonial administrator, historian and author, Edward Long is best known for this three-volume work examining the governmental, legal, social, and commercial structures of Jamaica. Long also includes a survey of the island by parish and illustrations depicting several of the island’s rivers and bays. 

My intention is, to give a competent information of the establishments civil and military, and state, of Jamaica, its productions, and commerce; to speak compendiously of its agriculture; to give some account of the climate, soil, rivers, and mineral waters; with a summary description of its dependencies, counties, town, villages, and hamlets, and the most remarkable natural curiosities hitherto discovered in it; to display an impartial character of its inhabitants of all complexions, with some strictures on the Negro slaves in particular, and freed persons, and the laws affecting them; and to recommend some general rules and cautions for preserving the health of those who come hither from Northern climates. 

Long was critical of both the island’s administrators and the organizational system that allowed their malfeasance, writing: 

“A Portrait of Artifice, Duplicity, Haughtiness, Violence, Rapine, Avarice, Meanness, Rancor, and Dishonesty”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“A Wild and Dismal Lament”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The December release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of works arranged as a travel narrative by Catherine Hutton and two multi-volume publications by Richard Lemon Lander, explorer of western Africa.


The Tour of Africa (1819)

Arranged by Catherine Hutton

Catherine Hutton was a novelist, historian, and prolific letter-writer and receiver; over her 90 years she amassed a collection of over 2,000 letters from a wide array of correspondents. Her interest in such a diversity of perspectives is reflected in her approach to The Tour of Africa:

The design of the following work is to assemble together all that is most interesting relative to Africa; to bring whatever may have been described by different travelers, or mentioned at various times by the same traveler, into one point of view; and to form the whole into a regular narrative. It appeared to me that these objects would be best attained by creating an imaginary traveler, who should speak in his own person. I am aware that truth and fiction should not be mingled, and I have not mingled them. They are distinct, though they constantly appear together; the traveler himself being ideal, and all he recounts true, as far as the best authors can be relied upon.

This three-volume compilation contains accounts “of all the countries in that quarter of the globe, hitherto visited by Europeans; with the manners and customs of the inhabitants.”

Below are two of the maps Hutton includes:

“A Wild and Dismal Lament”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Never-Failing Fount of Loyalty and Patriotism”: Perspectives on African Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces

The current release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes three important perspectives on African Americans in the armed forces. John Henry Paynter writes of being a cabin-boy in the U.S. Navy and seeing much of the world in the late-19th century; Theophilus Gould Steward, himself a Buffalo Soldier, explores the role of African Americans in American military conflicts from the Revolution to the Spanish-American War; and Kelly Miller presents an account of the contributions of African Americans in World War I.


Joining the Navy: Abroad with Uncle Sam (1895)

By John Henry Paynter

I believe that the public generally desires to be informed somewhat of the personal history of the author whose work engages their attention; in deference to that impression I may say briefly that I was born at New Castle, Delaware, on the 15th of February, 1862, in the house where my paternal grandmother now lives. My father came to Washington…in 1858…having been given a place under the government. My mother, whom I do not remember, survived but a little while the birth of my sister, who in turn after a few brief months followed her into the angel land.

“Never-Failing Fount of Loyalty and Patriotism”: Perspectives on African Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces

“The Shameful, Sinful, Cowardly, Brutish Deed”: Highlights from the American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The December release of the American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a history of Pennsylvania Hall, which stood completed for three days before being burned to the ground by rioters, a collection of dialogues for school children, including the script on slavery excerpted below, and an 1853 edition of Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, which includes his views on slavery.


History of Pennsylvania Hall (1838)

In 1838, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society built Pennsylvania Hall to serve as a forum for the free exchange of ideas and principles. Three days after its construction was completed, the hall was destroyed in a fire set by an anti-abolitionist mob. The History of Pennsylvania Hall includes the texts of speeches given within its walls as well as this description its beautiful interior:

Behind the arch was a dome divided into panels, supported by pilasters and an entablature of the Grecian Ionic order, —the whole forming a chaste and beautiful arrangement. On this forum was a superb desk or altar, with a rich blue silk panel; behind this stood the president’s chair; on each side of this was a carved chair for the vice presidents; next to these were sofas; in front of which stood the secretary and treasurer’s tables, with chairs to match. All these articles were made of Pennsylvania walnut of the richest quality; the chairs were lined with blue silk plush; the sofas with blue damask moreen; and the tables were hung with blue silk.

“The Shameful, Sinful, Cowardly, Brutish Deed”: Highlights from the American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

“The Torrid Zone”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The November release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a 17th-century magnum opus and a turn of the 18th-century scholar’s compilation of hundreds of works, both of which attempt to describe their entire known worlds. Also in this release is a history of trade with Africa which contains the texts of several ancient treaties.


Cosmography, in Four Books: Containing the Chorography and History of the Whole World, and All the Principal Kingdoms, Provinces, Seas, and Isles Thereof (1670)

By Peter Heylyn

In this ambitious 17th-century work English scholar Peter Heylyn attempts to give a detailed account of nearly every aspect of the world. Writing about Africa, he describes the origins of the continent’s name:

By the Grecians it is called most commonly Lybia…part of it taken for the whole; by the Ethiopians, Alkebulam; by the Indians, Besecath. But the most noted name thereof is Africa, which Josephus out of Cleodenus and Polyhistor, deriveth from Epher, or Apher, one of the Nephews of Abraham, by Midian the Son of Keturah. The Arabians, by whom it is called Ifrichea, derive it from the Verb Faruch, signifying to divide; because more visibly divided both from their own Country, and the rest of the World, than any other part thereof which was known unto them.

“The Torrid Zone”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“A Breed of Moral Vipers”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1921

The November release of Black Authors, 1556-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a guide for self-improvement, the autobiography of the founder of Latta University, and a collection of essays by the Bard of the Potomac.



The College of Life, or, Practical Self-Educator (1896)

By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D., Hon. Joseph R. Gay, and Prof. Irving Garland Penn

This self-improvement manual was written as a guide to African American success. The authors summarize their work, writing:

…portraits of many successful men and women of their own race, with sketches of their achievements in life, are given as examples of what may be accomplished through education, patience, perseverance and integrity of character. Many engravings illustrating Afro-American Progress are introduced as object lessons of the great advancement of their own people, impressing them with the fact that they must educate and elevate themselves if they would attain success in life.

This volume is intended as a Self-Educator and is in no sense a history or book of biography; therefore it cannot be expected to include the portraits or mention all prominent men of the race, nor describe all historical events. Sufficient portraits and sketches of successful Afro-American men and women are given as a GUIDE TO SUCCESS, and illustrations of places, objects and events are given for the purpose of inspiring ambition and as an incentive for the sons and daughters of the race.

Included in the “Contents of the Proper Conduct of Life” are sections on: 

“A Breed of Moral Vipers”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1921

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