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 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

A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

From Afro-Americana Imprints

The November release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a remarkable 18th-century history of the Age of Discovery, featuring abundant maps, charts and illustrations, and a dramatic 19th-century work about an around-the-world excursion, which was written by the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe.


A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1745)

This four-volume tour de force details nearly all aspects of the Age of Discovery. Its subtitle proclaims it to include:

every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, with respect to the several Empires, Kingdoms, and Provinces; their situation, extent, bounds and division, climate, soil and produce; their lakes, rivers, mountains, cities, principal towns, harbors, buildings, &c. and the gradual alterations that from Time to Time have happened in each: also the manners and customs of the several inhabitants; their religion and government, arts and sciences, trades and manufactures; so as to form a complete system of modern geography and history, exhibiting the present state of all nations…

The work introduces the Age of Discovery through the explorations of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Ferdinand Magellan:

A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“I Love My Country More Than I Love My Party”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The November release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a speech by an eventual vice-president of the United States in which he renounces his party. Also described below is letter by the second president of the Continental Congress to his son as well as a beautifully illustrated retrospective of life in antebellum Virginia.


Senator Hamlin's Withdrawal from the Democratic Party (1856)

By Hannibal Hamlin

Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891)I ask the Senate to excuse me from further service as Chairman of the Committee on Commerce. I do so because I feel that my relations hereafter will be of such a character as to render it proper that I shall no longer hold that position. I owe this act to the dominant majority in the Senate. When I cease to harmonize with the majority, or tests are applied by that party with which I have acted to which I cannot submit I feel that I ought no longer to hold that responsible position.

Senator Hamlin made this request just six days after his party’s national convention in early June 1856. Hamlin’s Democratic Party had suffered heavy losses in the previous midterm elections and was now fracturing over the platform’s plank allowing an extension of slavery to the territories. Hamlin supported the Missouri Compromise and the Wilmot Proviso, both of which attempted to regulate the extension of slavery in the West and territory seized in the Mexican-American War. In 1856, the Democratic Party’s platform embraced the Kansas-Nebraska Act which effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise. 

Continuing with the sentiment that his party had left him, Hamlin resumed:

“I Love My Country More Than I Love My Party”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

“Put a Rattlesnake into Her Bosom”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Mary Frances McCray (1837-1898)The October release of Black Authors, 1556-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an intriguing sermon by Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833), a former indentured servant and minuteman who became a groundbreaking African American pastor. Also included is the biography of Mary Frances McCray (1837-1898), a slave until her mid-twenties who became the first African American female preacher of the Methodist Church in the Dakota Territory, and a compelling slave narrative published in Canada by the little-known William H.H. Johnson.


Universal Salvation: A Very Ancient Doctrine (1821)

By Lemuel Haynes, A.M.

Lemuel Haynes was an influential religious leader and the first African-American pastor of a white congregation, first in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1785 and again in Rutland, Vermont where he remained for much of his life.

Prefacing this sermon on Universal Salvation, Haynes offers what could be called a universal truth.

There is no greater folly than for men to express anger and resentment because their religious sentiments are attacked. If their characters are impeached by their own creed, they only are to blame. All that the antagonists can say, cannot make falsehoods truth, nor truth falsehood.

“Put a Rattlesnake into Her Bosom”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“Doubt, darkness and mystery”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the autobiography of an African prince; an account by an African American missionary, sailor, and minister; and an early 19th-century murder mystery.


A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw: An African Prince (1774)

By Ukawsaw Gronniosaw

James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw’s own Narrative was the only major source of his life story until an obituary dated October 2, 1775, was uncovered in a U.K. newspaper:

On Thursday died, in this city, aged 70, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African prince, of Zoara. He left the country in the early part of his life, with a view to acquire proper notions of the Divine Being, and the worship due to Him. He met with many trials and embarrassments, was much afflicted and persecuted. His last moments exhibited that cheerful serenity which, at such a time, is the certain effect of a thorough conviction of the great truths of Christianity. He published a narrative of his life.

Gronniosaw’s “trials and embarrassments” included being sold into slavery and brought to New York via Barbados where he was sold again. He would eventually gain his freedom, serve in Martinique and Cuba as a soldier in the British army, and, upon his discharge, cross the Atlantic to England. Gronniosaw’s slave narrative is thought to be the first autobiography published by an African in Britain. He begins his chronicle by describing his early life and inquisitive nature:

“Doubt, darkness and mystery”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“A Crime of the Deepest Dye”: Speeches from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The October release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes speeches illustrating the growing controversy surrounding America’s peculiar institution in the decade leading up to the Civil War.

Highlighted here are speeches from the floor of the House of Representatives, the floor of the Senate of Massachusetts, and a street corner in Alton, Illinois.


Ohio congressman Joshua Reed GiddingsPayment for Slaves (1849)

Speech of Representative Joshua Reed Giddings

In dissenting to legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives—the “Bill To Pay the Heirs of Antonio Pacheco for a Slave Sent West of the Mississippi with the Seminole Indians in 1838”—Ohio congressman Joshua Reed Giddings makes both an emotional and technical argument after giving a brief background of the case.

The claimant, in 1835, residing in Florida, professed to own a negro man named Lewis….The master hired him to an officer of the United States, to act as a guide to the troops under the command of Major Dade, for which he was to receive twenty-five dollars per month.

It is unclear whether Lewis deserted the army or was captured by the enemy when Dade was defeated, but Lewis was recaptured in 1837 by U.S. General Jesup who…

“A Crime of the Deepest Dye”: Speeches from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

“Mingled Puerility and Brutality”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The September release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several multi-volume works detailing various regions and peoples of Africa.


Maritime Geography and Statistics: A Description of the Ocean and its Coasts, Maritime Commerce, Navigation, &c. &c. &c. (1815)

By James Hingston Tuckey, a commander in the Royal Navy

James Hingston Tuckey’s four-volume work is a tour de force describing the world’s oceans and coasts. Tuckey, born in 1776, joined the Royal Navy in 1793 and by the turn of the century was assisting in the expansion of the British colony of New South Wales in Australia. In 1805, after having returned briefly to England, Tuckey was captured by the French near St. Helena in the South Atlantic and held prisoner for nearly nine years. If not for his imprisonment, it is unlikely that Tuckey’s Maritime Geography and Statistics would have been written:

If it should be asked how a naval officer could, during the activity of war, find leisure to compile a work requiring the perusal of many thousand volumes, the answer is unfortunately too ready: it was undertaken to pass away the tedious hours of a hopeless captivity, alike destructive of present happiness and future prospects.

In Volume II, Tuckey turns his attention to the coast of West Africa, writing:

After passing the limits of Morocco, the first nation met with is the Moors of the Desert, who inhabit the coast from Cape Agulon to the Senegal, and form three tribes. Though they acknowledge the Emperor of Morocco as their sovereign, they are in every respect independent of his government or power. They lead an erratic life, their habitations being conical tents of cloth manufactured of camel’s hair, which they move about in search of pasture for their cattle.

“Mingled Puerility and Brutality”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Into the inner life of the Negro Race”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Louis Hughes (1832-1913). From Black AuthorsThe September release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes Louis Hughes’ heart-pounding and heart-wrenching autobiography as well as several works of fiction by prolific author Sutton Elbert Griggs.

Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom: The Institution of Slavery as Seen on the Plantation and in the Home of the Planter (1897)

By Louis Hughes

In 1832, Louis Hughes was born a slave on a plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia. Writing of his early life, Hughes quickly captures his readers’ attention:

My father was a white man and my mother a negress, the slave of one John Martin. I was a mere child, probably not more than six years of age, as I remember, when my mother, two brothers and myself were sold to Dr. Louis, a practicing physician in the village of Scottsville.

After the doctor’s death, the family is again sold and eventually separated. Hughes writes movingly about the last time he saw his mother:

…she bade me good-bye with tears in her eyes, saying: “My son, be a good boy; be polite to every one, and always behave yourself properly.” It was sad to her to part with me, though she did not know that she was never to see me again, for my master had said nothing to her regarding his purpose and she only thought, as I did, that I was hired to work on the canal-boat, and that she should see me occasionally. But alas! We never met again. I can see her form still as when she bade me good-bye. That parting I can never forget.

“Into the inner life of the Negro Race”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“A Vitiated Education”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The September release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes works examining subjects ranging from the Biblical origins of African peoples to the social and economic progress of African Americans. Also found this month is a collection of dialect poetry by Elliott Blaine Henderson, a contemporary of Paul Laurence Dunbar.


A Sketch of the Origin of the Colored Man: His Great Renown; His Downfall and Oppression; Also, the Prejudice Which Did Exist, and Still Exists to a Certain Extent, Against Him (1882)

By Charles Griffin

An irrepressible, active desire to do something to elevate my race to an honorable and equal position among the enlightened quarters of the globe has been the great leading principal [sic] that has actuated me in the preparation of this pamphlet. And so well convinced am I, that this plan which I have proposed is the only practical one for achieving the desired end, that I certainly hope to see it prosecuted with energy and zeal, until the recognition of my race shall be firmly established as those of other races in America. 

Thus begins Charles Griffin’s historical account of the peoples of Africa. After tracing their origins as far back as Ham, the youngest son of Noah, Griffin turns his attention to the condition of African Americans in the late 19th century and the cause of the prejudice against them:

“A Vitiated Education”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“When Is a Slave Rightfully a Slave?”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The September release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes diverse perspectives on America’s peculiar institution. Highlighted below are an Englishman’s assessment of American slavery and the abolition movement as well as a juxtaposition of the morality of slavery as described in the Bible against its practice in the American South. Also included is a speech by Ohio Representative Joshua Reed Giddings in which he opposes any compensation to the slave traders who claimed losses due to the Amistad mutiny.


A Brief Notice of American Slavery, and the Abolition Movement (1846)

By John Bishop Estlin

John Bishop Estlin of Bristol, England, was an ophthalmic surgeon and fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. His only daughter, Mary Anne Estlin, became a prominent British abolitionist and traveled to the United States where she met Susan B. Anthony and other activists. Estlin wrote this work to support the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society and in hopes of bringing “into view the leading features of American Slavery and the Abolition Movement, afford[ing] some information to those who have not previously paid attention to the subject.”

Describing the domestic slave trade within the U.S., which Estlin referred to as, “one of the most criminal and revolting departments of this nefarious institution,” he wrote:

“When Is a Slave Rightfully a Slave?”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

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