In this issue: Turn-of-the-century black intellectuals challenge a dark pseudo-science; the contentious politics of antislavery in early 20th-century newspapers; and the flash press reveals ordinary and outrageous lives of urban women.
Britt Rusert, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (NYU Press, 2017) traces a forgotten history of black resistance to the ascendency of racial science in the nineteenth century. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, naturalists, medical doctors, comparative anatomists, and a variety of gentleman scientists became increasingly interested in the construction of human taxonomies that justified regimes of settler colonialism and enslavement in the Americas. Enslaved and indigenous people were easy targets for human experiments because of their capture and confinement within spaces like the plantation, the slave ship, and later, the reservation. > Full Story
This unique new eBook offers these five original articles by faculty specializing in African American history, literature and culture:
Commemorating W.E.B. Du Bois and “The Crisis”: Reflections on Religion and American History
Excavating Antebellum Black Politics via America’s Historical Newspapers
The Robinson Interregnum: The Black Press Responds to the Signing of Jackie Robinson
Writing the David Ruggles Biography: Newspapers Help Complete the Portrait of a Radical Black Abolitionist
A True Tale of Adultery, Murder, and Dismemberment in Black Women's History
Each author provides a first-hand description of the discovery of valuable primary sources in Readex databases, including African American Newspapers, African American Periodicals, Afro-Americana Imprints, and other digital collections.
The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes Civil War era works such as a speech from the floor of the House on the subject of slavery and pamphlets from the Loyal Publication Society focused on a faction of the Democratic Party, the Copperheads.
Slavery in the Capital of the Republic (1862)
Speech of Hon. Edward Henry Rollins, of New Hampshire
Edward Henry Rollins (1824-1889) served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives prior to the Civil War, in the U.S. House during the war, and in the U.S. Senate after the war. On April 11, 1862, arguing in favor of “the bill for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia,” he declared:
The historian who writes the deeds of nations for future generations to read, will not fail to record the truth that slavery put itself front to front with liberty, in the great rebellion of the nineteenth century. Let it be our care that men shall not blush to read that we sought to shun the real foe, and flesh our swords in some spectral horror.
This unique 34-page eBook offers five original articles that offer fresh ways to captivate and inspire college students—all based on the authors’ actual classroom experience. Written for both librarians and faculty, each short article offers first-hand descriptions of the successful integration of primary sources into teaching activities at a range of academic institutions.
The classroom uses of primary sources described in this new eBook have worked not only to introduce students to the experience of the past, but also to create deeper engagement with research activities that spark lively discussions and improve the teaching process.
The September release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an early U.S. history text that covers the introduction of slavery to the colonies, an 1835 copy of The Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine, and a call for centrism in the 1856 presidential election.
History of the United States (1816)
By David Ramsay, M. D.
David Ramsay (1749-1815) served in the South Carolina legislature during the Revolutionary War and was later a delegate to the Continental Congress. In this work he explores the history of the country from its colonial days to the first decade of the 19th century. While describing the introduction of slavery to the colonies, Ramsay, a practicing physician, points to distinctions between the North and South.
…the principal ground of difference on this head…arose, less from religious principles, than from climate, and local circumstances. In the former, they found it to be their interest to cultivate their lands with white men, in the latter, with those of an opposite color. The stagnant waters, and low lands, so frequent on the shores of Maryland and Virginia, and on the coasts, and near the rivers in the southern provinces, generate diseases, which are more fatal to whites than blacks.
Multiple choice: You’re Matthew Lyon, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1801. On the occasion of your fifty-second birthday, you’re asked what your most enduring legacy will be, that for which you’ll be remembered in two hundred years. Which of the following answers do you choose?
You were the first person convicted for violating the Sedition Act of 1798, when you accused President John Adams in print of “ridiculous pomp,” among other things.
You were the first (and only) member of Congress to be reelected while imprisoned (for the above infraction).
You were the first member of Congress charged with “gross indecency” and were repeatedly threatened with expulsion from office, for spitting in the face of a fellow member of Congress, and for the physical violence that ensued.
You cast the deciding Congressional vote to elect Thomas Jefferson as President during the Election of 1800
With perfect hindsight from the twenty-first century, the election of Thomas Jefferson looms large in the list above, but all of these choices are notable for their impact on the course of early American history. Matthew Lyon was an Irish immigrant, an entrepreneur, and an (allegedly) disgraced Revolutionary War officer who served with Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys. Lyon was a vehement anti-Federalist. The Federalists believed in a strong central government, whereas Lyon and his fellow Democratic-Republicans feared monarchy and favored states’ rights instead.
The most recent release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains an 18th-century history of Algiers, a debate on the slave-trade in the British Parliament, and a speech on the Compromise of 1850 from the floor of the U.S. Senate.
A Complete History of Algiers (1728)
By Joseph Morgan
Joseph Morgan was an early 18th century British historian and editor. In this history of Algiers, “to which is prefixed, an epitome of the general history of Barbary, from the earliest times: interspersed with many curious passages and remarks, not touched on by any writer whatever,” Morgan covers vast expanses of time and territory. He also includes the following information about a well-known desert traveler.
Extract From an Address, in the Virginia Gazette, of March 19, 1767 (1767)
By Arthur Lee
Arthur Lee (1740-1792) served as an American diplomat to Britain and France during the Revolutionary War. Prior to the war he was educated in both law and medicine. He practiced the former in London and upon returning to Virginia served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In this early work, Lee speaks against slavery, arguing:
Permit me in your Paper, to address the Members of our Assembly, on two points, in which the public interest is very nearly concerned.
The abolition of slavery, and the retrieval of a specie in this colony, are the subjects, on which I would bespeak their attention.
The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the first edition of the abolitionist newsletter The Tourist, a two-volume work examining the sinfulness of American slavery, and a collection of letters by and to noted social reformer Abigail Hopper Gibbons.
The Tourist; or, Sketch Book of the Times (1832)
Published under the superintendence of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, The Tourist was a literary and anti-slavery journal. It focused upon the exposure of slavery abuses but also contained poetry and essays on religion, housewife duties, and ancient astronomy. The first edition includes this moving account of a white woman attempting to purchase her childhood friend’s freedom:
The March release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an essay by English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, a multi-volume work on the physical history of mankind by British physician and ethnologist James Cowles Pritchard, and the 20th-anniversary proceedings of the American Anti-Slavery Society with remarks by its president, William Lloyd Garrison.
An Essay on the Comparative Efficiency of Regulation or Abolition, as Applied to the Slave Trade (1789)
By Thomas Clarkson
Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) was a British founder of The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Additionally he worked to pass the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended the British slave trade. In this 1789 essay, Clarkson writes:
That the Slave-trade contains unavoidably in its own nature, (and still more so according to the present mode of conducting it,) a complication of evils, is a position, which, I trust, that none but slave-merchants will deny.
Clarkson goes on to describe the most often held perspectives on the slave-trade by “persons, according as they are better or less informed.”