slavery


‘These Traitors and Villains in This Senate’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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.


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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.

‘These Traitors and Villains in This Senate’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Un-Compromising: Sovereignty and Slavery Sow the Seeds of Rebellion in 1850s Kansas

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If the present state of political discourse calls to mind the analogy of blood sport, spare a thought for “Bleeding Kansas,” that period from 1854-1861 when pro- and anti-slavery forces faced off in a violent prelude to the U.S. Civil War.

In Readex’s digital edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953, the politics of division becomes personal through handwritten accounts such as the following letter from Kansas Deputy Marshal William J. Preston to Governor John W. Geary, written on October 12, 1856. Preston described a party of approximately 240 “immigrants” who were stopped by federal troops near the Kansas-Nebraska border:

There was nothing in the appearance of this party indicating that they were peaceable immigrants. They had no stock of any kind, except those of draught. There were only seven families among them, with no visible furniture, agricultural implements, or mechanical tools, but on the contrary, they were amply supplied with all the requisite articles for camping and campaigning purposes. These were seen protruding from their vehicles.

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Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke gave Deputy Marshall Preston an exact reckoning of the baggage of these “peaceable immigrants:”

Un-Compromising: Sovereignty and Slavery Sow the Seeds of Rebellion in 1850s Kansas

‘Seize the Whole of This Unsuspecting Multitude’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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.

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A Complete History of Algiers (1728)

By Joseph Morgan

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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.

‘Seize the Whole of This Unsuspecting Multitude’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘A Rope of Sand’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an 1862 speech from the House floor in favor of the “confiscation of rebel property,” a history of the war by a Morgan's Raid commander, and a speech honoring “the remarkable career and character of Edward Augustus Wild,” a local war hero from Brookline, Massachusetts.


Confiscation of Rebel Property (1862)

Speech of Hon. William Kellogg, of Illinois, delivered in the House of Representatives, May 24, 1862

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William Kellogg (1814-1872) served in both the Illinois and U.S. House of Representatives. After refusing an appointment to be Minister to Guatemala, Kellogg accepted the position of Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court of the Nebraska Territory.

While serving in the U.S House, Kellogg was vocal in debates related to the onset of the war. In 1860, he was appointed to the Committee of Thirty-Three which was charged with proposing a path to avert war. The next year Kellogg introduced a substitute to the proposal of the committee. His proposal allowed slavery to continue in limited states and territories. He was criticized for this position and in the following year argued in favor of war power and the power of confiscation by the state.

In this speech on the “Confiscation of Rebel Property, delivered from the House floor, Kellogg said:

‘A Rope of Sand’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a 1767 address against slavery by an American physician, diplomat and politician; a memoir of travels through Africa by the self-described discoverer of the source of the Blue Nile; and Civil War-era campaign literature by the author of “Negro-mania.”

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Extract From an Address, in the Virginia Gazette, of March 19, 1767 (1767)

By Arthur Lee

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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 Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘The voice of female sorrow’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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)

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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 voice of female sorrow’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘A Complication of Evils’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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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

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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.”

‘A Complication of Evils’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Illustrated Comic or Satirical Publications in Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The current release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several illustrated comic or satirical works published in the 19th century.


Life and Adventures of Jeff. Davis (1865)

By McArone

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This satirical account of Jefferson Davis includes illustrations which are derisive in their treatment of the only president of the Confederate States of America.

On the 18th of February, ’61, Jeff. Was formally inaugurated to his new position, with Aleck Stephens as his Vice-President. It was said at the time that a president, with so few virtues, could hardly need a vice.

Both of these gentlemen are reported to have been very much tickled.

On the 4th of March ensuing, Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated, and took the place of the poor, paltry, pattering, puny old public functionary, Buchanan, who had earned some reputation by being caricatured in the funny papers, but had no other claims to be considered otherwise than in the light of a poor shoat.

After the Battle of Bull Run—"the first battle of the war that could be considered much more than a skirmish"—Davis “was on the ground in person and modified Peter Beauregard’s plans just enough to spoil them entirely.” Davis arrived in Richmond and “accepted the entire credit of the victory, in a most gracious manner.”

Illustrated Comic or Satirical Publications in Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Readex collection wins a Choice 2017 Outstanding Academic Title award!

The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society has been a named a 2017 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice, the review publication of the American College & Research Libraries division of ALA. The award is for excellence in presentation and scholarship, the significance of its contribution to the field, its originality and value as an essential treatment of its subject, and significance in building undergraduate collections.

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The award is based on Choice’s review of The American Slavery Collection, which appeared in its August 2017 issue.  Here’s an excerpt:

The American Slavery Collection…comprises more than 3,500 works held by the American Antiquarian Society among its vast collection of material….These credentials tell researchers that they are accessing the finest in peer-reviewed or expert-selected material. A number of developments in the study of popular culture in the last decade, including the intractable plague of racism still afflicting society, have again popularized the examination of slavery and leading students and scholars worldwide to pursue the truth about this ‘peculiar institution.’ Primary sources are always the most reliable for understanding the root causes of issues, and this new digital collection offers such resources as captivity narratives, memoirs, newspapers, photographs, pamphlets, and graphic materials.

Readex collection wins a Choice 2017 Outstanding Academic Title award!

‘The wants and tastes of Southern boys and girls’: Three Scarce Imprints in The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

These rare works from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society include a game book for children of the Confederacy, a satirical piece devastating to the Copperhead, and a sort of almanac for and paean to Southern women in wartime.


Uncle Buddy’s Gift Book, for the Holidays (1863)

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In his preface, the anonymous author asserts that:

You are aware that the Southern Confederacy is a new Government—that it is formed by the States which separated in 1860-61 from the Northern states of the Confederacy known as the United States of North America, because of the injustice of the people of those Northern States; and that, in consequence of this separation, those people are waging a cruel and unjust war upon the people of this Confederacy. Now, in consequence of this war, our ports being blockaded, and our means of communicating with other countries cut off, we are unable to obtain a great many things to which we were once accustomed. Among these things, are juvenile books, with which our bookstores were wont to be largely supplied during the holidays, but which we cannot now obtain, and must, therefore, either do without, or procure the substitutes that we can.

He offers his book as a worthy substitute, indeed a superior one because:

‘The wants and tastes of Southern boys and girls’: Three Scarce Imprints in The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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