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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

Running man image from workshop poster

The Pacific Appeal was the leading African American newspaper on the West Coast during the early 1860s.  A newly-published set of eight antislavery poems from the journal's inaugural 1862 volume captures the sense of expectancy within the African American community for the imminent end of US slavery.  These poems include the work of James Madison Bell, a San Francisco plasterer, brickmason, and poet.  Read more... 
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Mob Murder Must Stop

Report of a 1911 anti-lynching speech by Rev. John Haynes Holmes. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.



A Unitarian minister, socialist and pacifist, John Haynes Holmes (1879-1964) helped to establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920. He opposed US involvement in both world wars and helped to popularize Mohandas Gandhi's ideas in the United States. For more on Holmes see his autobiography, I Speak for Myself (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959).


As part of his work for the NAACP, Holmes gave several anti-lynching speeches. Here he explains that lynching is the legacy of slavery and calls for a movement against lynching to match the abolition movement. He asks the North to renew the battle fought by William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker.


NAACP leaders frequently termed their organization a new abolition movement and promoted the presence of Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard—two descendents of abolitionists—among their ranks. One of the organization’s earliest, most-prolonged and most high-profile campaigns was against lynching, a phenomenon characterized by NAACP leaders as an attempt to reestablish slavery. Between 1882 and 1968, 4743 persons died of lynching, 3446 of them black men and women. In 1919, the NAACP published Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918, which exploded the myth that lynchings were provoked by black men raping white woman. From 1921 onward, the NAACP also sponsored anti-lynching legislation that—if passed by Congress—would have made lynching a federal crime. And as late as 1959, activists and protest writers were still imagining the NAACP as a new abolition movement. In Fifty Steps Toward Freedom (1959), William Blackwell Branch explained that the organization existed because “the spirit of the abolitionists must be revived.” For more on the NAACP, see Robert L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909-1950 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980).


Source: Chicago Defender, “Mob Murder Must Stop,” December 9, 1911: p.1.


- Zoe Trodd