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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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Christmas, and Poems on Slavery for Christmas, 1843

A set of Christmas and antislavery poems published by Thomas Hill (1818-1891) for the Boston antislavery fair. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.


Thomas Hill (1818-1891) was born and educated in Brunswick, New Jersey.  He received a first degree from Harvard in 1843, graduated from Harvard divinity school in 1845, and assumed the pulpit of a Unitarian church in Waltham, Massachusetts.  He remained there until 1859, when he succeeded Horace Mann as president of Antioch College.  In 1862, Hill became president of Harvard College, where he remained until 1868.  After leaving Harvard he served in the Massachusetts state legislature, joined Louis Agassiz on a scientific expedition to South America, and re-entered the ministry as pastor of a Unitarian church in Portland, Maine.

 Hill gained a national reputation as a mathematician and inventor of calculating machines.  His major works include Geometry and Faith (1849 and succeeding editions); Jesus, the Interpeter of Nature, and Other Sermons (1860); The True Order of Studies (1876); Wentworth & Hill’s Practical Arithmetic series (1881); In the Woods, and Elsewhere (1888); and The Postulates of Revelations and of Ethics (1895), together with numerous arithmetic instruction books, essays on mathematics and astronomy, and published sermons.  Hill's writings view science as a means of discovering divine laws, and he expressed opposition to Darwin.

 While still a student at Harvard, Hill published this small tract containing five poems for charity sale at the year-end Boston antislavery fair in 1843.  Such tracts were common fund-raising devices for the abolitionist movement.  Two of Hill’s poems, “The Mother’s Prayer” and “The Runaway,” were among the better-known antislavery poetry.  Hill’s poems on slavery have a dramatic quality that distinguishes them from the more generic sentiments of his religious poetry. 


- Joe Lockard