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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

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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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The Social Conflict of Ages; A Rhyme for the Time

A popular political long poem published by 'the carriers of the Salem Gazette,' on New Years Day, 1857. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

 

This poem represents a sub-genre of nineteenth-century American poetry written and printed by or in behalf of newspaper apprentices and carriers.  They were published primarily for New Years Day and in broadsheet or loosebound editions.  The purpose of publishing these poems was to solicit holiday tips and contributions from newspaper subscribers in order to complement the low wages of these workers.  This sub-genre frequently addressed current political topics, usually from the perspective of the newspaper’s editorial policy. 

The Salem Gazette (1790-1908) was established byThomas Croade Cushing (1764-1824).  Although born in South Carolina, Cushing came from a long-established Massachusetts family associated with Federalist politics.  Beginning in the 1790s, the newspaper historically opposed any extension of slavery and was the journal where William Lloyd Garrison published his first antislavery essays during 1824.  See Marc Arkin, “The Federalist Trope: Power and Passion in Abolitionist Rhetoric,” 88 Journal of American History (June 2001) 1. 

This 1857 long poem reviews and opposes the extension of slavery in Kansas during the early 1850s, the 1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the US Senate floor, and predicts eventual military conflict between North and South over the slavery issue.

— Joe Lockard