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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 Tocsin

Broadside containing a poem by John Pierpont; probably published prior to 1843. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.


This single-page broadsheet contains a poem by antislavery writer John Pierpont (1785-1866). The poem also appears in his volume, Anti-Slavery Poems (Boston: Oliver Johnson, 1843) at pp. 15-20, in an annotated and slightly different version.  Although it is not known for what specific occasion this broadsheet was published, it was probably printed prior to 1843 in connection with antislavery public meetings. The poem is an indignant religious and political jeremiad, condemning the clergy, politicians and press for failure to oppose slavery. It asserts that individual and institutional failures to oppose slavery emerged from a prevailing social fear of mob violence (stanzas 8, 9, 16). Stanzas 8 and 9 reference the mob burning of Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia in 1838. The poem is unusual among antislavery poems for linking the expansion of slavery to the mistreatment of the Cherokee and Seminoles.    For further on Pierpont, see Anti-Slavery Poems.   For another Pierpont broadside, see A Word from a Petitioner to Congress (1837).


— Joe Lockard