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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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Pinda: A True Tale

Antislavery story based on fugitive histories, published as a tract by Maria Weston Chapman (New York, 1840). Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

 

Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885) was a central figure in the antebellum US antislavery movement.  She was associated with the Garrisonian wing of antislavery activism, beginning with leading the 1835 Anti-Slavery Bazaar in Boston.  Chapman worked with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, the American Anti-Slavery Society, and other abolitionist groups.  From 1839-1858 she edited The Liberty Bell, the antislavery annual sold at bazaars.  Chapman was responsible for recruiting European intellectual and political support for the antislavery cause. 

 

Her publications include probably the first US antislavery song-book, Songs of the Free and Hymns of Christian Freedom (Boston: I. Knapp, 1836); Right and Wrong in Massachusetts (Boston: Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1839); with Jonathan Walker, Trial and Imprisonment of Jonathan Walker, at Pensacola, Florida, for Aiding Slaves to Escape from Bondage (Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, 1846); How Can I Help Abolish Slavery? (New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1855); and editorship of Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography (Boston: J.R. Osgood and Co., 1877).  

 

Pinda: A True Tale, a brief 23-page story published in 1840, is ‘movement fiction’: it has a clear political message calling for support for antislavery organizations.  Like many antislavery stories, it asserts that the narrative is more truth than fiction.  While some elements of this story are speculative, the basic narrative appears quite real.  At present, there has been no identification of who the real-life ‘Pinda’ or her owner might have been. 

 

The tale relates the story of a slave-woman from Savannah, Georgia, who, fearing her family would not learn her fate, foregoes an opportunity to claim her freedom while accompanying her master, Mr. Logan, during a visit to the North.  He appears later at an abolitionist meeting and uses this incident as proof that slaves do not desire freedom. (6-8)   However, Pinda’s husband and family give her money and support for an escape when she returns to Massachusetts on a second trip to accompany her master’s family.  There abolitionists offer her assistance and concealment while Mr. Logan hunts for her.  After a year and a half of residence in Boston, Pinda’s husband Abraham manages to escape and join her. (16-19)   It is this couple, Chapman suggests, that introduced a scheme of weekly contributions to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, one that she concludes by asking the reader to join. (22-23)   The story contrasts their instinctive consciousness of slavery’s inflictions with that of religious ministers determined to remain silent on the subject.

 

For further, see Clare Taylor, Women of the Antislavery Movement: The Weston Sisters (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995) and Lee Chambers-Schiller, “The Value of Female Public Rituals for Feminist Biography: Maria Weston Chapman and the Boston Anti-Slavery Anniversary,” A/B: Auto/Biography Studies 8 (Fall 1993) 2:217-232.

 

- Joe Lockard