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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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An Address to the Quarterly, Monthly and Preparative Meetings, and the Members Thereof, composing the Yearly Meeting of Friends, held in Philadelphia, by the Committee appointed at the late Yearly Meeting to have charge of the Subject of Slavery

An 1839 committee report by the Society of Friends on the subject of slavery. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

 

This 1839 religious tract comes from the Society of Friends in Philadelphia.  Although signed by the clerk of a committee on slavery, authorship is collective and anonymous, and the Meeting published the tract in plain brown wrapping without an external title.  Unidentified authorship and absence of a cover page speak to the Quaker emphasis on a plain-style and humble aesthetic.

 

The tract briefly reviews the history of Quaker participation in antislavery work.  At the end of the 1830s, the first decade of well-organized political abolitionism in the United States and one that witnessed the end of slavery in the British West Indies, the authors observe that the antislavery movement “has risen like a stream that at first reached only to the ankles, but is now become as a mighty river, apparently resistless in its course.” (7)  The increase in attention to human rights, they believe, is “causing this system of iniquity to totter at its base.” (ibid)  They celebrate emancipation in the West Indies as heralding a “new era.” (9)

 

The authors pay particular attention to those slave-holders who, they believe, have consciences “burdened by a system which they derived from their ancestors, [and] who find themselves surrounded by iniquitous and restraining laws against Emancipation.” (10)  In essence, this committee supports an unsubstantiated belief that there exists a significant class of slave-holders desiring to overthrow the institution in which they participate.  Finally, the committee calls on fellow Friends to join in educational and religious work among Philadelphia’s free blacks to dispel “the cloud of thick darkness which now envelopes so many in their various neighbourhoods.” (11)

 

- Joe Lockard