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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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What Have We, as Individuals, to Do with Slavery?

An 1855 tract by abolitionist Susan Cabot calling on individual citizens to assume responsibility for ending slavery; published by the American Anti-Slavery Society. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.


Susan C. Cabot (1794-1861), from a leading Massachusetts family, was well-known in the Boston abolitionist community.  This brief tract, published in New York in 1855 by the American Anti-Slavery Society, is her only known publication.  For an example of Cabot’s correspondence, see 'Letter to a Friend,' available from the Women Writers Resource Project (Emory University).

In this tract Cabot addresses those who find excuses to avoid confrontation with slavery, pleading other preoccupation with other causes or futility in such efforts.  She responds that “our interest for the slave springs from the same source as our interest for the poor” (2) and that justice is not limited by race.  Those sympathetic to the cause of the slave too often function under “a distinct idea that they must accomplish something” (2) in practical terms, Cole observes, but their real accomplishment comes in demonstrating solidarity and public sympathy with the slave.  Cole argues that racial prejudice limits white solidarity with slaves and must be overcome: “But the poor negro whose dark skin we are unaccustomed to, whose chains are riveted by the hand of the white man, who degradation is compelled by the avarice of selfishness, must be pleased for, must be reasoned about, before we can penetrate the prejudice that hardens the heart against him…” (3)  If these were three million white rather than black slaves, she comments, there would be great sympathy and less criticism of inadequate measures.  Cole finds that the antislavery movement in Boston is overcoming such prejudice, noting the rescue attempt for fugitive slave Anthony Burns in June 1854.  An evangelical Christian, Cole believes that lack of sympathy for slaves lies in failure to recognize that “we are all children of God” (6) and slavery has roots in atheism.


- Joe Lockard