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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 Inhabitants of Charleston, South Carolina (XHTML)

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Printed by Kimber, Conrad, & Co.

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            Singular as it may appear to many of you to be addressed by an unknown female, from a distant land, after this manner; I trust I am actuated therein by no other motives than the influence of that gospel love, shed abroad in my heart, which induces me, at times, with earnest solicitude, to crave the present and everlasting well-being of all my fellow-creatures. Impressed by these feelings, and an apprehension of duty, I have been engaged to leave divers of the nearest and tenderest connexions in life, for a season, to visit many of my friends, in religious profession, and others,

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on this continent, as my way opened. But not apprehending I am required to pay you a personal visit (though I have felt my mind engaged on your behalf, in a very peculiar manner( I believe it right thus to call your attention to some considerations, which have appeared to me awfully important, as they regard your real interest, both in time and in eternity. In passing along through some of the southern states, my mind has been painfully affected at the sight of numbers of my fellow-creatures, of the African race, deprived of their natural liberty, and of almost every means of improvement of those faculties bestowed upon them as well as ourselves, for the noblest of purposes, but that all-wise and bountiful Creator, in whom “we live and move and have our being;”* and who, we are told by the great apostle of the Gentiles, “hath made of one blood all nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before

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appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”* For any of us, his dependent creatures, to force them from the place thus appointed by a gracious and superintending Providence, appears to be an infringement on the order and Ĺ“conomy of this part of his rational creation, for which the aggressors must be accountable at his awful tribunal, who is infinite in justice as well as in mercy. I lament—exceedingly lament, that a custom, so barbarous as well as so repugnant to every principle of humanity and justice, as the African Slave-Trade, should be continued in this or any other nation, and by involving them in the greatest of national crimes, lay them open to those national punishments, which must be expected, as a just retribution for the blood of thousands of those innocent people, which has long cried for vengeance, and who cry has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth. What then must be the expectation of those who support

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this horrid traffic, by purchasing and continuing in slavery those who have never forfeited that right of liberty they derive, with ourselves, from the one Universal Parent? What, but “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,”* when he standeth up to plead who hath declared, that “for the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy he will arise,” who is undoubtedly able to deliver the oppressed from the hand of him that is mightier than he! While such also continue the profession of Christianity, and are in the performance of what are deemed religious duties and ceremonies, may not these come under the same description as those spoken of by the prophet, when he says, “ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness!”§ May all such, therefore, have their spiritual eyes so anointed, as clearly to discover that the fast which the Lord “hath chosen, is to loose the

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bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke: when thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and hide not thyself from thine own flesh: and if thou draw out thy soul, then shall they light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day.* That this may become the engagement, and consequent experience of all those concerned in this sinful traffic, and of the inhabitants of Charleston in particular, that so you may “break off your sings by righteousness, and your iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of your tranquility,” and the means of awful, and I apprehend, impending judgments being averted, is the sincere desire of one who wishes health and salvation to the souls of all mankind.
                                                            ANN ALEXANDER
Philadelphia, 3d. Mo. 1st, 1805.

* Acts xvii. 28.
* Acts xvii. 25.
* Heb. x. 27. 
Psal. xii. 5.
§ Isa. lviii. 4.
* Isa. lviii. 6, 7. 10.
Dan. lv. 27.