From the introduction:
Inspired by conscience and guided by principle, abolitionists took a moral stand against slavery that produced one of America’s greatest victories for democracy. Through decades of strife, and often at the risk of their lives, anti-slavery activists remained steadfast in the face of powerful opposition. Their efforts would ultimately force the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics, and fuel the split between North and South that would lead the country into civil war.
On display from June 5 through September 27, 2003, “Abolitionism in America” documents our country’s intellectual, moral, and political struggle to achieve freedom for all Americans. Featuring rare books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, and other materials from Cornell’s pre-eminent anti-slavery and Civil War collections, the exhibition explores the complex history of slavery, resistance, and abolition from the 1700s through 1865. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view some of Cornell Library’s greatest treasures, including a manuscript copy of the Gettysburg Address written by Abraham Lincoln, a manuscript copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, and a copy of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln and members of Congress.
Curated by Petrina Jackson and Katherine Reagan. View the exhibit here: “I will be heard!” Abolitionism in America
Image Credits: Featured: Frederick County, Maryland, Court Document. Slave Purchased and Freed by her Mother, 1831. This document alludes to the poignant story of Nancy Richardson, a mother who worked diligently and ultimately purchased freedom for her enslaved daughter, Floria Barnes. This testimony legally certifies that “Floria Barnes a negro woman now before me is the identical negro woman who was heretofore purchased by her mother Nancy Richardson, and who was by the Said Nancy Richardson, manumitted and set free…” Cornell University, Gift of Gail ’56 and Stephen Rudin; Image: Anti-Slavery Tokens, 1838. “These United States issued copper tokens feature Josiah Wedgwood’s famous image of a shackled and kneeling slave, with anti-slavery sentiments on the reverse side.” Cornell University, William P. Stein Memorial Endowment. Both images as seen on “I Will Be Heard.”
Steven Hahn. “Slave Emancipation, Indian Peoples, and the Projects of a New American Nation-State.” The Journal of the Civil War Era 3, no. 3 (2013): 307–330.
“At the very time he was drafting the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched one of his generals, John Pope, to Minnesota with orders to suppress a rebellion of the eastern, or Santee, division of the Sioux. The rebellion built on at least two decades of festering tensions that had turned relatively amicable exchange relations with British, French, and American traders—some of whom had intermarried and been incorporated into villages—into hardbitten political conflicts with various federal officials and white settlers (mostly German, Scandinavian, and Irish immigrants) who hungrily eyed the fertile and game-rich terrain of southern Minnesota. In the process, the Sioux (who in this case composed four bands and called themselves Dakotas) had ceded millions of acres, which included ancestral grounds, for a strip of reservation land along the Minnesota River, annuity payments, and supplies. Recalcitrance in the U.S. Congress along with corruption among Indian agents and traders then combined to stretch a series of treaties to the breaking point; by the 1850s, the Dakotas were under great stress and increasingly divided over how best to respond, as some of their bands faced starvation…”
Beth Barton Schweiger. “The Literate South: Reading before Emancipation.” The Journal of the Civil War Era 3, no. 3 (2013): 331–359.
“The Old South had famously few public schools, but it teemed with readers. The archives are stuffed with evidence of them. Historians cannot possibly read all the diaries, letters, half-finished novels, bad poetry, receipts, recipes, lecture notes, speeches, love letters, commonplace books, and essays these readers left behind. They filled newspaper columns with their editorials and letters, magazines with their poetry, pamphlets with their sermons, mail sacks with their letters, court dockets with their opinions, and ledger books with their figures. They have supplied enough raw materials to keep members of the Southern Historical Association occupied for more than three-quarters of a century, to set scholars parsing the eighty-seven North American slave autobiographies written before emancipation, to offer Bell Wiley “amazingly large quantities” of letters written by ordinary soldiers, and to sustain Michael O’Brien for twelve hundred pages. “The South was a place,” he has written, “into which torrents of print poured….”
Brian P. Luskey. “Special Marts: Intelligence Offices, Labor Commodification, and Emancipation in Nineteenth-Century America.” The Journal of the Civil War Era 3, no. 3 (2013): 360–391.
““It seems to be absolutely necessary in large cities,” James Gordon Bennett explained in an 1859 issue of the New York Herald, “that labor, like every other merchantable commodity, should have its special marts.” In more than one column of prime, front-page real estate, Bennett informed readers about these marts, colloquially dubbed intelligence offices. Even though most Americans still found work or workers through friends and family members, these employment agencies were ubiquitous institutions in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Bennett estimated that there were between forty and sixty such shops in Manhattan, while other commentators counted hundreds. In these offices—sometimes located below ground, in basements, to evade police surveillance and city licensing requirements—employment agents sold information about the labor market to prospective employees and employers so the former could find work and the latter could find workers. Intelligence office keepers collected a fee ranging from fifty cents to a dollar from each party who sought information. In the waiting rooms of these establishments, agents, workers, and employers met face-to-face, asking questions and inspecting appearances to deduce character traits and skills in the hopes of making amenable bargains with each other….”
REVIEW ESSAY – Nicole Etcheson. “Microhistory and Movement: African American Mobility in the Nineteenth Century.” The Journal of the Civil War Era 3, no. 3 (2013): 392–404.
“African American history may be one of the last fields to receive a micro-historical treatment. Nineteenth-century African American history has been favored with sweeping accounts of the black experience, ranging from John Blassingame’s classic The Slave Community to Ira Berlin’s more recent Many Thousands Gone. Studies on more focused topics such as slavery in the Chesapeake or free blacks in the North have certainly contributed to knowledge of the black experience, but scarce records, especially the lack of firsthand accounts for many aspects of black life, make microhistory’s tight focus on the “proudly small” difficult to achieve…”
Esmé R. Cleall. “Emancipation, Slave-Ownership and the Remaking of The British Imperial World, University College London, 29–31 March 2012.” History Workshop Journal 75, no. 1 (April 1, 2013): 307–310.
This conference came out of the ESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-Ownership Project (LBS) at University College London. Since April 2009 the LBS group has been investigating the legacies of British slavery, and in particular, the afterlife of the £20 million paid to slave-owners in compensation for the loss of their ‘property’ on the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. Nick Draper has been exploring the financial and economic legacies of the £20 million, including its reinvestment in the railways and the financial City of London. Catherine Hall has been tracing the cultural memory of slave-ownership and the rewriting of histories of Britain’s involvement in slavery over the course of the nineteenth century, particularly in the writings of the descendants of slave-owners. Keith McClelland has been tracing the political legacies of the slave-owners, including the enduring power of those who had received compensation money in the British Parliament, their representation of themselves as victims of abolition, the rewriting of their history to align themselves with anti-slavery and their search for new forms of labour and work discipline. With Rachel Lang and Ben Mechan the group have also constructed an online public database of slave-owners at the point of abolition; held six public-engagement workshops across Britain to bring together academic, community and family historians of slavery; and curated an exhibition on the ‘Slave-owners of Bloomsbury’. Katie Donnington’s forthcoming PhD on the Hibbert Family is also a valuable part of this project as is the Encyclopaedia of British Slave-ownership, based on the group’s findings, which will be published shortly. The conference was thoughtfully constructed to share, discuss and extend some of the core questions raised by the LBS research group – What was the character of the British imperial state? What happened to the planters and slave economy after slavery had been abolished? What free forms of labour were established? And how can historians connect with the public, museums and artists to explore these issues?
Margaret Washington. Sojourner Truth’s America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
“This fascinating biography tells the story of nineteenth-century America through the life of one of its most charismatic and influential characters: Sojourner Truth. In an in-depth account of this amazing activist, Margaret Washington unravels Sojourner Truth’s world within the broader panorama of African American slavery and the nation’s most significant reform era.
Born into bondage among the Hudson Valley Dutch in Ulster County, New York, Isabella was sold several times, married, and bore five children before fleeing in 1826 with her infant daughter one year before New York slavery was abolished. In 1829, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a domestic, preached, joined a religious commune, and then in 1843 had an epiphany. Changing her name to Sojourner Truth, she began traveling the country as a champion of the downtrodden and a spokeswoman for equality by promoting Christianity, abolitionism, and women’s rights.
Gifted in verbal eloquence, wit, and biblical knowledge, Sojourner Truth possessed an earthy, imaginative, homespun personality that won her many friends and admirers and made her one of the most popular and quoted reformers of her times. Washington’s biography of this remarkable figure considers many facets of Sojourner Truth’s life to explain how she became one of the greatest activists in American history, including her African and Dutch religious heritage; her experiences of slavery within contexts of labor, domesticity, and patriarchy; and her profoundly personal sense of justice and intuitive integrity.
Organized chronologically into three distinct eras of Truth’s life, Sojourner Truth’s America examines the complex dynamics of her times, beginning with the transnational contours of her spirituality and early life as Isabella and her embroilments in legal controversy. Truth’s awakening during nineteenth-century America’s progressive surge then propelled her ascendancy as a rousing preacher and political orator despite her inability to read and write. Throughout the book, Washington explores Truth’s passionate commitment to family and community, including her vision for a beloved community that extended beyond race, gender, and socioeconomic condition and embraced a common humanity. For Sojourner Truth, the significant model for such communalism was a primitive, prophetic Christianity.
Illustrated with dozens of images of Truth and her contemporaries, Sojourner Truth’s America draws a delicate and compelling balance between Sojourner Truth’s personal motivations and the influences of her historical context. Washington provides important insights into the turbulent cultural and political climate of the age while also separating the many myths from the facts concerning this legendary American figure.”
Featured Image Credit: Sculptor Artis Lane, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congresswoman Jackson Lee unveiling Sojourner Truth bust at the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 2009, via Dipnote: U.S. Department of State Official Blog
Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer. Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery. First Edition. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012.
The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important documents in American history. As we commemorate its 150th anniversary, what do we really know about those who experienced slavery?
In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.
Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery. They show not only what the subjects emphasized about themselves but also the ways Americans of all colors and genders opposed slavery and marked its end.
Filled with powerful images of lives too often ignored or erased from historical records, Envisioning Emancipation provides a new perspective on American culture.
March 25th is United Nations International Day of Remembrance of Slavery Victims and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The theme for 2013 is ‘Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation:’
For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history.
The annual observance of 25 March as the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade serves as an opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, and to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.