Online Primary Sources for American History: Antislavery Publications

Ths entry will mostly limit itself to newspapers, pamphlets and other ephemera. Nor will we review the long history of the abolitionist movement; we’ll allow this site that also has links to excerpted primary sources to answer for us. What we have tried to do is track down substantial runs of antislavery or abolitionist newspapers; we are not listing single issues or very limited runs. We want to present you, the reader, with a critical mass of information to more fully understand the power of the abolitionist movement and the courage of those who participated in it. By all accounts, the Society of Friends (“Quakers”) were the first group to condemn slavery; they wrote extensively on this issue and many of their works can be found in a fourteen-volume compilation entitled The Friends’ Library: Comprising  journals, doctrinal treatises, & other writings….(1837-1850).

The newspapers that follow are listed in chronological order:

Genius of Universal Emancipation was started in Baltimore in 1821 by Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker; 46 issues are here while HathiTrust holds a run from 1830-1833.

Freedom’s Journal, the first black-owned and operated newspaper in the country was published in New York between 1827 and 1829, and contained numerous editorials against slavery.

The Free Enquirer was another New York paper; it was published between 1828 and 1835. Portions of this paper are found in Tracts by Robert Owen (1830).

Published from 1831 to 1865 in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator was among the most important of the abolitionist papers; The Liberator Files contains extensive reproductions.

St Louis Observer was published between 1831 and 1836. It is best remembered because its editor, Rev. Elijah P Lovejoy, was killed by a proslavery mob as he defended his press. Many of his editorials are preserved in the Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, who was murdered in defence of the liberty of the press (1838) beginning in chapter six.

The Anti-Slavery Examiner was a New York-based paper published between 1836 and 1845 by the American Anti-Slavery Society, the major abolitionist group in this country. It also published The Anti-Slavery Record from 1835 to 1837, The Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine (1836-37), and its annual report (selected volumes).

The Friend of Man was published by the New York State Antislavery Society from 1836 to 1842. Almost the entire run is available.

The Signal of Liberty, out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, ran from 1841 to 1848. It was associated with the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society. All issues are available.

New-York (Daily) Tribune, published from 1841 to 1866 by Horace Greeley, also espoused educational reforms as well as antislavery sentiments.

Anti-Slavery Bugle was published by the Ohio American Anti-Slavery Society from 1845 to 1861.

Pamphlet collections of major value include:

Antislavery Collection, 1725-1911. From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Includes speeches, sermons, and pamphlets.

Boston Public Library Anti-Slavery Collection. Includes documents, letters, and other textual material from 1832 until after the Civil War.

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909 and African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907 are important collections from the Library of Congress.

James G. Birney Collection of Anti-slavery Pamphlets has 2000 items of interest.

Pennsylvania Abolition Society Papers has a wide selection of  local sources.

Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection at Cornell University contains over 10,000 pamphlets and leaflets as well as sermons, anti-slavery society newsletters, broadsides, etc.

And last but not least is the The Black Abolitionist Archive, a database containing over 800 addresses by African Americans as well as over 1000 abolitionist newspaper editorials; here you can find editorials from Frederick Douglass’ The North Star. Audio readings are included as well. A valuable tool.

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