Tag Archives: African American Newspapers
Library Fire

The Congressional Library Burns

Today, the Library of Congress celebrates its 217th birthday. On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved the appropriation of $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of congress.”

On December 24, 1851, the largest fire in the Library’s history destroyed 35,000 books, about two–thirds of the Library’s 55,000 book collection, including two-thirds of Jefferson’s original transfer. Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the Library’s administration by librarian John Silva Meehan and joint committee chairman James A. Pearce, who worked to restrict the Library’s activities.

Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the Library’s administration by librarian John Silva Meehan and joint committee chairman James A. Pearce, who worked to restrict the Library’s activities.

Between 1865 and 1870, Congress appropriated funds for the construction of the Thomas Jefferson Building, placed all copyright registration and deposit activities under the Library’s control, and restored the Library’s international book exchange. The Library also acquired the vast libraries of both the Smithsonian and historian Peter Force, strengthening its scientific and Americana collections significantly. By 1876, the Library of Congress had 300,000 volumes and was tied with the Boston Public Library as the nation’s largest library.

When the Library moved from the Capitol building to its new headquarters in 1897, it had over 840,000 volumes, 40% of which had been acquired through copyright deposit.

The 1851 fire was reported in Frederick Douglass’s newspaper on January 8, 1852. At the time of the fire, the library was still part of the Capitol building.

Burning of the Congressional Library

On Wednesday morning, Dec. 24th (1851), a fire was discovered in the Library rooms of the Capitol at Washington. The alarm was immediately given, and the Fire department, promptly on the spot, used their utmost exertions to arrest the flames, but unhappily failed to do so before the splendid collection of books upon the shelves, was more than half consumed. The morning was an extremely frosty one, and the chill air and the ice-bound water seriously impeded operations. The President, the members of the Cabinet and of Congress , lent every assistance; and by their direction, the roof connecting with the rotunds, was torn away, and the remainder of the building saved. The fire was brought under control about noon. The origin of it is unknown.

The Library occupied three apartments in the main building. The main room was a very large one, ninety-two by thirty-four feet, with a gallery round it. There were six recesses, or alcoves, on either side. The number of volumes upon the shelves was about 55,000; all of them works of the highest value, and many of them wholly irreplaceable.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
(more…)


Fugative Slave Act 1850

The Manstealing Law Explained

The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers.

This was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a “slave power conspiracy”. It required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate in this law. Abolitionists nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Law” for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.

In Frederick Douglass’ newspaper, The North Star, the editors referred to use of the law as “Manstealing” in reference to the Bible verse, Exodus 21:16 that reads: And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

An April 24, 1851 poster warning the "colored people of Boston" about policemen acting as slave catchers.

An April 24, 1851 poster warning the “colored people of Boston” about policemen acting as slave catchers.

We copy from the Lowell American the following abstract:

It is necessary that the people shall be acquainted with the kidnapping law recently enacted by Congress, and as we cannot keep in type the entire law, we have made a brief but correct synopsis of it. Here it is:

But in the first place let us give Daniel Webster’s endorsement of the bill. The following is from his speech of the 7th of March, 1850:

“Every member of every Northern Legislature is bound by oath to support the Constitution of the United States; and this article of the Constitution which says to these States that they shall deliver up fugitive slaves is as binding an honor and in conscience as any other article; and no man fulfils his duty, under his oath, in any State Legislature who sets himself to work to find excuses, evasions, escapes from his constitutional duty. My friend at the head of the Judiciary Committee has a bill upon the subject now before the Senate, with some amendments to it which have been offered. I propose to support that bill with all proper authority and provisions in it, to the fullest extent – to the fullest extent.”

Now here is the substance of the “Bill”:

Duties of Commissioners.
Commissioners who have been or shall be appointed by the Circuit Courts of the United States, are authorized and required to exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act. – Sec. 1.

Appointment of Commissioners.
The Superior Court of each organized Territory shall have the same power to appoint Commissioners as the Circuit Court of the U.S., and the commissioners appointed by these Superior courts are to possess the powers conferred upon those appointed by the Circuit Courts. – Sec . 2.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
(more…)


Shall they vote

Shall Our Women Vote? (1887)

By Rev. R.Z. Roberts

Whatever may be discussed through the columns of our great Church organ – the RECORDER – this is a question that all should consider. There are many spheres in life to which women have been admitted, in which she was expected to make a successful failure, but instead she has been a success. In school as a student or as a teacher; in the pulpit, at the bar, or issuing medicine to the sick and dying – in any of the above woman has won laurels for herself; and so far she has not failed to wield that sweet and refining influence over men. Yet it is thought that this influence would immediately be sacrificed should she go to the polls and cast her vote. Is it possible that the father, husband and brother become such savages at the polls that they would be entirely beyond the influence of mother, wife, sister or daughter? If so, voting has a low moral tendency. If in other spheres in life woman wields an untold influence, why not at the polls?

In any gathering where women are absent, there is a certain degree of monotony; and men themselves don’t exhibit the culture and refinement in the absence of women that they do when they are present. Men have no right to limit gifts or talents.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
(more…)


christmas-bells

Christmas Customs

The first traces of Christmas observance found in ancient history are early in the second century, at least prior to A.D. 138. In some churches, the Epiphany and Christmas were celebrated as one festival.

In the fourth century, after an elaborate investigation, the 25th of December was agreed upon, and has ever since been observed throughout Christendom. There may be still more unbelievers, but the historical and astronomical evidence in favor of this day, amounts to almost a demonstration, if such language can ever be applied to that class of testimony.

We derive our Christmas customs more immediately from old England, where it was a religious, domestic and merry making festival, for every rank and every age.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
(more…)


Slave quarters on a plantation, possibly in Beaufort, South Carolina

The Political Power of Slave Masters (1848)

This report appeared in Frederick Douglass’s The North Star on October 20, 1848.

In 1847, with Douglass and M.R. Delaney as editors, The North Star was established: “…It has long been our anxious wish to see, in this slave-holding, slave-trading, and negro-hating land, a printing-press and paper, permanently established, under the complete control and direction of the immediate victims of slavery and oppression…”

The Slave Power – Politically

It appeared by the last census, that the number of slaves in the U. States, was 2,487,113.

Estimating ten slaves to one master, there were only 248,711 slaveholders. Of the legal voters of the United States, the slaveholders are about as 1 to 20.

Three-fifths of 2,487,113, is 1,492,255, which divided by 70,680, the present ratio of representation, makes 21 – the exact number of members on the floor of the House of Representatives, in Congress, sent there, under Section 2d of the Constitution, to represent the Slave Power.

The Senate has a Veto on every law, and as one-half of that body are slaveholders, it follows, of course, that no law can be passed without their consent.

No bill has passed the Senate, nor a treaty been ratified, since the organization of the government, but by the votes of slaveholders.

Appointments are made by the President, with the consent of the Senate, and of course the slaveholders have, and always have had, a veto on every appointment.

In consequence of the peculiar apportionment of Presidential Electors among the States, and the operation of the rule of federal numbers, whereby, for the purpose of estimating the representative population, five slaves are counted as three white men, most extraordinary results are exhibited at every election for President .

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
(more…)