Tag Archives: African American History
A Look Inside - Reminiscences of Levi Coffin

A Look Inside: Reminiscences of Levi Coffin

The full title of Coffin’s book is REMINISCENCES OF LEVI COFFIN, THE REPUTED PRESIDENT OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (BEING A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LABORS OF A LIFETIME IN BEHALF OF THE SLAVE, WITH THE STORIES OF NUMEROUS FUGITIVES, WHO GAINED THEIR FREEDOM THROUGH HIS INSTRUMENTALITY, AND MANY OTHER INCIDENTS.) It was published by the Western Tract Society in 1876.

Accessible Archives subscribers can find this fully searchable 712-page book in part VII of our Civil War collectionAbraham Lincoln Library Abolitionist Books.

Preface

I have been solicited for many years to write a history of my anti-slavery labors and underground railroad experiences, and although I had kept a diary the most of my life, it was without any prospect of ever putting it into book form. I had no desire to appear before the public as an author, having no claim to literary merit.

What I had done I believed was simply a Christian duty and not for the purpose of being seen of men, or for notoriety, which I have never sought. But I was continually urged by my friends to engage in the work, believing that it would be interesting to the rising generation; but being so fully occupied with other duties, I seemed to find no time that I could devote to this work, so that it was put off from year to year. I also often received letters from different parts of the country, desiring me to write the history of my life and labors in the anti-slavery cause, reminding me that the most of my co-laborers had passed away, and that I must soon follow, and that these stirring anti-slavery times in which I lived and labored were a part of the history of our country, which should not be lost.

But still, I deferred it until now, in the seventy-eighth year of my age. And although I feel the infirmities of that period of life fast gathering around me, I have gathered up my diaries, and other documents that had been preserved, and have written a book. In my own plain, simple style, I have endeavored to tell the stories without any exaggeration. Errors no doubt will appear, which I trust the indulgent reader will pardon, in consideration of my advanced age and feebleness. It is here proper also to acknowledge the valuable services of a kind friend, for aid received in preparing these pages for the press. I regret that I have been obliged to leave out many interesting stories and thrilling incidents, on account of swelling the size and cost of the book beyond what was agreed upon with the publishers.

Among the stories omitted is the account of the long imprisonment and sufferings of Calvin Fairbank, of Massachusetts, in the Kentucky penitentiary, for aiding fugitives, and of Richard Dillingham, of Ohio, who suffered and died in the penitentiary at Nashville, Tennessee, for a similar offense.

Part VII of our Civil War collection, Abraham Lincoln Library Abolitionist Books: Compiled by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Library in Springfield, Illinois this unique collection brings together a disparate group of abolitionist era reference materials.
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A top hat, cane and old bible in the arm of a vintage sofa. Nineteenth (XIX) century (1800s) living room with victorian details .Auckland, New Zealand

Dialogue Between a Slaveholder and the Bible

This imagined dialogue between an American slave owner and the Bible appeared in the Frederick Douglass Paper on July 9, 1852.

For Frederick Douglass’ Paper

SLAVEHOLDER: I have taken you up, my friend, to find out what you really decide on the subject, so much controverted, and of so much importance to myself. Is there anything you can honestly find fault with in this institution, as exhibited on my plantation, for instance. I take care of my slaves, as tho’ they were my own children. I feed and clothe them well: I look after their welfare in every respect, up to the best of my ability: see that their houses are dry, clean and comfortable: work them much less than any of my neighbors, so much so that they threaten to harass me with compliance with existing customs, and even talk of legislative interference: their health is carefully attended to: they hear the gospel every Sabbath, and have meetings among themselves, as often as they please out of working hours. I do not say these things to praise myself, for I know it is my duty to look after their well-being to the utmost of my ability. In short, I seek to carry out towards them, or to all men, the golden rule. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” For you, my friend, have taught me to consider them as such. – Now answer my question, put in other words, thus: Do you condemn Slavery absolutely, and without reason?

BIBLE: “Thou shalt not steal.”

SLAVEHOLDER: Steal! I abhor the thought! Steal! what do you mean? Ah, I know; you refer to the abolitionist doctrine, that a slaveholder as such, is a thief, a man -stealer. But let me tell you, my good friend, that I have nothing to do with the slave-trader. Twenty of my slaves were left me by my father’s will. My land needed more hands, and I paid handsomely (my neighbors said I gave too much for all but one) for the fifteen I have added to them during the last five years. This money is generally considered a fair equivalent for their labor, and what dishonesty is there in such a transaction as this?

BIBLE: “Be not partaker of other men’ s sins.” – 1. Tim. v, 22.

SLAVEHOLDER: Why, I thought that belonged to ministers. I see, however, that it is a principle binding on all Christians. But how does it apply to me, and such as me? You seem to mean me to consider for myself. Ah, you point back to the trade, and say I sanction it, by receiving, as the abolitionists would say, stolen men . I confess, that if the trade were as bad as they represented it, the charge would be just. but they are benefitted by the exchange of countries. They were, to sum up all their miseries in one, ignorant of the gospel in their own land. Here they hear of the Savior, and many are saved by faith in Him.

BIBLE: “As some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come, whose damnation is just.” – Rom. iii. 8.

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.
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Cotton

The Irrepressible Conflict in Play

The term Irrepressible Conflict originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting a socioeconomic collision between the institutions of the North and the South. This confrontation settle the question of whether America would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. Lincoln alluded to the same idea in his 1858 “House Divided” speech. In the late 1850s the use of the phrase did not expressly include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would be resolved through violence or armed conflict.

The Irrepressible Conflict doing its Work

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad,” is a trite saying, and one entirely applicable to the Democratic party, as is evinced unmistakably the last few years. Not looking for the remote causes that acted potentially to bring about the crisis in modern Democracy, we see it as it is, and find it in a state a distraction, and daily getting into “confusion worse confounded.” Not to go farther back into the past than a few months, we behold the once “harmonious Democracy” divided in the State conventions, held to select delegates to the national convention, and in many cases two antagonistical sets of delegates were the results of opposing conventions in the same State and of the same party.

Part IV of our Civil War collection, A Midwestern Perspective, consists of seven newspapers published in Indiana between the years of 1855 and 1869. These items provide pre-and post-Civil War information, in addition to coverage of the Civil War itself.

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oktx

New Titles Online: Oklahoma and Texas

The full-text search capability of the American County Histories database permits the student/researcher to explore all the publications of a particular county by using a single query. In addition, those wishing to read or browse the text on a page by page basis may do so in the original format merely by scrolling down the screen and then continuing to the next chapter. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked to each chapter as well as to each individual illustration. The user can select a particular graphic from the List of Illustrations and proceed immediately to it by clicking on the highlighted text.

Eight new titles are now fully searchable. They are part of one of our newest American County History sections, The Southwest. Five are from Oklahoma and three are from Texas.

New Titles

  • OklahomaPORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF OKLAHOMA: COMMEMORATING THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF CITIZENS WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE PROGRESS OF OKLAHOMA AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ITS RESOURCES
  • OklahomaSOIL SURVEY OF KAY COUNTY, OKLAHOMA
  • OklahomaMCCURTAIN COUNTY AND SOUTHEAST OKLAHOMA: HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY STATISTICS; A COMPLETE CHURCH, LODGE, SCHOOL PROFESSIONAL, BUSINESS AND TRADE DIRECTORY OF THE COUNTY
  • Oklahoma A HISTORY OF OLD GREER COUNTY AND ITS PIONEERS
  • OklahomaMUSKOGEE AND NORTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA – VOLUME 2
  • TexasPROCEEDINGS OF THE SIXTH ANNUAL REUNION OF THE OLD SETTLERS’ ASSOCIATION OF BELL COUNTY HELD AT BELTON, TEXAS, NOVEMBER 5, 1904 AND PAPERS READ AT THE REUNION
  • Texas ROSS’ TEXAS BRIGADE
  • TexasTHE LONE STAR DEFENDERS: A CHRONICLE OF THE THIRD TEXAS CAVALRY, ROSS’ BRIGADE


The full-text search capability of the American County Histories database permits the student/researcher to explore all the publications of a particular county by using a single query. In addition, those wishing to read or browse the text on a page by page basis may do so in the original format merely by scrolling down the screen and then continuing to the next chapter.


slave-house-1828

Rumors Among Slaves in Alabama – 1840

Perry County, Alabama
December 24, 1840

There has been considerable excitement in this State, in reference to disturbances among the black population. The impression is general among them that they are to be free, either after Christmas, or the 4th of March, at farthest.  Great numbers have been examined, but it is evident there is no organization among them—no concerted plans. Some say one thing, some another. One fellow testifies that Van Buren is in the region of Mongomery with 200,000 men to effect their deliverance. Another says, Queen Victoria is coming to Alabama with a British army to deliver them! So you see it is all “moonshine.”

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