Tag Archives: Slavery

A Moment in the Decades Long Battle Against American Slavery

When looking back at important social justice movements, it is very easy to lose sight of the duration of the movement.  Our eyes jump to key events like the passage of the 14th and 19th amendments ending slaving and guaranteeing women the right to vote, or passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 that put largely ended mass child labor in the United States, and we sometimes forget that each of those key moments were the result of generations long efforts by people standing up to injustice and cruelty.

Women were fighting for voting rights before the Civil War ended in 1865, but a federal guarantee of that right did not come to pass until 55 years later in 1920.  There were people speaking out against the institution of slavery in the American colonies before the Revolutionary War. (See Timeline of Events Relating to the End of Slavery)

This meeting report on resolutions passed by the West Newbury Anti-Slavery Society  was printed in the September 24, 1841 issue of The Liberator. I was over 24 more years before the United States banned slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865.

One thing we can take from this is the knowledge that while change rarely happens quickly, it does happen if the people confronting injustice do not give up hope and never stop fighting.

William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator was a weekly abolitionist newspaper published in Boston. The paper held true to the founder’s ideals. Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists.

WEST NEWBURY, Sept. 6, 1841.

Brother. Garrison:

Agreeably to a vote passed at the annual meeting of the West Newbury Anti-Slavery Society, the following preamble and resolutions, offered by A.P. Jaques, at the last quarterly meeting, and, subsequently, unanimously adopted, are now offered for publication in the Liberator: (more…)


Abuse of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

Many cases like this appeared in newspapers run by African American and white abolitionists. Collected from local papers and correspondents, they were shared to keep attention on the abuses of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. As long as this law was in place, free black Americans could be illegally kidnapped and taken south and sold without any evidence that they were previously enslaved.

This one appeared on the Frederick Douglass Paper on July 16, 1852.

KIDNAPPING. The Ironton Register details a case of kidnapping in Lawrence county. – A negro man, who had been for some time resident in that county, loaned some money to a white man, by name, Collier, who was to give a note for it, payable on demand; but, instead, a note was given payable in a year, including the interest. The negro could not read; but when he learned what the note was, called upon Collier for the money, which was refused.

A day or two after he sent for the negro to come and get his money. The next morning, Collier and two men, named Davis, were seen taking him bound towards the Ohio River. Collier soon after returned, and went to church with the negro’s clothes on!

The absence of the negro under the circumstances, excited the neighborhood, and Collier and the Davises were arrested and held to bail, jointly, in $300. It was soon after ascertained that the negro was in jail at Greenup, Kentucky. He had free papers, which were taken from him.

The accused were indicted but made their escape into Kentucky where they are at large. – Christian Free Press.

To learn more about this law and its tendency towards misuse, check out The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Explained.

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.


Reign of Terror at The South: Exiles from Kentucky (1860)

This article on the expulsion of anti-slavery Americans from Kentucky was part of a longer selection of coverage expulsions of people from other southern states including Alabama and Mississippi. It appeared in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on January 14, 1860.

From The Cincinnati Gazette, Dec. 31.

TWELVE families, embracing in all thirty-nine persons, arrived in this city at eight o’clock last evening, from Berea, Madison County, Kentucky, whence they were forced to move on account of entertaining anti-slavery views and opinions. The entire party took rooms at the Dennison House, the heads of families registering their names as follows: T. A. R. Rogers, John Smith, John G. Harrison, Jas. I. Davis, John F. Boughton, Swinglehurst Life, T. E. E. Hayes, G. W. Parker, W. F. Tony, C. W. Griffin and T. D. Reed.

Most of the number are natives of the State, and several were born and reared in the county which they were required by the authorities to leave. The greater part are young men, but there are others far past three score years and ten; these, added to children in arms and defenceless women, comprise the list that have for the past two weeks created such dread to that part of Kentucky geographically described as Madison County. In connection with the above list should appear the name of the Rev. John G. Fee, a native of Kentucky, and whose father is and has always been a large slaveholder.

The reverend gentleman founded several anti-slavery institutions in Madison County, which induced the slaveholding citizens, about two weeks ago, to notify Mr. Fee that he must leave the State. He did so, and is at present, with his companions, in this city. The full particulars of the whole matter will be found appended. The party, with whom our reporter had a lengthy conversation, had no definite object in view; bereft of their homes and firesides, they are driven ruthlessly into a strange State, among strange people, to seek new homes and new firesides, and all for the reason of a difference of opinion and its honest expression.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.


A Free Colored Boy in a New Orleans Slave Dungeon (1855)

This item appeared in the July 27, 1855, issue of the Frederick Douglass’ Paper published in Rochester, New York.

Isaac Roberts a free colored boy of Ohio is now confined in prison in New Orleans as a runaway slave. The boy formerly resided in Harveysburgh in the Southwestern part of the State. The following account of the proceedings of a meeting in that place for his release we find in the Wilmington Independent:

At a meeting of the Citizens of Harveysburgh and vicinity, held in said place on the 7th inst., for the purpose of effecting the release of Isaac Roberts, a free colored boy of Ohio, now imprisoned as a runaway slave in the City of New Orleans. Wm. Sabin presided, and Charles Hurd, was appointed secretary.

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.

Run-Away from the Subscriber-Blur

Run-Away from the Subscriber…

Freedom on the Move is a database of fugitives from North American slavery. With the advent of newspapers in the American colonies, enslavers posted “runaway ads” to try to locate fugitives. Additionally, jailers posted ads describing people they had apprehended in search of the enslavers who claimed the fugitives as property.

Many of these ads, in their original context, are available to Accessible Archives subscribers in the 18th century newspapers of Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

This ad is particularly moving because it involves what sounds like a family and at least some of the group had lived as free people for a time before being re-enslaved.

Fifty Pounds Reward

The South-Carolina Gazette, April 3, 1775

The South-Carolina Gazette, April 3, 1775

(The South-Carolina Gazette, April 3, 1775) RUN-AWAY from the Subscriber at Herring’s Bluff, in St. Matthew’s Parish, the Five following NEGROES,viz.

A Negro Fellow named July; a Wench named Kate (Wife of July). July is a slim made Fellow, pitted with the smallpox. Kate is a stout black Wench, with remarkable large Breasts. Sophia, a slim made Girl about thirteen Years of Age. Charles, a Boy about five Years of Age, and one Girl about eighteen Months old.

The above Negroes were purchased by me from the Rev. Mr. Tonge, who lived at or near Dorchester. When I purchased them, they had been out 18 Months, and passed for free Negroes in the back Parts of this Province. July is a sensible artful Fellow, and may again attempt to pass for a free Negro, as he has formerly done. Any Person apprehending the said Negroes, and delivering them up to any of the Country Goals, or to the Warden of the Workhouse in Charles-Town, shall receive a Reward of Fifty Pounds, with all reasonable Charges.

-Feb. 1, 1775. WILLIAM FLUD.

N. B. It is suspected that they will go towards North Carolina. If the said Fellow July should be catched and carried to any of the Country Goals, he must be put in Irons, as he will strive to make his Escape.

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