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[Detail] Experience and personal narrative of Uncle Tom Jones...1858

Historical Research Capabilities

This collection is a rich resource of materials that can support a thorough, in-depth investigation into the complex history of the institution of slavery and the issues surrounding it. One facet of this history is the colonization effort that began in 1816 with the formation of the American Colonization Society. A search on Liberia results in a number of documents discussing Liberia, including a report on the Navy’s role in repatriation, “The U.S. Navy in Connection with the Foundation, Growth and Prosperity of the Republic of Liberia” and an 1869 address to the American Colonization Society by the first president of Liberia. Additional information on the history of Liberia is available in the exhibit, The African-American Mosaic, and in the American Memory collection, Maps of Liberia, 1830-1870, which includes a special presentation of a timeline of the nation’s history.

  • What was the role of the federal government in colonizing Liberia?
  • How did Liberia develop into an independent nation in 1847?
  • What were the potential benefits for African Americans moving to Liberia?

The collection’s Subject Index also offers information that is closer to the domestic slavery debate. The term, White Supremacist Literature, introduces a number of arguments against emancipation from citizens of the North. “The Mediator Between North and South” claims, “The time of punishment has arrived, and will persecute us until we have found a remedy to cure the evil, which would be how to get rid of the negroes, with a clear conscience and profit to the nation,” (page 6). “African Slavery Regarded from an Unusual Stand-point” argues“that this modern idea of the equality of the races of men is disproved by the experience of the world and sound science,” (page 3).

  • What is the basis for these arguments against emancipation?
  • What were the social, scientific, and religious ideas introduced in these pieces?
  • What does the language of these pieces suggest about the argument made?
  • Who were the white supremacists? What might have been their motivation for printing this material? What might have been their goal?
  • Might this literature be an outgrowth of class tensions?
  • Given that such materials were created in the 1860s, might these ideas have been in reaction to attitudes specific to the historical events or the political climate of the era?
  • How do these arguments compare to some of the speeches presented in Congress at the time?