African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection
Articles and Essays
Abolition and Slavery
In the debate over whether new states and territories should be free or slaveholding, few spoke more passionately than Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner. In this speech, delivered before the Senate in 1860 when Kansas applied for statehood, Sumner makes clear his abolitionist stance. Decrying slavery as barbaric, he criticizes various pro-slavery arguments and offers statistics to show how, in his opinion, slavery rendered the...
Politics and Government
This pamphlet presents editorials from a Washington, D.C., newspaper, the National Intelligencer, purporting to contain the intercepted correspondence between Judah P. Benjamin, secretary of state for the Confederacy, and L. Q. C. Lamar, the Confederate commissioner to Russia. In it Benjamin instructs Lamar to avoid treaty negotiations with European countries that might stipulate opposition to the slave trade. Benjamin argues that the Confederate Constitution...
From its earliest years, the American Colonization Society (A. C. S.) drew sharp criticism, from both blacks and whites, for its efforts to resettle free African Americans in Liberia. Many believed colonization was a scheme to perpetuate slavery. This three-part tract, published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, offers a critical view of the A. C. S.
Religion and the Church
In this pamphlet written for a British audience, the author James Birney attempts to show how Protestant churches in the United States helped propagate slavery by refusing to condemn the institution and by allowing church members to mistreat slaves without censure. The son of a wealthy Kentucky slaveowner, Birney advocated the immediate emancipation of slaves and established an anti-slavery newspaper, The Philanthropist, to serve...
Nearly a decade after he gave his controversial address at the opening of the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition, the renowned African-American spokesman Booker T. Washington appeared at a meeting in New York's Madison Square Garden to speak on behalf of the Hampton Institute.
Born to a prominent slaveholding family in South Carolina, the sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimké became two of America's most prominent female abolitionists. They also supported women's rights and were instrumental in linking the two crusades.
Although the Fifteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, guaranteed all male citizens the right to vote, Southern whites fearful of African-American political involvement created voting restrictions that made it nearly impossible for most African-American men to cast a ballot. These restrictions included poll taxes, literacy tests, and property-ownership requirements.
In this tract the African-American professor Caesar A. Taylor attempts to prove biblical statements about hell by quoting scientific principles. He argues that hell can be found in the "bowels of the earth" and offers a diagram of its exact location and size. He writes:
Daniel Murray: A Collector's Legacy
A pioneering African American bibliographer and historian, Daniel Alexander Payne Murray spent 51 years (1871-1922) working at the Library of Congress, leaving a legacy of rare and important literary materials that document the lives and accomplishments of African Americans. He believed that "the true test of the progress of a people is to be found in their literature." An agent of change in a...