American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation


antislaverywritings-e1380623723873For the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, here is a collection of writings that charts our nation’s long, heroic confrontation with its most poisonous evil. It’s an inspiring moral and political struggle whose evolution parallels the story of America itself. To advance their cause, the opponents of slavery employed every available literary form: fiction and poetry, essay and autobiography, sermons, pamphlets, speeches, hymns, plays, even children’s literature. This is the first anthology to take the full measure of a body of writing that spans nearly two centuries and, exceptionally for its time, embraced writers black and white, male and female. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano offer original, even revolutionary, eighteenth century responses to slavery. With the nineteenth century, an already diverse movement becomes even more varied: the impassioned rhetoric of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison joins the fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, and William Wells Brown; memoirs of former slaves stand alongside protest poems by John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Lydia Sigourney; anonymous editorials complement speeches by statesmen such as Charles Sumner and Abraham Lincoln.

Features helpful notes, a chronology of the antislavery movement, and a16-page color insert of illustrations. Available to order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Editorial Reviews:

“To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Library of America has compiled an impressive collection of antislavery writings from the late 17th century through to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Much of the earlier colonial writings are from clergymen who bring forth a host of biblical arguments against the practice of slavery, one of the most cogent being the testimony of Elihu Coleman, a Massachusetts Quaker who was one of the first to note how those who are silent about slavery are actually complicit in slavery. In the early post-Colonial period, theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards forcefully demonstrated the harmful effects of slavery on not only the slaves, but the masters of the slaves. This would become a common theme through the 19th century writings, which are represented here by many of the giants of American letters and the abolitionist movement, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, James Russell Lowell, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Louisa May Alcott. The next to last entry is from Charles Sumner’s eulogy on Abraham Lincoln, in which he reminds his audience of the unfinished struggle for racial equality, a struggle that would define the next century.
It’s a truly remarkable anthology and should be required reading in any study of the subject of slavery.”
–Reviewed by Paul Mullinger


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