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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

  • Historical Eras > Antebellum America (1816-1860) (x)

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"The Slave Mother"

This poem describes a scene where a woman, a slave, is being separated from her child by force. Francis Ellen Watkins Harper was an abolitionist and a free black woman author, teacher, and orator, who used her literary talent to fight for the [...]

Item Type: Fiction/Poetry
A California Businessman Contracts for Chinese Immigrant Labor

This labor contract between a Chinese worker, "Affon," and California businessman Jacob P. Leese, was made in Hong Kong on July 28, 1849, and witnessed by A. Shue, C. H. Brinley, and Henry Anthon, Jr., acting U.S. Vice Consul in Hong Kong. The [...]

Mexico's President Herrera Decries the Annexation of Texas

In March 1845, shortly before leaving office, President John Tyler signed a Joint Resolution of Congress offering to annex the Texas Republic to the United States. Mexico, which had never recognized the Republic and still claimed Texas as its [...]

The United States Declares War on Mexico

On April 26, 1846, following a tense stand-off between U.S. and Mexican troops on the banks of the Rio Grande (which the U.S. now claimed as its border with Mexico, having annexed the state of Texas), a small patrol of sixty-three U.S. soldiers was [...]

A Mexican General Issues a Proclamation at Matamoros

Before being replaced by General Arista, General Francisco Mejía was the commander of the Mexican army at Matamoros, facing the American forces at Fort Texas on the opposite side of the Rio Grande. In this elaborately-worded proclamation, General [...]

Democrats Outline their 1856 Party Platform

In an attempt to settle sectional conflicts about the expansion of slavery, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The act stated that the residents of Kansas and Nebraska, rather than the federal government, would determine the legality [...]

"Verses on the Death of Miss Annie Lillie"

These verses memorialize Annie Lillie, a 16-year-old victim of the North Pennsylvania Railroad disaster, known as "The Great Train Wreck of 1856." The worst railroad accident in history up to that time, the disaster occurred when two trains collided [...]

Tags: railroads
Item Type: Music/Song
"Poor Pat Must Emigrate"

A.W. Auner of Philadelphia was among the most prolific printers of "broadside ballads," cheaply-produced topical songs and poems that were widely available throughout the nineteenth century. "Poor Pat Must Emigrate," published by Auner sometime in [...]

"Many Thousand Go"

Both the author and original date of "Many Thousand Go" are unknown, as is usually the case with slave songs. It was first published in a collection entitled Slave Songs of the United States (New York: A. Simpson & Co., 1867). The compilers of [...]

Item Type: Music/Song
Chief Justice Taney's Majority Opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, Supreme Court judges considered two key questions: did the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to African-Americans, and could Congress prohibit slavery in new states? The first excerpt below addresses [...]

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