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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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

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A Member of the Ladies' Home Missionary Society Visits a Five Points Family

The Five Points Mission grew out of several Protestant missionary organizations that aimed to improve conditions in the Five Points. At first they attempted to convert residents from Catholicism; later the Mission obtained pledges from Five Pointers [...]

Visitors Describe the Five Points Neighborhood

Many visitors—journalists, reformers, middle-class tourists hoping to brush up against the masses—traveled through the Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan in the nineteenth century. They left these observations.

Item Type: Book (excerpt)
A Five Points "Orphan" Is Taken In by Reverend Pease and the Five Points House of Industry

The Five Points House of Industry was organized by the Methodist minister Lewis M. Pease and headquartered in a notorious former slum building known as the Old Brewery. It was the first missionary effort in the neighborhood to offer vocational [...]

An "Irish Agent" Describes the Classes of Tenant Farmers

The following excerpts are from Valentine M'Clutchy, the Irish Agent (1845), a melodramatic novel by Irish writer William Carleton. Himself the son of a farmer whose family was evicted from their land, Carleton here offers a sympathetic description [...]

A Southern Professor Defends the Fugitive Slave Law

Albert Taylor Bledsoe, a professor at the University of Virginia, wrote this proslavery tract, Liberty and Slavery, in 1856. Bledsoe defended the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, justified slavery as compatible with the Bible, [...]

Exploring Slave Life Through Found Poetry

In this lesson students look at primary source images and read short secondary texts to understand slave life.  In the activity, the teacher models and students practice differentiating between different types of text (primary, secondary, etc.) [...]

A Former Slave Recalls Slave Quarters and Moments of Leisure

Masters and slaves viewed slave quarters very differently. While masters sought to create an ordered world where their control was complete, slaves attempted to create homes, grow food and raise families. Former slaves describe growing flowers, [...]

Item Type: Photograph
"Five Generations on Smith's Planation, Beaufort, South Carolina"

This African-American family was photographed in 1862 after Union forces captured the Sea Island coastal area of South Carolina. One of four photographs taken by Timothy O’Sullivan of the J. J. Smith plantation, this picture was subsequently [...]

Item Type: Photograph
Selling Sweet Potatoes in Charleston

Slaves commonly sold produce like sweet potatoes or peanuts and other goods on the streets of Charleston. Slave owners coordinated this “slave-hiring system” to help raise additional income for the plantation. Mary Reynolds, a former [...]

Item Type: Poster/Print
"The Voting-Place"

During the 1840s and 1850s, anti-immigrant feelings grew among many native-born whites. Nativists argued that immigrants caused many of the nation’s ills by rejecting “American” work habits, culture, and religion. Nativists and and their [...]

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