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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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"Stowage of the British slave ship Brookes under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788"

The campaign to abolish the Atlantic slave trade first emerged during the 1780s in Great Britain. Although slavery was not widespread in Britain, its merchants had long dominated the trade and helped to promote slavery throughout European colonies [...]

Chart of the Voyages of the Slave Ship Brookes

This chart shows detailed information about the voyage of the Brookes, a British slave ship documented by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson as part of the evidence he presented to Parliament in 1788 in an effort to demonstrate the horrors that [...]

Frederick Douglass Declares There Is "No Progress Without Struggle"

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave, a leader of the anti-slavery movement in the North, editor of the abolitionist newspaper The North Star and, after the Civil War, a diplomat for the U.S. government. This excerpt is from an address on West [...]

Item Type: Speech
The Dred Scott Decision "Cannot Stand"

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave and leader of the anti-slavery movement in the North. This excerpt is from an address he delivered to the Anniversary of the American Abolition Society held in New York, May 14, 1857.

A Congressman "Pleads the Case of White Men"

In 1847, Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania made a speech (excerpted below) to the House of Representatives in which he proposed a legislative amendment that would ban slavery from any territory acquired as a result of the war with Mexico. [...]

Item Type: Speech
"To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for North America &c."

Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet, was also the second woman in colonial America to publish a book on any subject. Born in Gambia, where she was taken into slavery, Wheatley was sold to the Wheatleys, a prosperous Boston [...]

"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
Slaves Petition the Massachusetts Legislature

Throughout the revolutionary era, scores of slaves signed petitions that linked their demands for freedom with the cause of American independence. Below is the text of one such petition presented to the Massachusetts legislature.

First Decennial Census of the United States, 1790

The first national census showed a total population of 3.9 million people. The results, gathered by U.S. marshals on horseback, were divided into categories of "free white males of 16 years and upwards," "free white males under fifteen years," "free [...]

New Amsterdam Grants "Half Freedom" to Slaves

In the 1640s, a group of enslaved Africans petitioned the Dutch West India Company for their freedom. The company's director-general, William Kieft, agreed to grant them "half freedom" (their children were not free and they owed an annual payment to [...]

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