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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 [...]

Slave Laws in British Colonial New York, 1664—1731

As the population of enslaved Africans grew, colonial elites in New York passed laws to restrict the activities and movements of black residents. These laws were similar to laws passed in Virginia and Maryland, indicating that white fears of slave [...]

An Indentured Servant Testifies About the Existence of a Slave Conspiracy in New York

In 1741, a series of fires broke out in Manhattan, the most serious of which was within the walls of the governor's home in Fort George. After a slave was seen fleeing the site of one of the fires, rumors of a "Negro conspiracy" soon swept the city [...]

Traitorous Scoundrels, with White Faces

Many Americans, including those in the North, were not opposed to slavery and saw no reason for the federal government to interfere with the expansion of slavery into western territories. After John Brown's attack on Harpers Ferry, people expressed [...]

Slavery is Guaranteed by the Constitutional Compact

To counter abolitionist attacks in the antebellum era, Southern slaveowners and politicians found it necessary to justify the institution--both morally and politically. On the moral front they argued that enslaved African Americans were inferior to [...]

A Love of Freedom and Right

Depending on where they stood on the slavery question, Americans viewed John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry as either a brilliant, if aborted, act of martyrdom for a noble cause, or a horrifying reminder of the potential for a slave uprising and an [...]

Anti-Federalists Oppose Slavery Provisions in Constitution

Slavery was one of the most divisive issues in the debates over whether or not to ratify the Constitution. Although the constitution banned the importation of slaves beginning in 1808, it did not restrict the continued use and ownership of slaves, [...]

Slaveowners Fear the Haitian Revolution Has Arrived in Charleston

In the American South, slaves were typically dispersed among large populations of armed and vigilant whites. As a result, there were few large-scale, armed slave rebellions there. This was not the case in the West Indies, where plantation owners [...]

A Southern Newspaper Concludes "We are all therefore slaves"

The Staunton Spectator, a Virginia newspaper, frequently used material printed in northern newspapers in order to defend the southern institution of slavery. In this, and many similar articles, it detailed the unfortunate circumstances that [...]

The People of Ireland Ask the Irish in America to Support Abolition

This call for unity was written in Ireland by Irish and American abolitionists in the summer of 1841. The petition was eventually signed by 60,000 Irish men and women. Catholic abolitionists in Ireland wanted their countrymen in America to draw [...]

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