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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 Free Black Woman Writes to Imprisoned John Brown

In October 1859, a militant white abolitionist named John Brown led a small band of black and white anti-slavery fighters in a bold assault on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Their goal was to capture a large store of weapons, [...]

Item Type: Diary/Letter
An Irish Emigrant to New York Writes Home

This letter home from 23-year-old Irish emigrant Margaret McCarthy captures both the opportunity and adversity awaiting arrivals to a new land. McCarthy sailed from Liverpool on the Columbus on September 7, 1849, and arrived in New York on October [...]

A Letter from Ireland Tells of the Suffering Caused by the Potato Famine

This 1847 letter from Hannah Curtis to her brother John, who had emigrated from Queen's County, Ireland to Philadelphia some years earlier, gives a sense of the deprivation of those who remained behind during the time of the Irish potato famine. The [...]

A Destitute Famine Victim Sends a Desperate Letter from Ireland

Like many victims of the Great Famine, Mary Rush and her husband Michael had only one place to turn for assistance: parents or other relatives who had already emigrated. On September 6, 1846, the illiterate Mary dictated this desperate letter, [...]

A Nativist New Yorker Disparages Irish Arrivals

The following are excerpts from the diaries of George Templeton Strong (1820-1875), a prominent New York lawyer. Written between 1838 and 1857, the entries reveal Strong's undisguised contempt for the Irish immigrants who were then flooding the [...]

An Irish Emigrant Writes to Relatives in County Donegal

In this letter to relatives back home in County Donegal, William Dever describes some of the obstacles faced by Irish immigrants in the antebellum period. In contrast to German and Dutch immigrants, who were often able to purchase farms, the Irish [...]

The Declaration of Sentiments

Elizabeth Cady Stanton served for twenty years as the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. She committed her life to the cause of political equality between men and women, which emerged out of her work as an abolitionist. The [...]

"A Philadelphia Poster Protests the Coming of the Railroad"

An 1839 poster urges citizens to rally against the coming of the railroad to Philadelphia. As the poster suggests, industrial technology and "progress" have not always been greeted with universal acclaim. The anonymous author(s) of this broadside [...]

Tags: railroads
Item Type: Poster/Print
"To Arms! To Arms!"

This 1847 recruiting poster urges the men of Holmes County, Ohio to enlist for duty in the war against Mexico. The war was fought by the standing, or regular, U.S. army, alongside volunteers. The U.S. War Department first issued a call for states to [...]

Boston Abolitionists Warn of Slave Catchers

In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required police officers everywhere in the country to capture escaped slaves and return them to their owners. Anyone who was caught helping escaped slaves could also be arrested and face large [...]

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