Robert Wedderburn (1762-1835) was a sailor, tailor, preacher, author, publisher, labor activist, and radical abolitionist. Born in Jamaica to an enslaved mother and her Scottish owner, he joined the British Navy and spent most of his adult life in London, where he helped to lead a series of subversive religious and political movements. He was spied upon, arrested, and imprisoned several times for blasphemy and keeping a bawdy house. His incomplete autobiography, The Horrors of Slavery, recounts his family history. The full version is available here.
Source: General Reference Collection, British Library (London, UK)
One of the most important feminist activists of the nineteenth century, Mary Grew (1813-1896) was involved in numerous campaigns during her lifetime. She helped to initiate the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, which met annually between 1837 and 1839. The first national political assembly organized by and for women, it set the stage for the more famous Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Grew later became a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, which culminated in 1920 with the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution. Like other feminists of her generation, Grew viewed her work in an international context. The diary of her journey to England to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840 is available here.
Source: Alma Lutz Collection of Documents by and about Abolitionists and Women’s Rights Activists, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
George Lippard (1822-1854) clawed his way out of poverty to become one of the best-selling authors in antebellum America. His novel The Bank Director’s Son offers a sensationalized critique of class privilege, slavery, and the prison system. Originally published as The Killers in 1849, the story explores the connections between wealthy capitalists, Cuban slave traders, and violent street gangs in urban Philadelphia. The 1851 edition, which is extremely rare, is now available here.
Source: American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA)
The New-York Colonization Journal was the official organ of the New York State Colonization Society. John Brooke Pinney, missionary and former governor of the colony of Liberia, served as editor beginning in December 1850. The paper included some original content in addition to lengthy excerpts from contemporary publications. Reprinted material from rare newspapers, such as the Liberia Advocate and Liberia Herald, makes this journal a valuable source of information on a variety of topics.
Issues from Dec. 1850 through Dec. 1851 are available here.
Issues from Jan. 1852 through Dec. 1853 are available here.
Issues from Jan. 1854 through Nov. 1855 are available here.
Issues from Jan. 1856 through Dec. 1857 are available here.
Issues from Jan. 1858 through Dec. 1859 are available here.
Issues from Jan. 1860 through Dec. 1861 are available here.
Issues from Jan. 1862 through Dec. 1863 are available here.
Source: Rare Book Division, New York Public Library (microfilm)
Established in 1826, the Liberia Herald was the first newspaper published in the colony of Liberia. John Russwurm, who had co-edited the path-breaking Freedom’s Journal in New York City, served as the primary editor of the Herald beginning in 1830. Influential Pan-Africanist Edward Blyden worked as a journalist and editor at the paper during the 1850s. Despite its deep significance for the histories of both Africa and America, complete runs of the Herald are difficult to find. Scattered issues published between 1842 and 1857 are available here.
Source: Maryland State Colonization Society Papers, MS 571, Maryland Historical Society (Baltimore, MD)
Born in England in 1795, Henry Miles joined the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, at an early age. He relocated his family to Canada and then Vermont, where he became a leading figure in the Peace and Free Produce movements. Miles kept religious diaries, contributed to newspapers, and maintained a voluminous correspondence with fellow abolitionists, fair traders, peace activists, and other social reformers. After the Civil War, he became involved in the Freedmen’s Aid movement. His papers, which cover the period 1826-1880, are divided into three parts.
Part one is available here.
Part two is available here.
Part three is available here.
Source: Henry Miles Papers, MS Am 1074, Houghton Library, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
George Thompson was imprisoned for five years for attempting to rescue slaves from the state of Missouri. After his release, he spent the better part of a decade as leader of the Mendi Mission in what is now Sierra Leone. Essentially an extension of the Underground Railroad into Western Africa, the mission impacted the movement against slavery on two continents. Thompson published a series of books and pamphlets about his experience, including a compilation of letters to school children. Volume one is available on Google Books.
Volume two is available here.
Volume three is available here.
Source: George Thompson, Letters to Sabbath School Children on Africa, 3 vols. (Cincinnati: American Reform Tract and Book Society, 1855-1858)