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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)

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)

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)

Pauline Hopkins published Of One Blood in serial format in The Colored American Magazine between November 1902 and November 1903. The novel describes the discovery of a lost civilization near Meroë, in present-day Sudan. Combining aspects of romance, social commentary, and utopian science fiction, it is one of the earliest examples of Afrofuturism and anticipates later work by Octavia Butler and Sun Ra. Although long in the public domain, the complete novel has never been presented in its original format. It is now available here.

Source: The Colored American Magazine: Volume 6 (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969)

One of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century, Frans Masereel produced “wordless novels” that influenced the later development of comic books and graphic novels. Despite the significance of his work, he remains little known outside specialist circles and his books can be difficult to locate. The German Frans Masereel Foundation hosts a large collection of his drawings and graphic novels. Access to the collection and other information is provided through the Foundation’s website. Masereel’s most famous work, My Book of Hours, was first published in 1919 and is available at HathiTrust.

Source: Frans Masereel Foundation (Saarbrücken, Germany)