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Abolitionism Primary Sources

Theme: Social Changes and Social Reform
Topic: Abolitionism
Date: March 2004

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Sources selected and annotated by SALEM in History staff and Gayle Fischer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, Salem State College (

From Partner Collections

Artist not identified
Printed Handkerchief, "The Poor Slave"
19th century
Boston Chemical Printing Company, United States
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Printed handkerchiefs such as this example were often created in relatively small quantities on newspaper presses. Some varieties might be given by newspapers as gifts to customers at Christmas time, others might celebrate an event, promote a cause, or educate children. "The Poor Slave" handkerchief features text and religious scripture related to abolition and the reaction of children to the injustice of slavery. Though the specific die casts for the imagery have not been identified, the symbolism is typical for the period.


Stephen Henry Gimber
c. 1834
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Gimber created this image after a painting by Alexander Rippingille, and the print was distributed by the American Anti-Slavery Office. The subject matter addresses the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Bill passed by Parliament and 1834 emancipation carried out across Britain's colonies following a slave rebellion in Jamaica in 1831 that drew significant public notice.


Artist not identified
Charles Lenox Remond
19th century
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Charles Lenox Remond (1810-1873) was the second child of John and Nancy (Lenox) Remond. An anti-slavery orator, Remond (1810 – 1873) was a life member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and a leader in the abolitionist movement in Salem. He worked as a professional, full-time speaker for the cause, and toured several times with Frederick Douglass. In 1840 he traveled to London as a representative at the World Anti-Slavery Convention. During the Civil War, he recruited for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a black unit famously memorialized in a statue by Augustus St. Gaudens that stands on Boston Common (see "Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions" section below).


Artist not identified
John Remond
19th century
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Originally named "Vonreman," John Remond changed his name soon after arriving without family in Beverly in 1798 at the age of ten. Remond's highly successful career included work as a caterer and barber. After marrying Nancy (Lenox) Remond in 1807, the couple moved to Salem where Remond catered functions at Hamilton Hall. Some of his notable engagements included a public dinner for the Marquis de Lafayette at Hamilton Hall in 1824, and a dinner for 123 members of the East India Marine Society in 1825.

The Remonds raised a family of eight children who included notable abolitionist speakers Charles Lenox Remond and Sarah Parker Remond. John Remond became a life-member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1838.

The Peabody Essex Museum Collections contain a number of objects and documents related to this family and John Remond's business.


Artist not identified
Nancy (Lenox) Remond

19th century
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Nancy Lenox was born in Newton, Massachusetts into a prosperous free black family. Her father, Cornelius Lenox, served as a private in Captain John Wood's company, Loammi Bladwin's regiment in Medford during the Revolutionary War. He was listed in 1798 as a freeholder of a house and two acres of land in Newton. Nancy Lenox married John Remond on October 29, 1807 and worked as a "fancy baker" in the family catering business.


Artist not identified
Sarah Parker Remond
c. 1865
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Noted international abolitionist speaker Sarah Parker Remond (1826-1894) was notable not only for her work on behalf of the rights of African-Americans but also because she was a successful female in the public sphere.

In 1853, she attended an event at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston, and refused to sit in the segregated seats. She was removed forcibly and fell down a flight of stairs. Remond successfully brought her case to court and was later granted a small award.

Remond toured America and Europe as a well-received speaker for the abolitionist cause, and in 1871, received a medical diploma in Florence where she practiced as a physician.


C.E. Wagstaff, engraver
A.F. Biard, painter
Scene on the Coast of Africa
Published 1844
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Slave ships set out to West Africa carrying trade goods that were exchanged for captive Africans through a series of negotiations with African slave traders in an attempt to obtain the strongest and healthiest people to bring back for sale. Auguste-Francois Biard painted this work in 1840, when slavery was still legal in the French colonies, His image presents a stong indictment against the institution through his portrayal of various types of slave traders and the miseries inflicted upon slaves.

James Phillips
Description of a Slave Ship, 1789
London, England
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Slave ship
Lithograph showing section and plan
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

The Peabody Essex Museum holds two prints in its collection that show the plans of slave ships and how captive occupants might be arranged to maximize the use of space. The cramped conditions frequently led to the spread of disease and even suffocation.


Lucy Cleveland
Cotton, linen, wool, fabrics, leather, wood, and glass beads
Gift of Miss Mary T. Saunders, 1915
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Using typical household textiles and sewing techniques, Lucy Cleveland created vignettes of individual or multiple figure groupings that were at times humorous, touching, or political. Free! clearly responds to the Emancipation Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862. Though it is not known whether Cleveland created this piece with the intention of exhibition, there are records to indicate that some of her creations were exhibited at charitable fairs to raise money for causes. There are also known print and other visual sources that are clear inspiration for at least some of her vignettes. An image such as Stephen Henry Gimber's Emancipation, distributed by the American Anti-Slavery Society, might have inspired her work here.

Cleveland was an advocate of the abolitionist cause at least as early as the 1830s, evinced by the anti-slavery sentiment in children's books that she wrote during that time. (Note that the Phillips Library holds more than a dozen books by Cleveland.)

The symbolism in this work include the bandaged head, sling, and knotted whip that suggest the past oppressive state of slavery. Importantly, the smiling figure holds forth the proclamation of freedom, heralding better days ahead with slavery abolished.

J.R. Smith, engraver
George Morland, painter
African Hospitality
Published 1791
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

Published as a companion to Slave Trade, this image depicts the kindness of Africans ministering to a shipwrecked white family. When it was exhibited in 1790 at the British "Society of Artists" annual exhibition it was described as, "European Ship wrecked on the coast of Africa." By the time John Raphael Smith published the mezzotint in 1791, the title was simplified to African Hospitality. These abolitionist images were a departure from Morland's typical idyllic scenes and did not sell as well as his other works, though the anti-slavery movement was gaining popularity in England.

George Morland was the precocious son of painter Henry Robert Morland. Despite the strong reception for his sentimental, picturesque paintings, Moreland faced debtor's prison during the latter years of his career.


J.R. Smith, engraver
George Morland, painter
Slave Trade
Published 1791
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

George Moreland was British painter of landscapes and sentimental rustic scenes that often had a simple narrative element. His work was very popular and he was well-known by the time he painted Slave Trade in 1791. His subject was probably inspired by the work of a poet friend who wrote about the ills of slavery. Though the theme of the work may seem to be a departure from his more picturesque subjects, he chooses to focus largely on the separation of an African family - an emotional subject that he perhaps hoped would appeal to his audience.

John Raphael Smith was one of the most celebrated engravist of his time, and is still recognized as a great mezzotint artists. In addition to engravings, Smith worked as a portrait painter, print publisher, and miniaturist, but is best known for his mezzotints after George Moreland, his brother-in-law. Smith is still recognized today as one of the best mezzotint artists of his day.


Peter Kramer
Conquering Prejudice / or / Fulfilling a Constitutional Duty with Alacrity
Printed by P.S. Duval's Steam Lithograph Press, Philadelphia
Peabody Essex Museum Collection

This satirical image likely responds to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and the vocal support of Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster for the new law. The title of this print borrows from the title of a speech by Webster that was published shortly before Kramer created his image.

In the print, two men and their dogs chase an African woman carrying her child. In the background a country church and a court house stand witness to the chase.





























































“Anti-Slavery Convention” The Observer, Salem, MA, April 19, 1834. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

On April 4, 1834, an anti-slavery convention was held in Topsfield, Massachusetts.

This article is the publication of resolves determined at that meeting to form an Essex County Anti-Slavery Society.

“Anti-Slavery Society” The Observer, Salem, MA, March 22, 1834. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

This brief notice recounts the highlights of the second annual meeting of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, held in Boston on March 10, 1834. The article highlights some notable attendees including Reverend Grosvenor of Salem, the large number of people who could not attend due to over-crowding in the meeting hall, and “several appropriate hymns” sung by “a choir of colored children.”

“Beauties of Slavery” The Observer, Salem, MA, April 19, 1834. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

The author recounts a story of a married and pregnant slave woman sold to a new master and the stunned reaction of the husband when he learned of her fate. The writer then questions the reader to consider how they would feel if the story were reversed with respect to “race,” particularly if the woman were used as a “paramour.”

“Slavery –No. III” The Observer, Salem, MA, May 24, 1834. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum

This article explores the irony of prejudice among supporters of the abolitionist cause. The author criticizes those who appear to want to help African Americans only “at a distance” and without seeking equal rights and privileges for all.

Colton, Calvin to the Honorable Mr. Wise, July 17, 1839. Henry Alexander Wise Collection. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

Henry Alexander Wise (1806-1876) served in Congress from 1833-1844, was a Confederate general in the Civil War, and a prominent defender of slavery. He became governor of Virginia in 1856 and at the end of his term in 1860, signed the death warrant of John Brown.

In his letter, Episcopal clergyman Calvin Colton wishes to solicit Wise’s opinion and support for his recent publication, Abolition a Sedition. Colton writes that his work will raise public awareness about the interrelationship of religion and the state with regard to abolitionism, whose proponents Wise hopes will be put in a “position of embarrassment.”

Constitution of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1834. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

This one-page typeset document outlines the tenets of this abolitionist organization that existed from 1834-1866. Hand-printed versions also exist within the manuscript collections at the Phillips Library. (See entry for Finding Aid, below.)

Finding Aid, Anti-Slavery Society of Salem & Vicinity, 1834-1840. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

This society was founded on January 2, 1834 as part of the local chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society that was organized by William Lloyd Garrison in opposition to the colonization organizations such as the American Colonization Society, founded in 1817 with the belief that slaves should slowly be emancipated and all African-Americans repatriated to Africa. The Salem society dissolved in 1840, with the role of women in the organization cited as one of the possible causes of rift within the ranks. (The Female Anti-Slavery Society continued in existence until 1862.) This Finding Aid is a an overview and guide for manuscript collections held at the Phillips Library for the organization.

Finding Aid, Remond Family Papers, 1823-1869. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

The Remond Family of Salem includes many important leaders in the abolitionist movement. John Remond arrived in Salem from Curacao at about age 10 in 1798. He became a successful caterer and barber who married Nancy Lenox, a fancy cake maker. They raised 8 children, many of whom became accomplished lecturers on the Anti-Slavery circuit. Daughter Sarah lectured internationally and eventually entered the medical profession in Europe. The family was also known to aid fugitive slaves, and to host many other abolitionist leaders, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. The Peabody Essex Museum holds a number of photographs and objects connected to this family.

The Phillips Library Collection largely contains letters and business papers related to John Remond and anti-slavery correspondence addressed to his son, Charles Lenox Remond. Also see the Essex Institute Historical Collections for essays written about the Remond family.

Finding Aid, Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1834-1866. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society formed as a “sister” of the Anti-Slavery Society of Salem & Vicinity. The female organization, however, outlasted the Anti-Slavery Society by more than 20 years. Notable leadership of the Female organization included Lucy G. Ives, whose husband, William, B. Ives, was the abolitionist publisher of the Salem Observer newspaper. Amy Remond, a member of a prominent abolitionist African-American family, was elected vice president in 1855. The Finding Aid provides an overview of the organization and a description of the holdings in the Phillips Library manuscript collection.

Garrison, William Lloyd to the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, January 14, 1839. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society supported The Liberator, Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper. They also contracted Garrison as a repeat speaker for their annual lecture series in Salem from 1844 to 1862. In this response to correspondence from the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, Garrison describes his on-going struggle for the abolitionist cause, and replies specifically to the Society’s statement, “However our opinions may differ on other subjects of equal importance, yet we trust in the cause of abolition in our interest is mutual, our hopes and desires, our end and our aim, one.” Garrison responded, “This is noble. If all in our rank possessed so catholic a spirit, there could be no jealousies, no rivalries, no divisions, no plottings for supremacy, among us….” His statement suggests the rifts that arose within the abolitionist cause.

Garrison, William Lloyd to the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, April 8, 1839. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society supported The Liberator, Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper. They also contracted Garrison as a repeat speaker for their annual lecture series in Salem from 1844 to 1862. This letter accepts an invitation to speak in Salem, and compliments the efforts “of both sexes” who are working for the abolitionist cause. He also addresses the “divisions that exist in our rank,” but notes that some rifts were to be expected.

Meeting Minutes. Anti-Slavery Society of Salem and Vicinity (Excerpt), 1834. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

These excerpts from 1834 meeting minutes record some of the initial intentions of the members, who reject the notion that the African-American population might be served by the Colonization Society, determine the need to draft a constitution for their organization, and list the names of those present at the first meeting of the society.

Remond, Charles Lenox to the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, January 21, 1841. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

An anti-slavery orator, Remond (1810 – 1873) was a life member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and a leader in the abolitionist movement in Salem. Here, Remond is replying to the Society’s request to schedule him for a speaking engagement in Salem.

Rogers, Thomas, “Freedom.” Bowditch Family Papers, Phillips Library, 1890. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

Thomas Rogers submitted this poem with the note that it should be sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.”

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Primary Sources from Other Local Archives and Collections


None listed at this time

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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-Up Sessions

Thomas Ball
Emancipation Group
Bronze, cast 1875
Lincoln Park Monument, Washington, D.C.

Moneys for this monument were raised exclusively from freed slaves, but the Western Sanitary Commission of St. Louis oversaw the project. It is not clear how much the statue's final design was dictated by the Commission, a white-run agency dedicated to war relief, the artist, or the financial contributors.


An American Slave Market
Oil on canvas
Chicago Historical Society

Runaway slaves who were captured were often sold as a punishment. The Chicago Historical Society (which holds this work in its collection) identifies the subject of this painting as "George," a runaway slave indicated by the posted notice located on the left side of the canvas.


Thomas Satterwhite Noble
The Price of Blood
Oil on canvas
Morris Museum of Art Collection, Augusta, Georgia

The subject of this work is drawn from Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, where a character, Cassie, describes money earned from the sale of her children by their master and father as "the price of their blood." The resemblance in Noble's painting between the seated master and his slave son is unmistakable.

Noble grew up in south and he served as a captain in the Confederate army from 1861-1865. However, he believed in civil rights and painted a number of subjects that deal with oppressed people or those facing personal trials. Another of his subjects, for example,Witch Hill, or The Salem Martyr of 1869 takes a sympathetic view of its female subject.


Joseph Mallord William Turner
Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)
Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Turner based this subject of this painting on a true story of the ship, Zong, whose captain threw overboard 132 sick slaves in order to collect the insurance money rather than allow them to die on board, in which case he could make an insurance claim. Emancipation was carried out across Britain's colonies in 1834, and this lent momentum to the abolitionist movement in the United States, where this painting was highly celebrated.

Turner was highly successful in his lifetime, with proponents such as the Englilsh art critic John Ruskin who owned this painting for almost thirty years. The celebration of this work was not universal, however. Some criticized the oddly angular presentation of the female figure in the foreground, and others, the emotional use of color and gory presentation of the subject matter.


Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial
Boston Common

This important site on the Black Heritage Trail in Boston commemorates the bravery of an African-American regiment headed by Robert Gould Shaw, a white officer born into a prominent Boston family that supported the abolitionist cause. Though recruitment of Black soldiers began following President Abraham Lincoln's issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, only white men were allowed to serve as officers. When given their orders to leave Boston, the regiment marched through Boston past the State House and then down to the harbor. On July 18, 1863, the 54th Regiment carried out its famous assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. The fort was well-positioned and well-defended and casualties were expected to be high. Of 600 men in the 54th Regiment, 281 were killed, wounded, missing, or taken prisoner. Shaw was one of those killed. Another soldier, Sergeant William Carney of New Bedford was wounded three times in his efforts to save the American flag capture by the Confederate army. Carney's audacious bravery earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the distinction of the first African American to accept that honor.

The high-relief sculpture was designed by the highly-successful artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who also completed a commission for the Boston Public Library, designed by Charles McKim. The firm of McKim, Mead & White (of New York) created the architectural setting for the Memorial. Studies and models for the sculpture are in the National Gallery of Art's collection in Washington D.C., and many images and documents relating to the relief (as well as lesson plans) are available at the NGA website:

Fern Cunningham
Step on Board
South End, Boston

This sculpture is located in the Harriet Tubman Park on Columbus Avenue in Boston's South End neighborhood. Tubman is shown striding forward, gaze set firmly forward toward the goal of freedom for herself and the group of slaves who follow her. Cunningham described this work as follows: "Step on Board, my most demanding and historically significant commission, depicted the hale Harriet Tubman as a determined, visionary spirit who inspired men, women, and children to overcome the perils on the road to freedom in the antebellum South."

Fern Cunningham earned a BFA from Boston University and teaches art at the Park School in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Bolokitten, Oliver, Esq. (pseudonym). A Sojourn in the City of Amalgamation New York: Published by the Author, 1835. (Chapter II).

Bolokitten offers anti-abolitionist argument with this account that sought to exploit fears of racial intermingling. The hope was to discredit the abolitionist cause by suggesting that amalgamation was their ultimate goal, and that interracial marriage would become the norm if slavery were abolished.

This text is available online at the University of Virginia website:

Child, Lydia Maria. An Appeal in Favor of That Class of American Called Africans. Boston: Allen & Ticknor, 1833. (Chapter V: Colonization Society, and Anti-Slavery Society).

Famous for her 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Lydia Maria Child here broke away from her previous literary accomplishments to interrogate the contradictions of slavery through analysis of historical and contemporary texts and laws. The work lent strength and energy to the abolitionist movement. In particular, Chapter V codifies the position of abolitionists who called for emancipation and assimilation of slaves, as opposed to the gradual freedom and African repatriation of slaves espoused by colonizationists.

This text is available online at the University of Virginia website:

David Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles: Together With A Preamble To The Coloured Citizens Of The World, But In Particular, And Very Expressly, To Those Of The United States Of America. Revised Edition with an Introduction by Sean Wilentz. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995. (excerpts).

Walker’s controversial publication shocked his generation due to the author’s acceptance and perceived advocacy of the use of violence in the battle against slavery. In these excerpts, Walker challenges both remarks made by Thomas Jefferson and the role of religion and religious leaders in his appeal against slavery and racism.

This text is available online at:

Editorial Regarding "Walker's Appeal." The Liberator. 8 January, 1831.

Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison published the inaugural issue of The Liberator on 1 January 1831. This editorial, published one week later, defines a position against David Walker’s stance that violence is an acceptable response to slavery. While rejecting violence and outright rebellion, the editorial nonetheless sympathizes with Walker’s response to racism and slavery. It is ironic, then, that the last line concludes about the Appeal, “No white man could have written in language so natural and enthusiastic.”
This text is available online at the New York Public Library website:

The Journal of Charlotte Forten: A Free Negro in the Slave Era
. Edited, with an Introduction and Notes by Ray Allen Billington. New York: Collier Books, 1967. (Part 2: "Student and Abolitionist")

Charlotte Forten was the first northern African-American schoolteacher who traveled to the south to teach former slaves. Forten’s diary records the life of a remarkable sixteen-year-old free African American woman living in Massachusetts in 1854. Her dedication to education and advocating the abolitionist cause as well as quotidian tasks and events are evident in these journal entries.

Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Edited by Her Son Charles Edward Stowe. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1890. (Chapter V [Professor Stowe's Interest in Popular Education--His Departure for Europe.--] Slavery Riots in Cincinnati).

Charles Edward Stowe published the first official biography of his advocate mother who is best known for her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). In this chapter, Stowe outlines the growing conflict over slavery in Cincinnati where his mother was living and assisting her brother, Henry Ward, with writing articles for a local publication, the Journal. Ward quotes sections from letters that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote to her husband who was at that time abroad. She apprises him of meetings and crowd incitement over slavery issues, and clearly positions her sympathies with leaders of the abolitionist cause.

This text is available online at the University of Virginia website.

"Stewart, Maria. Lecture, Delivered at the Franklin Hall, Boston, Sept. 21, 1832" Published in: Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart, Presented to the First African Baptist Church & Society of the City of Boston. Boston: Published by Friends of Freedom and Virtue, 1835.

In her powerful opening line of this address, Stewart asks her audience, “Why sit ye here and die?” Stewart was led to activism after the death of her husband, the death of David Walker, and her own spiritual conversion, and she directed her essays and lectures toward galvanizing an African-American audience. Her first essay was published in the Liberator in 1831, and represented the first political argument written by an African American woman.


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