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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Cornerstones of Emancipation

By 1830, sentiment in the North in opposition to the slave trade was strong, but the mechanism of how to ultimately achieve an end to the slave system was divided between gradual emancipation and racial separation. William Lloyd Garrison’s epiphany that nothing short of complete and unconditional emancipation was required was a major milestone, but it took a bloody war to settle the issue. The American Anti-Slavery Society he founded gave fuel to the abolition movement that was ultimately validated in President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  

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The Liberator.

Volume 1, number 1, January 1, 1831. Boston: William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp.

On January 1, 1831, Garrison founded The Liberator in Boston. Despite a subscription list that barely exceeded 3,000 (the majority of whom were Black) during its thirty-five-year run The Liberator was America’s most influential abolitionist publication by virtue of its uncompromising advocacy for immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves. A foundational chapter in American civil rights. 

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Genius of Universal Emancipation.

Third series, volume 2, number 3 (whole number 67, volume 12), July 1831. Washington, D.C. and Baltimore: Benjamin Lundy. 

The Genius of Universal Emancipation condemned slavery on moral and religious grounds, but like all other anti-slavery periodicals of the era, it advocated for gradual emancipation as well as colonization. In 1829, editor Benjamin Lundy hired William Lloyd Garrison, who revamped the layout of the paper. One of the regular features introduced by Garrison was “the Black List,” a column devoted to printing short reports of “the barbarities of slavery.”

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The Abolitionist: or Record of the New-England Anti-Slavery Society.

Volume 1, number 1, January 1833. Boston: Garrison and Knapp.

William Lloyd Garrison co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. The Abolitionist declared itself “exclusively devoted to subjects connected with the rights and happiness of the colored people.” Southern slave states tried to squelch the publications. Angry mobs publicly burned them. A grand jury in Tuscaloosa demanded the publishing agent’s extradition for trial. The AASS eventually became the “single largest and most influential organization against slavery up to the end of the Civil War.” 

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The Colonizationist and Journal of Freedom.

Volume 1, number 1, April 1833. Boston: George W. Light. 

While there was the lukewarm support in the North for the gradual elimination of slavery, sentiment for a complete separation of the races was far more vigorous. In 1816, New Jerseyan Robert Finley founded the American Colonization Society, to promote the return of free Americans “of color” to Africa. In 1821, it assisted in establishing Liberia, a colonial settlement in West Africa, supported by an uneasy coalition of religious missionaries, Quakers, and slave-holding Southerners.

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The Mirror of Liberty.

Volume 1, number 1, July 1838. New York: David Ruggles. 

The first magazine edited by an African American. Ruggles ran a Temperance Society grocery, a printing business, a reading room, and a bookstore in New York City and assisted in organizing the New York Committee of Vigilance (The Mirror functioned as the Committee’s official organ). He did this while running the city’s underground railroad, which sheltered more than 600 fugitive slaves, including Frederick Douglass, who famously followed in his footsteps as an editor and publisher. 

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The Monthly Offering.

Volume 1, number 3, September 1840. Boston: John A. Collins. 

An abolitionist magazine notable for its inflammatory repeating image of slavery that appears on the original wrappers. 

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The National Era.

Volume 5, number 23–volume 6, whole number 231–272, June 5, 1851–April 1, 1852. Washington: G. Bailey.

John Greenleaf Whittier’s abolitionist weekly is best known for its original serialization of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel had profound effect on how Americans viewed slavery and was a catalyst of the Civil War. The success of its magazine appearance inspired a book publisher, John P. Jewett, to ask Stowe to publish the story in book form which, after the Bible, became the best-selling book of the nineteenth century. 

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Frederick Douglass’ Paper.

Volume 4, number 47, November 13, 1851. Rochester, N.Y.: Frederick Douglass.

Douglas’ first publishing venture was the iconic North Star, co-edited with Martin Robison Delany, beginning in December 1847. In June 1851, it merged with the Liberty Party Paper under the title, Frederick Douglass’ Paper and lasted until 1860.

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Douglass’ Monthly.

Volume 3, number 6, November 1860. Rochester, N.Y.: Frederick Douglass.

Provenance: Laura Putnam, whose father, George W. Putnam, is the author of the poem “The Sacrifice” in this issue. Douglass’ Monthly replaced Frederick Douglass' Weekly Paper by mid-1860, as he increasingly focused on the impending Civil War and recruitment and acceptance of Black troops. It ended in August 1863, following an unfulfilled commitment of an army commission. Douglass’ co-editor Martin Robison Delany went on to become the highest-ranking Black field officer during the Civil War.

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The Anglo-African Magazine.

Volume 1, number 6, June 1859. New York: Thomas Hamilton.

Charles Bustill’s copy, with his ownership inscription. Bustill was a distinguished conductor on the Underground Railroad and maternal grandfather of Paul Robeson. Anglo-African Magazine was founded in 1859 by African American abolitionist Thomas Hamilton as a vehicle for the works of fellow African American writers, including the physician, editor and African nationalist Martin Robison Delany. In early 1865, Delany met with President Lincoln, who described him as “a most extraordinary and intelligent man.”