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In a brilliant and fearless analysis of the slavery conflict in the United States that would become known as “A House Divided,” Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illinois Republican Party convention in 1858. Having just been nominated its candidate for the United States Senate, he attacked his Democratic opponent, Stephen A. Douglas, as being part of a conspiracy to spread slavery to the entire country. In this speech Lincoln went to the heart of the mass of conflicts and contradictions that had gathered around this crucial issue and cut away all the demagogic debris. Outlining the legislative and judicial steps that were carrying the country further and further from its democratic ideals, Lincoln warned that there was no longer any bar to the ownership of slavery in any of the states and territories.

In addition to its importance in understanding the slavery issue this speech is crucial in the viewing the ...

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Steven J. Niven

slave, wagon driver, steamboat laborer, and sawmill worker, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of Aaron and Louisa. Aarons had two siblings, but neither their names nor the surnames of his parents have been recorded. Considering that Charlie's father's first name was Aaron, Charlie probably adopted his father's first name as his own surname upon emancipation. The historian Eugene D. Genovese has argued that after the Civil War many former slaves rejected the surnames assigned to them when they were in bondage and adopted new ones often choosing surnames entitles the slaves called them that connected them to their fathers or to other relatives Some celebrated their newfound liberty by creating new surnames such as Freedman or Justice Genovese notes that in the first decade of emancipation freedmen and freedwomen changed their surnames frequently so that as one freedwoman put it if the white folks get together ...

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Dalyce Newby

surgeon, was born in Toronto, Upper Canada (now Ontario), the son of Wilson Ruffin Abbott, a businessman and properties investor, and Mary Ellen Toyer. The Abbotts had arrived in Toronto around 1835, coming from Mobile, Alabama, via New Orleans and New York. Wilson Abbott became one of the wealthiest African Canadians in Toronto. Anderson received his primary education in Canadian public and private schools. Wilson Abbott moved his family to the Elgin Settlement in 1850, providing his children with a classical education at the famed Buxton Mission School. Anderson Abbott, a member of the school's first graduating class, continued his studies at-the Toronto Academy, where he was one of only three African Americans. From 1856 to 1858 he attended the preparatory department at Oberlin College, afterward returning to Toronto to begin his medical training.

At age twenty three Abbott graduated from the Toronto School of ...

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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Clint C. Wilson

newspaper publisher, was born Robert Abbott in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, the son of Thomas Abbott and Flora Butler, former slaves who operated a grocery store on St. Thomas Island. Thomas Abbott died the year after Robert was born, and Robert's mother moved to Savannah, where in 1874 she married John Herman Henry Sengstacke. Sengstacke was the son of a German father and a black American mother and, although born in the United States, was reared in Germany. He returned to the United States in 1869 and pursued careers in education, the clergy, and journalism. In the latter role Sengstacke became editor of the Woodville Times a black community weekly newspaper that served Savannah area residents Abbott s admiration for his stepfather inspired him to add the name Sengstacke to his own and to attempt to become a publisher in ...

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John G. Turner

Latter-day Saint elder and Utah pioneer, was born in northern Maryland to Andrew Abel and Delila Williams. Abel left the area as a young man. Little is known of his early life; it is unclear whether he was born enslaved or free. One later census identified Abel as a “quadroon,” but others listed him as “Black” or “Mulatto.”

In 1832, Abel was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and soon gathered with the Mormons in Kirtland, Ohio. In 1836, he was ordained to the church's Melchizedek or higher priesthood, making him one of a very small number of African American men to “hold the priesthood” during the church's early years. An expectation for all righteous adult male members of the church, priesthood meant the possibility of leadership positions and the authority to perform ordinances. In December 1836 Abel had become a ...

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The court case of Ableman v. Booth stemmed from the capture of a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover just outside of Racine, Wisconsin, on 10 March 1854. Federal marshals accompanying Glover's owner, a Missourian named Bennami Garland, broke into the shack Glover was occupying and forcibly detained him after a spirited resistance. Glover was taken overnight by wagon to the county jail in Milwaukee, thirty miles north. Garland and the federal marshals intended to take Glover before the U.S. district court judge the next morning to authorize his return to Missouri.

Sherman Booth, Milwaukee's most prominent abolitionist and the publisher of the Milwaukee Free Democrat was alerted to Glover s incarceration by early morning and spread the news quickly throughout the abolitionist community While lawyers obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a county court on Glover s behalf to protect him against illegal imprisonment Booth and ...

Primary Source

In 1854 the editor and abolitionist Sherman Booth was arrested in violation of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act by inciting a mob to rescue a captive slave from federal marshal Stephen Ableman. As a result of Wisconsin's so-called Personal Liberty statute which passed in response to the 1850 act, however, Booth was released on a writ of habeas corpus issued by the state supreme court. The court also declared the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional.

Five years later, however, the case was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States and Chief Justice Roger Taney, who was already widely despised among northern abolitionists for his decision in the Dred Scott case Taney was joined by all of his fellow justices in determining that Wisconsin s attempt at nullification was unconstitutional He and the Court not only struck down the state court s decision but also confirmed the constitutionality of ...

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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Brenda E. Stevenson

O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! No longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties.

(Maria Stewart, 1831)

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Richard S. Newman, Paul Finkelman and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with abolitionism from the late seventeenth century through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in1865. The first article discusses the definition of abolitionism as differentiated from antislavery activism and its forms including Garrisonian and non Garrisonian abolition The second article describes ...

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During the three decades that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Most historians use the term abolitionism to refer to antislavery activism between the early 1830s, when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, and the American Civil War (1861–1865). The term also refers to the antislavery crusade that mobilized many African Americans and a small minority of whites, who saw their goal realized during the Civil War. Historians also commonly distinguish abolitionism, a morally grounded and uncompromising social reform movement, from political antislavery—represented, for example, by the Free Soil or Republican parties—which advocated more limited political solutions, such as keeping slavery out of the western territories of the United States, and was more amenable to compromise.

Abolitionists played a key role in setting the terms of the debate over slavery and in making it a compelling moral issue Yet abolitionists ...

Primary Source

From 1841 to 1847 Frederick Douglass 1818 1895 who had escaped bondage in 1838 lectured on the evils of slavery as part of his work with William Lloyd Garrison s American Anti Slavery Society Douglass eventually differed with Garrison s revolutionary and arguably condescending tactics preferring instead a practical approach that preserved the core values of the republic The speech excerpted below delivered in October 1841 in Lynn Massachusetts contains the seeds of that conflict within the abolitionist movement Douglass states bluntly his concerns that Northerners are out of touch with the slaves experiences and that while their work to end slavery is admirable racism remains a problem even among the most determined abolitionists As an example he points out the irony of the Southern laws that prohibited teaching a slave to read While many Northerners believed that blacks were not smart enough to gain anything from education he states ...

Primary Source

Among moments of even titanic clashes of human wit intelligence and passion the series of seven debates between Stephen A Douglas and Abraham Lincoln stand tall A series of seven such meetings held in seven different locations throughout Illinois on the occasion of the 1858 senatorial campaign the Democrat Douglas was seeking his third term the Lincoln Douglas debates took up no less than the most pressing and critical issue of the day the debate over human chattel slavery and to what extent or whether or not the doctrine of popular sovereignty would allow the states to settle the question for themselves While Douglas defended such a notion despite the difficulties for states rights created by the Supreme Court s Dred Scott decision Lincoln challenged the entire institution of slavery as immoral and contrary to the principles established by the country s founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence and ...

Primary Source

One of the most important Supreme Court decisions in the history of the United States, Dred Scott v. Sandford had tremendous political ramifications during the turbulent period just prior to the Civil War. Dred Scott (born Sam Blow) sued his master John Sanford (Sanford's name was misspelled “Sandford” by the court) for his freedom on the grounds that he had previously resided on free soil. Scott's former master, an army surgeon named John Emerson, had taken him to the state of Illinois, where slavery was outlawed by the state constitution of 1818, and later to Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory (present-day Minnesota), where Congress had prohibited slavery under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. There was precedent for Scott's case; in Rachael v. Walker (1837), the slave of an army officer was freed upon returning to Missouri from Fort Snelling.

The case was argued twice before the Supreme Court in ...

Primary Source

For Abraham Lincoln the road to the Oval Office was not an easy one Initially regarded as a poor choice for his party s nomination an unknown quantity the lesser of more forward thinking men Lincoln was forced to run a dark horse campaign during which he was able to reap the benefits of his relative lack of political experience While his more tested opponents had to swim against the tide of their own careers Lincoln was able to focus himself entirely on his campaign He had few enemies within government and the moderation of many of his views particularly those having to do with slavery appealed to voters in the North and West Still catching the eye of the electorate was one thing convincing it to elect him president of the United States quite another When Lincoln faced his audience at the Cooper Union in New York City on ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

The African American members of the First Baptist Church in New York City withdrew their membership in 1808 when they were subjected to racially segregated seating. With Ethiopian merchants they organized their own church, called “Abyssinian” after the merchants’ nation of origin. The church was located at 44 Anthony Street, and the Reverend Vanvelser was its first pastor. Abyssinian numbered three hundred members in 1827 when slavery ended in New York. The Reverends William Spellman, Robert D. Wynn, and Charles Satchell Morris served as pastors during the church's early history. By 1902 the church was a renowned place of worship with more than sixteen hundred members.

The appointment of the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. in 1908 ushered in a new era of the church's history. His pastorate was devoted to spiritual and financial development. In 1920 he acquired property in Harlem and then oversaw the building ...

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Karen Backstein

dancer and arts administrator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Julius J. Adams, a journalist who rose to managing editor of the New York Amsterdam News, and Olive A. Adams, an accomplished pianist. Her parents cultivated in her a deep appreciation of the arts, as well as a legacy of social activism that stayed with Adams throughout her life—both during her career as a dancer and after her retirement from the stage, when she helped found community-based arts centers for children in Harlem. The dance writer Muriel Topaz described the Adamses' home as a “center of social and political activity,” and noted that the Global News Syndicate, an organization of black newspapers, was founded in their small apartment (Topaz, 30).

When she was eight years old Adams entered New York s progressive Ethical Culture School an institution dedicated to the moral as well ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

journalist and public official, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the younger son of the Reverend Henry and Margaret Priscilla (Corbin) Adams. Their father administered a respected school in Louisville. Cyrus and his older brother, John Quincy Adams (1848–1922), received excellent educations, Cyrus graduating from preparatory school and college at Oberlin College. In 1877 Cyrus began to teach in the Louisville public schools, and soon pooled savings with his brother to open the weekly Louisville Bulletin. They ran the newspaper until 1885, when it was acquired by the American Baptist newspaper owned by William Henry Steward, chairman of trustees at State University, a black Baptist university in Louisville, where Cyrus taught German. Already a dedicated traveler, Cyrus had spent much of 1884 in Europe, and was also fluent in Italian, French, and Spanish.

Both brothers had served as Louisville correspondents for the Western Appeal ...

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Kenneth Wayne Howell

cowboy and rancher, may have been born into slavery and escaped from bondage before the Civil War, though information about his life prior to his arrival in southwest Texas in the 1870s is limited. Based on stories he later told to his co-workers it seems likely that Adams spent his early adult life working as a cowboy in the brush country region of Texas, probably south and west of San Antonio. Given the circumstance of his birth and the times in which George came of age, he never received a formal education. As recent historical scholarship has made clear, black cowboys on the Texas plains enjoyed greater freedoms than did African Americans living in more settled regions of the state. However, their freedoms were always tainted by the persistent racism that prevailed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. George Adams's life was a vivid example of ...