Lessons from The American Anti-Slavery Almanac

Ev’n her babes, so dear, so young / And so treasured in her heart, / That the cords which round them clung, / Seemed its life, its dearest part; / These, ev’n these, were torn away ! / These, that, when all else were gone, / Cheered the heart with one bright ray, / That still bade its pulse beat on !  

How do we change hearts and minds? In the absence of direct experience, indirect experience is the next best thing—and that was the aim of the American Anti-Slavery Almanac.

First published in 1836 by the American Anti-Slavery Society, the American Anti-Slavery Almanac was an attempt to bring awareness about slavery (in the South) to nineteenth-century America (in the North).

The 1838 issue focused particularly on slavery in the South, with the captions and graphic illustrations (see below) serving to show many Northerners the extent of the horrors for the first time.

The almanac includes writings on the subject of slavery emphasizing its un-Christian nature, noting the horrific treatment of the slaves as well as the injustice of children being separated from their families.

The following are captioned illustrations from the American Anti-Slavery Almanac, January through December, 1838:

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In the Southern States, every colored person is presumed to be a slave, till proved free; and they are often robbed of the proof.

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The colored man was seized, fastened to the horse’s tail, and driven several miles. His free papers were at home, and he could not instantly produce them. He was found dead by the road the next morning.

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Instead of being allowed to comfort and assist one another, the slaves are often compelled to hold one of their number, while another wretched being is forced to ply the lash.

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The slave Paul has suffered so much in slavery, that he chose to encounter the hardships and perils of a runaway. He exposed himself, in gloomy forests, to cold and starvation, and finally hung himself, that he might not again fall in the hands of his tormentor.

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The purchaser of the husband has sent to have him dragged away. As he does not wish for the “balance” of the family, they have been taken by different purchasers.

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Ev’n her babes, so dear, so young / And so treasured in her heart, / That the cords which round them clung, / Seemed its life, its dearest part; / These, ev’n these, were torn away ! / These, that, when all else were gone, / Cheered the heart with one bright ray, / That still bade its pulse beat on !

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Consider the desolation which would be brought about YOUR family, if the head of it should be taken away. The slaves suffer, in such cases, FAR MORE than we, for they have few pleasures except those they derive from their companions in woe.

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The slaves are sometimes chained together when they go walk in the fields, lest their love of liberty should induce them to make violent efforts to escape.

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Sometimes a slave is tied up by the wrists, while the ankles are fastened to a staple in the floor. In this position, they are punished with the whip or with the paddle. This is an instrument of torture bored full of holes, each hole raising a blister.

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These men having FELT the horrors of slavery, fled to Cambria country, Pa., in April, 1837. Being pursued, one of them said he would die before he would be taken. They were shot and wounded, and then were taken with great difficulty.

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Many of the northern States have refused to grant to their own citizens trial by jury, lest slaveholders should have too much trouble in stealing men.

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The Way the Friends of Liberty are Treated in America. On the 28th of January, 1837, John Harper, of N. York, was lynched at Savannah, because his father belonged to the same society with Jay, Rush and Franklin.

See more editions of the Almanac from other years here on the Internet Archive. H/t Public Domain Review.

In the absence of legalized slavery, it isn’t hard to imagine what kind of economic system the South might favor today. For more on that story, see:

How the South Drives American Wages Down

A closer look at how the South’s slave labor system has endured and spread across America.

America's Deeper Issue

Why the South still struggles with racism and inequality.
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