Unit 5 Slavery and AboliItion in Post-Revolutionary and Antebellum America, 1790-1960


Between 1790 and 1860, American slavery expanded on a grand scale: federal census records show the 1790 slave population of seven hundred thousand increased to nearly four million in 1860, This growth was linked to the phenomenal increase in cotton cultivation in the South. The invention in 1793 of the cotton gin was one factor in the emergence of the Cotton Kingdom. The gin separated (cleaned) the cotton seed from the fiber, making the “short” staple variety of cotton, which would grow anywhere but was harder to clean, more commercially profitable than the “long” staple variety, which was easy to clean but would only grow in the low-lying areas of Georgia and South Carolina. The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 1770s, was a second factor. Since the first commodity produced was cotton cloth, a great demand for cotton first for the mills of England and later for the mills in the northern states (particularly Rhode Island and Massachusetts) was created.

Accompanying slavery’s rapid growth was its expansion westward into the fertile virgin lands of the New and Lower South and its continued decline in the North. New Jersey, in fact, with its passage of the Abolition Act in 1804, became the last northern state to abolish slavery. Under the provisions of this gradual abolition law, all children born of slaves after July 4, 1804, were to be freed after serving as apprentices to their mother’s masters-females after twenty-one years and males after twenty-five. This law was superseded by New Jersey’s Abolition Act of 1846, which declared, “That slavery in this state be and it is hereby abolished, and every person who is now holden in slavery by the laws thereof, be and hereby is made free” and that “the children hereafter to be born to all such persons shall be absolutely free from their birth, and discharged of and from all manner of service whatsoever.” Although this act appeared to emancipate all the state’s slaves, this was not the case, for it also provided that every slave “shall, by force and virtue of this act become an apprentice, bound to service to his or her present owner, and his or her executors or administrators; which service shall continue until such person is discharged there from, as is hereinafter directed.” Under the law’s provisions, therefore, all slaves were relegated to the status of “apprentices” for life, actually a modified form of slavery; this made New Jersey the last northern state to have slaves (the 1860 U.S. Census lists eighteen for New Jersey). The apprenticeship system ensured that slave owners would continue to support their slaves and that slaves would not become wards of the state (in 1846 there were nearly seven hundred New Jersey slaves, most over fifty-five years of age). It also afforded slaves greater legal protection. They could sue for their freedom if abused; they could not be sold without their written consent; they could not be sold out of the state.

Shortly after the enactment of New Jersey’s initial abolition law, the American slave trade closed. However, the 1808 slave-trade ban did not completely end slave imports to the United States and it is estimated that between 1808 and 1861 roughly fifty-four thousand slaves were smuggled into the nation. For the additional slaves needed for the expanded production of cotton, slave owners, in the face of the ban, continued their emphasis on natural reproduction, This emphasis, unique among New World slave societies, gave rise to the practice of systematic slave breeding.

The end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade also gave rise to a domestic (interstate) slave trade that resulted in the forced migration or relocation of roughly one million slaves by 1860. As part of this trade, slaves from the Old South, especially Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, were exported to the states of the New South: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, and Charleston were the principal trading centers of the slave-exporting states, while Montgomery, Memphis, and New Orleans were the key centers where these slaves were received for distribution.

That slavery lingered so long in New Jersey facilitated the state’s participation in the nation’s domestic slave trade. A state law passed in 1812 increased penalties for exporting slaves to the booming slave markets of the South. Still, it allowed the export of slaves who had consented to their removal, a provision that opened the way for widespread fraud. Thus, while another law was passed in 1818 that absolutely prohibited the export of slaves and provided for increased penalties, in the 1820s there were reports of New Jersey slaves (selling for three hundred dollars in the state) being sold in New Orleans for seven hundred to eight hundred dollars.

The rapid growth of slavery in the New South that resulted from the spread of cotton cultivation was accompanied by the rise of its own plantocracy or planter aristocracy, This elite group complemented that of the Old South, leading to unity among the South’s ruling class against any threat to slavery. In 1860 this combined elite constituted only 12 percent of the total 385,000 slave owners, who themselves were a decided minority of the 1.5 million white southern families. Owners in this elite, each possessing twenty slaves or more (ten thousand owned more than fifty slaves and three thousand owned more than one hundred), owned the majority of slaves and symbolized a lifestyle to which most white southerners aspired. The size of this elite’s slaveholdings meant that the typical slave owner had fewer than twenty slaves and the typical slave lived among more than twenty bondsmen.

The tremendous growth in the antebellum slave population was accompanied by the development among slaves of a sense of community. Through this they provided mutual moral and physical support and developed an ethos and value system that were expressed through their songs, folktales, religion, and extended family network. For example, an ethical rule that pervaded the distinctive culture forged by slaves enjoined stealing from one another.

As a general rule, slave labor was both intensive and extensive. Still, the conditions under which slaves worked and lived were determined by many variables, including the time period (colonial or antebellum), size of the farm or plantation, location (rural or urban area), and the slave owner’s personality. Another factor was the kind of staple crop produced. For example, the cultivation of cotton was comparatively mild (children were used to chop cotton), that of rice perhaps more difficult (the task system which required a slave to complete a certain amount of work each day was used, but slaves developed arthritis from standing in water), and that of sugar extremely arduous (it mainly involved men’s labor).

Although the institution of slavery rested on the principle that slaves were property, its practictioners inevitably had to accommodate the basic humanity of the bondsmen. This allowed room for slaves to maneuver between the extremes of total mastery and total surrender, so that a subtle interplay occurred between coercion and conciliation on the part of the slave owner and deference and defiance on the part of the slave. Thus, although servitude was an ordeal, severe and inhumane, a slave culture and slave community with an interior life did develop and endure and prevented slaves from being entirely helpless. Indeed, a slave personality emerged that, far from being completely shattered or permanently scarred by the extraordinary stresses and strains of bondage, remained steadfast and unwavering in a deep-seated quest and yearning for freedom.

Slave resistance continued during the antebellum period; its expression ranged from work slowdowns, feigned illnesses, and flight, to insurrections. The most notable insurrections of the period were Gabriel Prosser’s in Richmond in 1800, Denmark Vesey’s in Charleston in 1822, and the largest, Nat Turner’s, in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831, in which about sixty whites were killed. John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in which five of the nineteen participants were free blacks, was not a slave insurrection. It heightened fears of slave rebellions, however, and Brown became a martyr to the abolitionist cause; southerners blamed the abolitionists for his rebellion. Its intent had been to incite a slave uprising that would spread thoughout the South.

Opposition to slavery, especially after 1830, was also manifested in the growth and increased militancy of abolitionist societies in the North. Prominent white abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the antislavery newspaper The Liberator in 1831 and of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, joined black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, William Wells Brown, Henry Highland Carnet, and David Walker in taking a forceful stand against slavery. Walker’s “Appeal,” which some white southerners believed gave impetus to Nat Turner’s insurrection, was an 1829 essay that suggested that if the American colonists were justified in their revolt, then slaves were justified in using force to break the chains of their bondage, The 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, also helped generate opposition to slavery.

Among the activities that bound many abolitionists was the Underground Railroad (UGRR), a secret network that helped slaves escape from the South and whose greatest figures were the conductor Harriet Tubman and the stationmaster William Still, a New Jersey native. It is estimated that forty thousand fugitive slaves came North via this network between the early 1830s and the start of the Civil War; many settled in Canada, where slavery had been abolished in 1833. Because of its geographical location between Pennsylvania and New York, New Jersey was an integral part of the UGRR’s eastern corridor, with stations in such communities as Salem, Woodbury, Camden, Mount Laurel, Burlington, Bordentown, Trenton, Princeton, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Newark, and Jersey City. Because New Jersey became a “free state” with its passage of the Abolition Act of 1804, some UGRR participants decided to settle in the state. In the process they helped create all-black conimunities (for example, Saddlertown in Haddon, Camden County) and expand others (for example, Lawnside, Camden County, and Timbuctoo, Burlington County) that served as havens for fugitive slaves.

The notion that a better life for blacks could be secured through migration, so evident with the Underground Railroad, was also central to the work of those active in the colonization movement. Convinced that an egalitarian multiracial society in America was impossible, they sought to repatriate free blacks to Africa, The movement’s key organization was the American Colonization Society (ACS), which was formed in 1816 by prominent white Americans, one of whom, Robert Finley, was a Presbyterian minister from Basking Ridge. Finley was also the principal organizer in 1817 of the New Jersey Colonization Society, ACS’s New Jersey auxiliary. Some blacks were also attracted to the possibilities of colonization as the solution to the poverty and discrimination that free blacks faced in America, as well as a means of achieving the goal of Christianizing and uplifting members of their race in Africa, In fact, as early as 1815, Paul Cuffe, a wealthy black Quaker shipowner from Massachusetts, transported thirty-eight blacks to Sierra Leone, West Africa. And between 1816 and the Civil War, twelve thousand free blacks, including some from New Jersey, were settled in Liberia. Still, although black interest in emigration increased in the years immediately preceding the Civil War, by and large the efforts of ACS were opposed by the black antebellum leadership. Many saw ACS’s work as a slaveholders’ plot to get rid of free blacks, thereby robbing bondsmen of an important group that spoke on their behalf.

While the slave population had grown considerably by 1860, so too had the free black population, increasing from roughly 59,000 in 1790 to 488,070, of whom 250,787 were in the South and 237,283 in the North, Of the two groups, the free black northerners played a larger role in shaping black institutional life during this period. For example, in 1827, Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm founded in New York City Freedom’s Journal, the first black newspaper. Earlier, in 1816, Richard Allen had established in Philadelphia the first black religious denomination – the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, many of whose early churches were organized in New Jersey, especially Salem’s Mount Pisgah AME Church, one of the five congregations present at the 1816 AME founding conference.

The Colored Convention Movement is still another example of black antebellum organizational zeal. Organized in 1830 in Philadelphia with Richard Allen as its first chairman, it consisted of black leaders-the black intelligentsia-mainly from northern cities meeting periodically (1830; 1831; 1832; 1833; 1834; 1835; 1843; 1847; 1848; 1853; 1855; and 1864) to debate and formulate strategies and goals designed to better the condition of the race. New Jersey was represented in all of the conventions except for those held in 1830, 1831, 1843, 1848, and 1853. And when as an outgrowth of this movement blacks in individual states began to convene their own assemblies or state conventions, black New Jerseyans followed suit. In ,1849 they held a convention in Trenton to plan a campaign for securing the franchise that, given to them and women in the state’s 1776 constitution, was lost through legislation passed in 1807. Their plea for the franchise was perhaps presented in its most eloquent form in an 1850 address to the citizens of New Jersey made by the Salem native John S. Rock, doctor, dentist, and, in 1865, the first black accredted to practice before the U. S, Supreme Court.

Notwithstanding the work of the Colored Convention Movement, the conditions of free northern blacks worsened during the antebellum period. In many instances they experienced economic discrimination, often being displaced from their jobs by white immigrants who were arriving in increased numbers. Job competition was especially keen between the blacks and the Irish, since both groups were engaged mainly in unskilled work, in contrast to German workers, who were found in a number of skilled crafts. Northern blacks also suffered discrimination in suffrage rights, education, and public accommodations and were often, in urban areas, the targets of white mob violence. Philadelphia between 1830 and 1850 was particularly infamous for antiblack riotous behavior.

Coinciding with the increasingly hostile climate in the North for blacks were several political victories for the proslavery South in the 1850s. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave federal support to the capturing of fugitive slaves who had escaped to the North, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and introduced the doctrine of popular sovereignty, were important, but the Dred Scott Case was the South’s greatest triumph, In deciding that Dred Scott, a slave, had not become free by virtue of being carried into a free state by his owner, the Supreme Court held that blacks were not citizens of the United States and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in any part of the nation.

In the face of such adversity, the political differences among black northerners became more pronounced. Some leaders advocated staying in America and struggling for equal rights and an end to slavery; others, like Martin R. Delany, disillusioned with the promises of equality, favored emigration to places like Canada, the Caribbean, and Africa. It should be noted that Frederick Douglass, a staunch antiemigrationist in the Colored Convention Movement, even considered settling in Haiti during the late 1850s, The Civil War, however, with its implications for the destruction of slavery, which many blacks saw immediately, greatly lessened interest in emigration.



The antebellum period was a difficult one for black people. Slavery grew numerically and geographically in the South, and northern blacks, although emancipated and the builders of a varied institutional life, suffered from a rising tide of racial prejudice and discrimination.

Materials and Preparation

Students should read either chapters 9-16 in The African American Experience: A History (“Expanding the Nation, 1779-1840s,” “The Tyranny of Slavery, 1619-1860,” “Armed Resistance to Slavery, 1658-1860,” “Free African Americans in the North and South, 1700s-1860,” “Abolitionists, 1800-1860,” “Escaping from Slavery, 1800-1860,” “African American Churches: Agents for Change, 1787-1860,” and “The Road to the Civil War, 1820-1860”) or chapters 12-14 and 16-20 in African American History (“At War with Britain Again,” “The Drive for Education,” “Petitions for Liberty,” “Frederick Douglass, Orator and Editor,” “Truth, Tubman and the Underground Railroad,””Resisting Recapture,” “Daring Words, Then a Raid,” and “The House Divides”).

Students should read the excerpt from Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years A Slave, study the nationwide map and New Jersey map of routes of the Underground Railroad, respectively, and read John S. Rock’s Address to the Citizens of New Jersey”.

Students and the teacher should read pages 25-44 in Afro-Americans in New Jersey: A Short History.

The teacher should read chapters 6-10 in From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (“Blacks in the New Republic,” “Blacks and Manifest Destiny,” “That Peculiar Institution,” “Quasi- Free Blacks,” and “Slavery and Intersectional Strife”).

Time Period

Each of the activities that follow will take one class period.



  1. Recognize that slaves were able to forge a community with a distinctive ethos and culture. Ask students why it was important that slaves were able to develop a sense of community among themselves. Have students identify some of the distinctive features of the slave community as they pertain to family life, religion, foodways, folklore, and music.
  2. Evaluation: One feature of the slave community was the “extended family.” Have students write a 500-word essay describing the extended family and indicating how in several ways it was of value to the slave community.


  1. Identify the main variables that determined the nature of the slave experience. Indicate to students that one factor defining the slave experience was the particular crop cultivated. Have students discuss whether, if they were slaves, they would have preferred cultivating cotton, sugar, or rice.
  2. Evaluation: Indicate to students that another factor was whether the slave was a house servant or field hand. Have students read Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave. Have them then write a short play in which the two main characters, one a house slave and the other a field hand, discuss why they would not want to exchange places.


  1. Explain the Underground Railroad and New Jersey’s place in this network. Have students examine map #5and map #6 . Have them assume they were a fugitive slave from Georgia, and then ask them to locate on Map #5 that part of Canada’s Ontario Province near Detroit where some fugitive slaves established several all-black communities.
  2. Evaluation: Have students assume the identity of an Underground Railroad stationmaster in Burlington County. Have this person write a letter to a stationmaster in Middlesex County explaining the help he gave recently to a fugitive slave from Virginia.


  1. Describe the problems free antebellum blacks faced in the North and the kinds of institutions and organizations they established in building a community life.
  2. As a way of having students understand the difficulties northern antebellum blacks endured, have them read John S. Rock’s 1850 plea for black suffrage in New Jersey . Ask them to imagine they were Rock and have them write their own petition, indicating which of his arguments for the franchise they would emphasize most.
  3. Evaluation: Have students write a short story in which John S. Rock attempts to persuade a New Jersey assemblyman who has voted to withhold suffrage from the state’s blacks to change his vote.

Supplemental Activities

  1. Have students visit a selection of historic sites in New Jersey that pertain to the state’s earliest black churches. These include:
    • Mt. Pisgah AME Church, Salem
    • Mt. Pisgah AME Church, Lawnside (circa 1810)
    • Jacob’s Chapel AME Church, Mt. Laurel (circa 1813)
    • Mt. Zion AME Church, Trenton (1817)
    • Mt. Pisgah AME Church, Princeton (1818)
    • Mt. Zion AME Church, New Brunswick (1827)
    • Bethlehem AME Church, Burlington (1830)
    • Macedonia AME Church, Camden (1832)
    • Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, Princeton
    • Wesley AME Zion Church, Burlington (1844)
  2. Have students visit a selection of historic sites in New Jersey associated with the Underground Railroad. These include:
    • Goodwin Sisters’ House, Salem
    • Peter Mott House, Lawnside
    • Enoch Middleton House, Crosswicks Village, Chesterfield
    • Wheatley Pharmacy, Burlington
    • Croft Farm (Edgewater House), Cherry Hill
    • Timbuctoo, Westampton
  3. Show students the film A Woman Called Moses, an NBC-TV production that explores the life of Harriet Tubman, the famed conductor of the Underground Railroad (196 minutes). It can be purchased from Michael Jaffe, Ltd., 7920 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90046 (213-4644100).

Key Persons

Benjamin Banneker. Self-taught mathematician and astronomer, he assisted in the survey of the District of Columbia in 1791 and wrote and published a widely distributed annual almanac between 1792 and 1797.

John Brown. Led the 1859 raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

William Wells Brown. Leading abolitionist, he was the author of a slave narrative and one of the earliest books on African American history.

Sarnuel E. Cornish. A cofounder of Freedom’s Journal, outstanding abolitionist, and pastor of the Plane Street Presbyterian Church in Newark in the early 1840’s.

Paul Cuffe. Wealthy black Quaker shipowner from Massachusetts. As an early emigrationist, he transported thirty-eight blacks to Sierra Leone in 1815.

Martin R. Delany. A physician and leader in the Colored Convention Movement, he was a strong advocate of emigration, making a trip to Nigeria in 1856.

Frederick Douglass. Runaway slave who became a prominent abolitionist and black spokesperson.

Robert Finley. Presbyterian minister who organized the New Jersey Colonization Society.

Henry Highland Garnet. Clergyman, editor, and diplomat, he is perhaps best remembered as a prominent abolitionist.

William Lloyd Garrison. A leading white abolitionist, he founded the antislavery newspaper The Liberator.

Jarena Lee. Native of Cape May and probably the first woman preacher in the AME Church, she was also one of the few black women writers of the antebellum period, publishing her autobiography in 1836.

Gabriel Prosser. Led the slave rebellion in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800.

John S. Rock. A doctor, dentist, and lawyer who was a native of Salem, he was a leading abolitionist and was the first black permitted to practice before the U. S. Supreme Court.

John Russwurm. One of the earliest black graduates of an American college (Bowdoin, 1826) and a co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, he later emigrated to Liberia, where he became one of the.country’s leading government officials.

William Still. A native of Shamong (Indian Mills) in Burlington County, he was a major figure in the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia and later wrote of his experiences in assisting fugitive slaves in the classic The Underground Railroad, published in 1872.

Harriet Beecher Stowe. Author of the famous antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Sojourner Truth. Leading African American female abolitionist.

Harriet Tubman. The most famous person identified with the Underground Railroad, she returned to the South as a conductor over nineteen times to lead runaway slaves to freedom.

Nat Turner. Led 1831 slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia, in which about sixty whites were killed.

Denmark Vesey. Led 1822 slave rebellion in Charleston, South Carolina.

David Walker. Wrote militant “Appeal” in 1829, suggesting that slaves were justified in using force to attain freedom.

Annotated Bibliography and Suggested Reading


Berlin, Ira. 1975. Slaves without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South
This is the most comprehensive study of free blacks in the South. It demonstrates the complexity of race relations and the precarious status of blacks neither in bondage nor really free.
Blassingame, John. 1974. The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South.
A well-written, carefully researched, analytical, and thorough study of antebellum slavery.
Gutman, Herbert. 1976. The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom
Gutman’s work is considered by many historians to be the best history of the black family written. While it is far too extensive for use by students, it contains a wealth of information to transmit to students.
Levine, Lawrence W. 1977. Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American.Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom
An analysis of the complexity of black culture based upon the folk tales and folk songs of African Americans. There are many examples of these sources for the teacher to draw upon in lectures and discussions; the book is too detailed for most high school classes.
Litwack, Leon. 1961. North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860.
An excellent survey of the legal, political, and economic status of northern free blacks after abolition in the northern states. Litwack clearly establishes the continuation of racial prejudice and discrimination.
Parish, Peter. 1989. Slavery: History and Historians.
Probably the best succinct overview of the historiography of slavery.
Stampp, Kenneth M. 1956. The Peculiar Institution.
Stampp’s work is a classic in the historical literature of slavery. It sparked numerous revisionist works on the subject of slavery, dispelling the myth of the happy slave and the benign character of the institution.


Bisson, Terry. 1988. Nat Turner.- Slave Revolt Leader
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
___. 1991. Harriet Tubman: Antislavery Activist.
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
Bontemps, Arna, ed. 1969. Great Slave Narratives
Bontemps, the well-known novelist and poet, selected three interesting and compelling slave narratives for this volume. It is excellent for student use.
Borzendowski, Janice. 1989. John Russwurm: Publisher.
Part of the Achievement series.
Brown, William Wells. 1853. Clotel; Or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States
One of the earliest novels written by an African American, this attack on slavery takes the form of the claim that Thomas Jefferson fathered several slave children, including a beautiful young girl sold at an auction. Historical in scope in tracing the lives of three generations of black women, it emphasizes the disruption of family life that occurred under slavery.
Conley, Kevin. 1990. Benjamin Banneker: Scientist/Mathematician.
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
Diamond, Arthur. 1989. Paul Cuffe: Merchant and Abolitionist.
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
Douglass, Frederick. 1845. The Narrative of Frederick Douglass.
This is the first of three autobiographies by the most famous black leader, abolitionist, and orator of the antebellum era. This volume covers the slavery part of his life and his escape to freedom. Students should find this book very interesting and enjoyable.
Douty, Esther M. 1968. Forten the Sailmaker, Pioneer Champion of Negro Rights
James Forten of Philadelphia, businessman, abolitionist, champion of black rights, and a staunch opponent of the repatriation of American blacks to Africa, is the subject of this fine biography.
Edwards, Lillie. 1990. Denmark Vesey: Slave Revolt Leader.
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
Hamilton, Virginia. 1987. The Mystery of Drear House
A sequel to The House of Dies Drear, the book focuses on Thomas Small and his family, who live in Drear House, an Underground Railroad station.
___. 1988. Anthony Burris: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave.
This is a biography of an escaped slave from Virginia who was captured in Boston in 1854, arrested, tried, and subsequently returned to slavery. The narrative begins at the time of Burns’s arrest and uses a skillful flashback technique to reveal his early life. Burns, who died at the age of twenty-eight, overcame two periods of bondage, taught himself to read and write, and finally realized his lifelong dream of becoming a minister.
Hansen, Joyce. 1988. Out From This Place
This companion to Which Way Freedom follows Easter, Obi’s companion, in escape. She joins a group of slaves that escapes to the islands off the South Carolina coast. Here the group works on a plantation for pay and is given the opportunity to buy land. The story reveals Easter’s hunger for education and her determination to control her own life.
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. 1990. The Life of Frederick Douglass: Slave and Citizen
Within the context of Douglass’s life as a fugitive slave, abolitionist, journalist, and diplomat, this biography explores the black quest for freedom in the nineteenth century from the antebellum period through Reconstruction.
Johnson, Charles. 1990. Middle Passage.
This National Book Award-winning story of tragedy, magic, and the slave trade takes place in 1830. In it, a freed slave, Rutherford Calhoun, flees New Orleans because of a huge debt and an ill-starred romance. His unfortunate, means of escape is a slave ship bound for Africa to pick up cargo.
Krass, Peter. 1988. Sojourner Truth: Antislavery Activist.
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
Lester, Julius. 1982. This Strange New Feeling.
Three short stories that reveal the ingenuity of American slaves. The stories describe the feelings of slaves, the humiliation of the auction block, the cruelties of corporal punishment, and the unflagging zeal of slaves to be free.
Mellon, James, ed. 1988. Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember.
A collection of slave narratives that reveals much about the nature of bondage in America.
Meltzer, Milton. 1990. The Underground Man.
This story, set in 1835, is about Joshua Bowen, a logger on the Ohio River, who helps Sam, a runaway slave, escape to freedom. Based on a true story, the novel concludes with an extensive author’s note describing his research.
Rose, Willie Lee, ed. 1976. A Documentary History Of Slavery in North America
This collection of primary sources contains a variety of’ short documents suitable for distribution to high school juniors and seniors for the purpose of stimulating discussion and analysis.
Russell, Sharman Apt. 1988. Frederick Douglass: Abolitionist Editor.
Part of the Black Americans of Achievement series.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. 1852. Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
A best-selling novel that helped mobilize opposition to slavery. The character of Uncle Tom was based in part on Josiah Henson, an escaped slave whose narrative Mrs. Stowe had read.
Williams, Shirley Anne. 1986. Dessa Rose
This novel is set in the South before the Civil War. It tells the story of two women: Dessa Rose, a fugitive slave who attacked the master who killed her husband, and Ruth Elizabeth, who harbors runaways on her isolated farm. The heart of the story is the growth of a relationship between the two women, a relationship that allows them both to escape the roles and concepts of race and gender that antebellum society forced on them.


Underground Railroad Routes (PDF)

Underground Railroad Routes in New Jersey, 1860 (PDF)

Solomon Northrup– Twelve Years A Slave

John S. Rock– Address to the Citizens of New Jersey (1850)

Digitized by Deborah Mercer and Edith Beckett of the New Jersey State Library.
Copyright 2003 by the New Jersey Historical Commission,
New Jersey Department of State.
All rights reserved.
Please direct questions and comments to Deborah Mercer.
Updated:Wednesday, June 04, 2003