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ABOLITION & EMANCIPATION

Part 6: Papers of William Wilberforce, William Smith, Iveson Brookes, Francis Corbin and related records from the Rare Books, Manuscript and Special Collections Library, Duke University

Publisher's Note

Part 6 brings together literature and papers on the abolition movement from both sides of the Atlantic. These manuscripts include:

• Letters of leading abolitionists such as William Wilberforce (1782-1833), Thomas Clarkson, Samuel Wilberforce, Zachary Macaulay, Joseph Sturge andone letter on slavery from Benjamin Franklin.
• Letters of William Smith (1787-1860) along with his papers on slavery and the slave trade, c.1788-1834. There is material on the Anti-Slavery Society, the Spanish slave trade and Jamaican slave laws. There are good letters from William Wilberforce discussing their plans for abolition, letters from planters in Jamaica, St Vincent, Bermuda, Nevis, Barbados and Berbice discussing the condition of slaves and slavery on these islands, and research notes on the number of ships involved in the slave trade. Eyewitness accounts cover the treatment of slaves. Smith also provides data on the ‘breeding versus importation’ question and statistics on runaways from various different islands.
• The Francis Cope Yarnall Papers, 1853-1861, with a volume discussing slavery in the southern states of America. He was a businessman with interests in railroads, coal operations and slate quarries in Pennsylvania. A series of letters between Yarnall and a “Professor M” feature his attacks on slavery, with “M” defending it. Topics discussed include conditions and treatment of slaves, house servants, field hands, women gang leaders, and the role of female slaves as healers.
• The Exeter Plantation Book, 1846-1871, which includes slave lists, provisions issued to them, occupation details, ages, births, deaths, names of parents, and notes on prices. This item comes from the Jacob Rhett Motte Correspondence and Papers. Most of the letters cover the 1830s and 1840s. He was a white physician and surgeon in the Confederate Army.
• The Rankin-Parker collection, including the autobiography of Reverend John Rankin and the biography of John Parker, an ex-slave who Rankin worked with for the Underground Railroad. Rankin was active in the Garrison Anti-Slavery movement and was mobbed for his views more than twenty times. John Parker bought his freedom in 1845. The story of Eliza’s escape across the Ohio river is also included, later supposedly used by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

There are also letters discussing slaves, race relations and white perceptions on these issues from the papers of Iveson Brookes, a white Baptist preacher and land holder in South Carolina and Georgia. The material includes slave lists and a contract on the ‘The Conditions for Hiring Negroes by the Georgia Railroad and Booking Co., 1855’. The 1864 diary of Isaac Shoemaker, a northerner who operated a cotton plantation in Mississippi, reflects on the difficulties of a plantation manager after slaves have been freed. John Campbell’s writings on slavery and abolition societies offer good evidence on his views. Samuel Chapman, a lawyer and planter in Maryland, records his business transactions with a midwife and free blacks, and provides a list of slaves in his financial papers for 1815-1822.

Plantation accounts in the Henry McPherson papers, 1801-1826, record the general store’s transactions with blacks, the hiring of slaves and women for weaving, farm labour, and midwifery services. The John Ramsey papers, 1834-1885, consist of the account books kept by a white farmer and merchant in Seaboard, North Carolina. They contain extensive details on Ramsey’s dealings with his hired labourers, many of whom, if not all, were black. Records of cotton picked are listed by name, and document gender similarities and differences in work patterns.

The African American Miscellany features slave sale receipts, freedom papers and clippings of black women. Of particular interest is a bill of sale in which a black woman sold two slave children. Labour contracts of black women can be found in the farm account book, 1877-1881, in the Thomas B Nalle papers, which cover rural family life in Virginia.

Other highlights of this part include:

• Reports on crops and conditions of slaves at the Louisiana sugar plantation of Francis Corbin, c.1820-1850.
• Extensive slave lists, c.1712, from Corbin’s Ripon Hall Plantation in York County, Virginia, documenting family ties, clothing and supplies for a group of 60 slaves.
Minutes and Papers of the Freedman’s and Home Relief Association of Lambertville,
New Jersey, 1864.
• Letters relating to the American Colonisation Society, about former slaves and to the Negro Reformatory Association of Virginia, from the Papers of
John Richardson Kilby, 1840-1889.
• Samuel Fuqua’s Account Book, c.1835-1866, including an agreement between a Virginia planter and his slaves regarding their continued service after emancipation.
• Reports, papers and letters on Africa.
• The African American Theater and Minstrel Show Advertisements Collection.
• Abolitionist speeches and material on the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
• Thomas Garrett’s address to the coloured people of St Helena Island of
South Carolina, 6 December 1866.
• The memoirs of William George Matton, 1866-1883, a Methodist minister who decided to move South. He discusses relations with Southern Methodists, relations between the white and black members of the church, and church sponsorship of schools for both white and black students.
• The log book of Thomas Leyland’s “Christopher” (4th voyage, 1791-1792).
• A slave transporter’s notebook.

All these materials allow researchers to look at slavery, plantation life, and the abolition movement in Britain, America and Europe. Scholars can examine the conflicting ideologies of trade and profit on the one hand, compared to concepts of freedom and racial equality on the other. Material from the mid 1860s onwards provides evidence for studying the changing conditions after the Civil War.

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