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Overview

Even as the U.S. was in the midst of declaring its independence in 1775, a society was born in Philadelphia dedicated to emancipating America's black slaves. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society originated with the early anti-slavery activities of Philadelphia Quakers, and its continuing efforts toward the cause of equal education and employment for blacks makes it the oldest such organization still in existence.

The microfilm collection of the Society's papers charts the founding and the activities of this organization and contains primary sources central to a study of the American abolition movement both pre- and post-Civil War. Students conducting research in black studies, American history, abolition movements, religious history, and the history of American education will find correspondence, minutes, reports, financial papers, manumissions, indentures, and other legal papers, as well as printed materials in these documents.

Among the many topics to be examined in-depth are:

 

  • The Society's Early Years: Philadelphia Quakers' anti-slavery activities and their withdrawal from the Society; the Society's reestablishment with such influential members as Tench Coxe, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Thomas Paine
  • The Society's Shifting Directions: early activities centering around manumission and anti-slavery petitions during the Civil War; later emphasis on education and employment of emancipated blacks; founding of a school for free blacks in Philadelphia; and support to black educational institutions such as Howard University
  • The Society in the 20th Century: its involvement in the civil rights movement; advancement of a black cultural and historical museum in Philadelphia; its advocacy of black history studies in Philadelphia's public schools

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania filmed this collection from the original documents in its possession. It represents a landmark collection for time-specific research as well as for comparative period studies relating to the abolition movement in America.

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