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Black Abolitionist Papers: Sample Searches

A guide to all aspects of ProQuest's Black Abolitionist Papers database including content, searching, and viewing results.

Sample Searches

Quick Search

You are interested learning more about the beginnings of the Free Soil movement of the mid-1800s.

1. Locate the Quick Search box in the upper right corner of the Home page.

2. Enter exactly "Free Soil" Buffalo in the query box and click the red "Go!" button

3. Note the number of results and use the "Change sort order to" option to Alphabetical by Last Name to review the list of results sorted A-Z buy author's last name.

4. Using the page navigation links at the bottom of the page, navigate to Page 2 and locate the 13 October 1848 "Colored Convention" printed in Anti-Slavery Bugle.

5. Click Document Image, note the use of hit-term highlighting on the JPEG image then click Switch to Flash to use the Zoom, Pan, and page navigation options to read the document.

6. Answer the following questions:

a. In what city was this Convention held?

b. What is the first Resolution adopted by the Convention?

c. What does the document say/recommend regarding education?

d. What does the document reflect as "the greatest curse ever inflicted on man"?

e. List at least three pieces of information does the Convention requested be gathered into lists by "colored minsters and other persons throughout the Northern States"?

f. Write the motto cited as being adopted at the Buffalo Convention and supported by the Cleveland Convention:

g. What "movement" does the document recommend its people support:


Search Tab

1) You are interested in locating information about young anti-slavery activists in the northern states that were active in the Underground Railroad.

Enter the following details into the search page:

Keyword: kidnapping

Personal Name: Ruggles

Time Period: 1810 to 1849 

Once the results are displayed, explore them according to the following steps:

  1. Click to view the Full Text of the 6 October 1836 Emancipator article by Thomas Van Rensellar, et al.
  2. Read the abstract and the brief article, then answer the following questions:

a. In what state did the activities described in this article take place?

b. What was the name of the committee formed by "local black leaders" and what year was it founded?

c. According to the article's authors, what "bulwark of personal freedom" was being effectively denied to people of color who found themselves arrested?

d. Who is depicted in the sketch drawing beneath the article?

e. According to footnote 8, what writ cited in the article has since been "superseded by the writ of habeas corpus in contemporary American law" and what is the definition of this write as given in the footnote?

f. Return to the search results page using the browser's Back button.

g. Click to view the Document Image of the 16 September 1837 Colored American article "A Boy Kidnapped."

h. Click "Switch to Flash" to access the zoom, pan, and rotate tools and read the brief article.

i. What is the full name of the young man who was "imported" as an apprentice and where was he from?

j. List the two judges that were appealed to in the case:

k. Was the young man rescued?  Yes / No

i. If yes, where was he taken after his rescue and by whom?

ii. If no, where was he taken and by whom?

2) You have been asked to locate and read correspondence letters written by white abolitionist, social reformer, and editor of The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison.

  1. Check the box next to Primary Documents (you may need to deselect the box next to Editorial Content).
  2. Click Select from list for the Author field and search for the last name Garrison. Check the box next to Garrison, William Lloyd. Click the red “Select” button to add the name to the search page.
  3. Click the Select from list for the Document Type and check the box next to “Letter.” Click the red “Select” button to add this document type limit to the search page.
  4. Click the “Search” button at the bottom of the search page to execute the search.
  5. On the results page, select to view the PDF of the result titled “Miss Douglass” from 5 March 1855.

 a. Is this letter the handwritten original or a verbatim, typewritten copy. (Circle one)

b. To whom is this letter written?

 c. What is the primary purpose of Mr. Garrison writing to Mrs. Douglass?

 d. In pages 2 and 3, Mr. Garrison applauds and encourages Mrs. Douglass and her colleagues in the Society. Beginning midway through page 2 Mr. Garrison raises three points of guidance. Summarize each point in a few words:

 e. Return to the results page using the browser’s Back button and select to view the Document Image for the letter titled “Beloved Friends: I Have Received Your Heartfelt…”

                                                    i.     Is this personal correspondence or a public letter published in The Liberator? (Circle one)

                                                   ii.     What date was this letter published?

                                                  iii.     To whom does “Beloved Friends” refer?

                                                  iv.     Garrison refers to letters written to him welcoming home. Where did he travel and for what purpose?

                                                   v.     What event is being planned in Boston for Garrison and his fellow abolitionist Nathaniel P. Rogers?

                                                 vi.     Who are the three members of “the Committee” listed:

View Contents Tab

Browse by Document Type

1. Click to view the list of available document types.

2. Click to expand the list of available Books.

3. Click Memoirs to view the list of available titles.

4. Click Document PDF for the title Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Paul Cuffe, A Pequot Indian: During Thirty Years at Sea and in Travelling in Foreign Lands.

a. Found on page 1 of the PDF (title page) In what year and by whom was this title printed?

b. Scroll to page 2 of the PDF and answering the following.

i. At what age and in what year does Cuffe state he made is first voyage with his father? 

ii. How old does this make Paul Cuffe a the time of printing?

c. Continue reading... What three commodities were loaded onto the vessel when they arrived in Savannah, Georgia? 

d. Scroll through the document to column 16 and answer the following:

i. After sailing to Payta twice and then to Tombus, where did Cuffe and his fellow sailors encounter the Terrapin? 

ii. How much does he describe them as weighing?

iii. What does he state they typically feed upon?

iv. How many does he state they loaded onto the ship in a matter of five (5) days?

v. From this destination, where did they next sail?

vi. In the new port, did Cuffe remain on his current vessel or change vessels? (Circle one)

1. If he remained on his current vessel, what cargo did they take to the next port?

2. If he changed vessels, what is the name of the new vessel and how does he describe the new captain?

e. Scroll to the last page and read the last two paragraphs of the memoir starting at the bottom of column 20 through the end of column 21. Answer the following questions:

i. What three U.S. ports did Cuffe travel to before seemingly ending his career in New York?

ii. What injury seems to have ended his career?

iii. In what city and state did Cuffe retire and write his memoir?


Browse by Name

1. Click to expand the list of last names in the C list and locate Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

2. A list of documents, organized alphabetically by author, related to or about Mrs. Cary will appear on the page. Review the list and locate the editorial article written by Mrs. Cary on 26 July 1856 in the Provincial Freeman "59. Editorial by Mary Ann Shadd Cary 26 July 1856."

3. Click on the Document Image link to read the short editorial.

a. What topic is Mrs. Cary writing about?

b. What prominent individual does she specifically mention by title several times?

4. Return to the list using the browser's back navigation, and select to view the sermon written by Mrs. Cary on 6 April 1858 found in the Ontario Archives - Mary Ann Shadd Cary Papers titled "72. Sermon by Mary Ann Shadd Cary 6 April 1858."

5. Click Document PDF to view and read the sermon.

a. Is the PDF document a transcription of the sermon or an image of the handwritten original? (Circle one) 

b. Using the browser's Back navigation, return to the list and click the title of this record to review the full record.

i. List the four Subject Terms assigned to this record:

ii. What is the Place that has been indexed in association with this record?

6. Return to the list and locate the 29 January 1852 Voice of the Fugitive article by Henry Bibb titled "Colored Settlements and Schools." Click the Document PDF link to view the article. Read the single-column article and answer the following:

i. What city is Mrs. Shadd noted as teaching in?

ii. In what type of building is she teaching and how many students does the article note as being under her tutelage?

iii. According to the article, so most of the community members of the New Canaan Settlement own or rent/sharecrop the farms in the area?  (Circle one)


Browse by Source

1. Locate and click on Friends House, Dublin, Ireland.

2. Click "Full Text" for the letter from Charles Redmond in November 1841.

a. Read the short letter and the footnotes, and answer the following:

i. The letter mentions a bazaar; what event held in 1834 is the bazaar referred to modeled after? What types of items were sold at such events?

ii. What organization initiated the 1834 event?

iii. Footnote 2 references Mrs. Allen. Briefly describe who she was:

iv. The letter and subsequent footnote 3 references the Riley (or Ryley) family. Who were they in the Irish antislavery movement?


Browse by Location

1. Click on R in the alphabetical list.

2. Locate and click on Russia to expand and view the list of records associated with, referencing, or about Russia.

3. Click to open the PDF for the 16 June 1855 record from the Provincial Freedman "At a Meeting of the Colored Citizens, Held in Chatham, Kent County, Canada West, 6th June, 1855"

4. Read the announcement and answer the following:

a. Until 1867, Britain governed Canada and therefore the citizens of Canada were considered British subjects. This announcement addresses a "unanimous resolution" made by the membership. What is that resolution?

5. Return to the list of results displayed for Russia-related records.

6. Locate the editorial from the same Provincial Freedman issue as the above records entitled "The Colored Men of Canada and the Eastern War."

7. Read the editorial and briefly describe the Editor's opinion on the action and support taken by the group at Chatham, which the previous questions reference.

BONUS Question: What is the name now used for the war referenced in the two records above?


Browse by Date

You are interested in researching documents from the year prior to and following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1862 & 1864.

1. Click on 1862 to expand and view the specific dates of documents published or written in 1862.

2. Click on July 5th, 1862 and click to view the PDF of "Emancipation Meeting" by Peter Anderson and Henry M. Collins.

a. What did the first resolution commemorate?

b. What date was decided upon to celebrate emancipation in the District of Columbia and the British West Indies?

c. What was the other activity reported in this article?

3. Return to the list and click Nov. 8th, 1862; select to view the Document Image of "Bird's Eye View of the Downfall of Slavery" published in the Pacific Appeal. Zoom and pan as necessary to read the document.

a. What foreign countries or continents are referred to in this document as needing to "ultimately commit those nations to the side of the North"?

b. Does the author claim that the doctrine of slavery is on the decline or will continue to be tolerated?  (Circle one)

4. Return to the list and click Dec. 27th, 1862; select to view the PDF of "Poetry: The Bondman's Hope" by  James Madison Bell.

a. How does the poet describe the world beyond bondage?

b. The last stanza directly refers to the very real and near known possibility of what being signed?

c. How are slavery and the possiblity of freedom described in the final lines of the poem?

5. Return to the list and click on 1864 to expand and view the specific dates of documents published or written in 1864.

6. Click on Aug. 1st, 1864 and explore any of the four documents by viewing the Full-text or PDF images.

7. Return to the date list and click Sept. 25th, 1864 to view the list of documents for that day.

8. After reading several of the 1864 documents, what are the topics on the minds of the authors?


Follow-up: Thinking of other documents you have reviewed in previous exercises, are the topics noted in Question 6 significantly different from previous years? Is the tone different? Are there new topics or topics that were not as prevalent surfacing in the 1864 documents?


University of North Carolina Press Volumes

1)     You wish to explore the University of North Carolina Press Volumes to learn more about Ms. Sarah M. Douglass after reading the letter from William Lloyd Garrison to her (Search Tab Q1).

1. Click “Volume 3” to expand the list of Documents within that volume.

2. Open the PDF for the record “7. Speech by Sarah M. Douglass Delivered before the Female Literary Society of Philadelphia - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania June 1832.”

a. In what publication and on what date was this speech published?

b. Rather than detesting the slaveholder, as Ms. Douglass claims to have previously done, what does she say her current feelings and actions are? 

2)     In the days and weeks following the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation there was much uprising and violence in many cities. You wish to read firsthand accounts and editorial opinions of this volatile time.

1. Click “Volume 5” to expand the list of Documents within that volume.

2. Open the Document Image for “34. John Oliver to Simeon S. Jocelyn 14 January 1863” and read the handwritten letter (NOTE: If necessary, use the Full Text option to read the transcription.)

 a. What is Oliver’s primary topic? (Circle one)

Locating a building for a school 

Lack of food and supplies

Request for assistance in escaping to Canada 

b. What events does Oliver also report as secessionist’s response to the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation?

c. Where are these events taking place? 

d. What group does Oliver report “The Southerners higher… to mob and rob the colored people at all times day or night”?

 e. What strategic military installation does Oliver report to be “in ashes”?

 f. According to the footnotes found in the Full Text transcription of this letter:

i.     In what building and in what city did Oliver open his school for escaped slaves?

ii.     How many people are reported to have enrolled by late 1864?

3. Return to the list of documents in Volume 5 and open the Full Text for “32. H. Ford Douglas to Frederick Douglass 8 January 1863” and read the entire entry, including the abstract at the top of the page.

a. The abstract of this letter synopsizes the efficacy of The Emancipation Proclamation as providing hope that the official and wholesale end of the institution of slavery in America was nearing an end. We also learn about the letter’s author, H. Ford Douglas. Of the following, what was the purpose of his writing to Frederick Douglass? (Circle one) 

Encourage Douglass to help recruit more black military troops

Request financial assistance in rebuilding the local A.M.E. church

Accept Douglass’s offer to speak at a rally in New York

b. From where was the letter sent by Douglas?

c. When does Douglas state he joined the military?

d. Why does he say he enlisted?

 e. Douglas refers to the consideration of deporting freed black slaves to British Colonies in the Caribbean in lieu of emancipation or Constitutional amendments, “This war will educate Mr. Lincoln out of his idea of the deportation of the Negro, quiet as fast a

 f. To what military company/regiment does Douglas belong?

 g. Implying that Lincoln has crossed a moral and political line, what idiom and reference to a historical military event does Douglas use to describe Lincoln’s signing of The Emancipation Proclamation?

 h. What image is included with the Full Text of this letter?

4. Return to the list of documents for Volume 5 and open the Full Text for “40. Harriet A. Jacobs to Lydia Maria Child 18 Match 1863.” Read the abstract, letter, and accompany footnotes.

 a. Ms. Jacobs writes of a smallpox epidemic that hit the freedmen communities during the winter months and the relief actions of a specific group to which she feels indebted.

i.     What group does she specify?

ii.     What actions did they take to provide relief and assistance

iii.     Does Ms. Jacobs describe any actions taken by the government to assist?

1. Yes / No  (Circle one)

2. If yes, what was done?

3. If no, what does she say about the inaction?

b. The letter describes how “the colored people could not do enough for the first regiments,” then acknowledges that the regardless of their support things changed.  Directly quoting the letter, what does Ms. Jacobs report is happening?

c. Does Ms. Jacobs report that the change in marriage laws (allowing former slaves that were wed while in bondage to be recognized as married couples) has largely been disregarded or  acknowledged and abided by? (Circle one)

 d. Ms. Jacobs describes the plight of orphans and refugee women.  How does she explain the home life that many of the orphans are being brought into?

e. A reference is made to a reprinted letter published in the New York Evangelist. Using the footnotes, answer the following questions:

i. Who is the likely author of the reprinted letter?

ii.     What issue of the publication was the reprint found in?

iii.     What assertion about the freedmen population was made in the letter?

iv.     What two reasons are given in Footnote 6 for couples married as slaves to want to legitimize their marriages?

***Answers can be found on the PDF document linked below.***