During the Civil War era Boston led the national crusade against slavery and the struggle over emancipation and citizenship. Owing largely to activists in Boston, Massachusetts became one of the first states to end slavery. It soon granted black men full suffrage, ended the ban on interracial marriage, and in 1855 became the first state legally to desegregate public schools. During the Civil War, Bostonians were instrumental in convincing the Lincoln administration to turn a conflict fought chiefly to preserve the Union into a war for emancipation and black citizenship.
Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery features objects from the extraordinary collection at Houghton Library to highlight the city’s role in the international fight for freedom. Each case focuses on a theme connecting Boston to the larger crusade against slavery: Haiti and Toussaint Louverture; An Age of Compromise and Crises, 1820-60; Militant Boston; Music as Memory; Female Emancipators; Concord’s Response to John Brown; the Saturday Club; and an introductory case that spotlights Boston’s abolitionist leaders. Each object constitutes an important marker in the crusade. Many are on display for the first time, such as this 1862 Cambridge recruitment broadside, and have rarely, if ever, been analyzed by scholars.
The exhibition has been co-curated by Harvard students under the direction of John Stauffer, Professor of English, African and African American Studies, and History of American Civilization; and in conjunction with the public symposium, Freedom Rising, a three-day event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and African American military service. The exhibition will remain on view in the Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library, through August 23rd, 2013; an online version is forthcoming.
For details contact Peter X. Accardo at accardo at fas.harvard.edu.
Image (click to enlarge): “Cambridge to the rescue” (Boston, Mass., 1862): broadside. US 13207.4.20*F – No source, no date.