Featured Primary Sources

Slavery and Anti-Slavery

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. In addition, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Henry Weeden to Watson Freeman, December 4, 1850 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

An African American protests the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850

Creator: Henry Weeden Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
John Quincy Adams to Roger S. Baldwin, November 11, 1840 (Gilder Lehrman Co

John Quincy Adams and the Amistad case, 1841

Creator: John Quincy Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“$2,500 Reward!,” Mississippi Co., Missouri, broadside, August 23, 1852. (Gi

Runaway slave ad, 1852

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Frederick Douglass to Hugh Auld, October 4, 1857 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

“I love you but hate slavery”: Frederick Douglass to his former owner, Hugh Auld, 1857

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

George Washington to John Francis Mercer, September 9, 1786. (Gilder Lehrman

George Washington on the abolition of slavery, 1786

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
 John Brown, “Address of John Brown to the Virginia Court..." December, 1859 (Gi

John Brown’s final speech, 1859

Creator: John Brown Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment concerning the abolition of slavery, ca. July 1

Lincoln on abolition in England and the United States, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Abraham Lincoln, notes for the “House Divided” speech, December 1857 (Gilder

The “House Divided” Speech, ca. 1857–1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+