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.

Rufus King. Substance of Two Speeches, Delivered in the Senate of the United Sta

A Founding Father on the Missouri Compromise, 1819

Creator: Rufus King Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Aurelia Hale to her sister Sarah, June 11, 1821.  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

A northerner’s view of southern slavery, 1821

Creator: Aurelia Hale Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833, detail. (GLC)

American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833

Creator: American Colonization Society Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
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+
Hugh Auld to Anna Richardson, October 6, 1846 (GLC07484.04)

Buying Frederick Douglass’s freedom, 1846

Creator: Hugh Auld, Walter Lowrie, and J. Meredith Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
Harriet Beecher Stowe to Prince Albert, March 20, 1852. (GLC)

Harriet Beecher Stowe sends Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1852

Creator: Harriet Beecher Stowe Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
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+
Enoch M. Duley, “Two Hundred Dollars Reward!” broadside, KY (GLC06377.01)

Runaway slave ad, 1860

Creator: Enoch M. Duley Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Geography, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“178 Sugar and Cotton Plantation Slaves!” J. A. Beard & May, New Orleans, LA, 18

Slave auction catalog from Louisiana, 1855

Creator: J. A. Beard and May Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
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+
James William Charles Pennington to unknown, April 29, 1851 (Gilder Lehrman Coll

“The whole land is full of blood,” 1851

Creator: James W. C. Pennington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

Letter from John S. Mosby to Sam Chapman, June 4, 1907. (GLC03921.21p1)

A former Confederate officer on slavery and the Civil War, 1907

Creator: John S. Mosby Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Charge of the Massachusetts 54th, Currier & Ives, 1863. (GLC)

African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Wagner, 1863

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

An African American soldier’s pay warrant, 1780

Creator: the State of Connecticut Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
"Life of George Washington--The farmer,"  by Jumius Brutus Stearns (LOC)

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, Delay of execution for Nathaniel Gordon, Feb. 4, 1862. (GLC)

Lincoln on the execution of a slave trader, 1862

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Draft of a circular letter by J. Milton Turner to Republican delegates at the Na

Nominating an African American for vice president, 1880

Creator: James Milton Turner Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:

Patriotic Postal Covers: “Lincoln & Davis in 5 Rounds,” 1861

Creator: J. H. Tingley Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels:
Census results, New York State, ca. 1800. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Slavery in the New York State census, 1800

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Samuel Wood, Injured Humanity; Being A Representation of What the Unhappy Childr

The horrors of slavery, 1805

Creator: Samuel Wood Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
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+
Mahala Doyle to John Brown, November 20, 1859. (GLC07590)

“Bleeding Kansas” and the Pottawatomie Massacre, 1856

Creator: Mahala Doyle Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: