Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1783, but throughout the 18th and 19th century, the state’s legislator fielded thousands of petitions calling for an end to lingering slavery, segregation and the uncertainty caused by legislation like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and by the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857. And among these documents were “some of the first petitions prepared, signed, and circulated by African-Americans in North American history,” says Daniel Carpenter, the director of Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies.
In order to make these documents more accessible, the center will catalogue, transcribe and digitize around 5,000 of the petitions, currently owned by the Massachusetts State Archives. The center aims to complete the project by June 2015.
The petitions speak to fear and anxiety in African American communities, even though slavery had already been abolished in the state. African Americans living around Boston feared re-enslavement, for example, or that their basic life freedoms would be limited by discriminatory regulations.
Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/05/african-americans-sent-thousands-of-anti-slavery-petitions-in-the-18th-and-19th-century/#ixzz2SSzBRShF
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter