While reading through the recent posts on the Amistad Research Center's blog, I came upon their spotlight article for a unique copy of Theodore D. Weld's American Slavery As It Is.
Formerly owned by abolitionist Lewis Tappan and containing annotations in his hand, it is the association between Weld and Tappan that makes Amistad's copy all the more interesting.
Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-1895) came from a family of Congregationalist ministers and was one of the leading architects of the abolitionist movement in the United States. He was also responsible for converting Lewis Tappan and his brother, Arthur, into the abolitionist cause. Known as a magnificent orator, Weld lectured widely and often on the topic of slavery until, at the age of 33, his voice gave out. He married the abolitionist and women's rights activist Angelina Grimke in 1938.
Having lost his oratory skills, Weld turned to publishing as a way of spreading the abolitionist cause. He, along with his wife and her sister, Sarah, began work on a project that would result in the 1839 publication of the compendium work American Slavery As It Is. The trio combed through over twenty thousand copies of Southern newspapers to compile first hand accounts and narratives from slave-holders, freedmen, and others. The book described not only the conditions of slavery, but on the daily aspects of slaves' lives, such as diet, clothing, housing, work hours, etc. Accuracy was of the utmost importance to Weld and the Grimke sisters; so much so that a committee of prominent abolitionists was selected to verify their materials and work.
Out of curiosity, I did a quick search in our own catalog. It turns out that we also have a copy of American Slavery As It Is, though ours lacks the significant annotations found in Amistad's. (Ours was originally owned by Gilmanton Theological Seminary in New Hampshire, which is somewhat interesting.) We also have a few of Weld's other publications, two biographies, and the memorial publication for Angelina and Sarah.
If you'd like to learn more about this remarkable text and the people associated with it, read the full article on the Amistad blog. And if you're in the Boston area, come see what else we have to offer.