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Slavery and Abolition: Topics in Chronicling America

Conflict due to slavery and abolition led to inspired works and incidents during the 18th and 19th century. This guide provides access to materials related to "Slavery and Abolition" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Uncle Tom's Cabin." January 8, 1852. The National Era (Washington, DC), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Slavery and abolition are closely connected; for as long as humans have known about slavery, humans have also objected to, resisted, and opposed it. Slavery and abolition are also tightly interwoven through the history of the North American colonies and the United States of America. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic. You can find articles in Chronicling America about each of the items in the timelines. A section of this guide also provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1789 Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery resolves to seek improved conditions for free blacks.
1820 The Missouri Compromise (prohibits slavery north of 36°30´).
January 1831 William Lloyd Garrison founds The Liberator newspaper in Boston, demanding immediate, unconditional, uncompensated, and universal emancipation.
August 1831 Nat Turner leads a violent revolt of the enslaved in Southampton, Virginia.
1833 Formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia.
1836 Congress passes a rule that antislavery petitions sent in by constituents will not be discussed ("Gag rule"). In force until 1844.
1850 Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Law, part of the Compromise of 1850.
1851-1852 Author Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, a work of fiction, but based on research using documents collected by abolitionists. The work first appears in installments in The National Era newspaper.
1854 Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which effectively repeals the Missouri Compromise restriction on slavery's expansion.
1856 Antislavery U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Charles Sumner gives a speech in Congress titled, "The Crime Against Kansas" which calls out some fellow Congressmen's support for slavery. The next day pro-slavery U.S. Representative from South Carolina Preston Brooks finds Sumner at his Senate desk and beats him unconscious with a heavy cane.
1857 The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in the case of Scott v. Sandford ("Dred Scott") maintaining that slaveholders may enjoy the protections of their human property anywhere in the Union, that black Americans are not U.S. citizens, and that they "have no rights which the white man is bound to respect."
October 1859 Abolitionist John Brown leads a biracial armed group in an unsuccessful assault on the U.S. Armory at Harper's Ferry.
December 1859 John Brown is executed.
November 1860 Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States.
December 1860 South Carolina secedes from the Union, followed over the next several months by ten more states (the Confederate States of America).
1861 Civil War breaks out between the United States and the Confederate States of America.
April 1865 The Civil War ends in victory for the United States; days later, President Lincoln is assassinated.
December 1865 The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery.