African Americans In Combat

One of the strongest voices for abolitionism came from former slave Frederick Douglass, whom Lincoln invited twice to the White House to discuss slavery. In this essay, Douglass continued to push Lincoln and other Northerners whom he believed were moving far too slowly in recognizing the rights and abilities of African Americans.
September 1861
Date of Event: 
Monday, September 9, 1861
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The Secret Six

Without the material support of a half-dozen prominent northerners known as the Secret Six, John Brown’s attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry 150 years ago may well never have occurred

ON OCTOBER 17, 1909, a small group of former abolitionists quietly gathered in an imposing brick house in Concord, Massachusetts, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John Brown’s historic raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, then a part of Virginia. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Franklin B. Sanborn, and Julia Ward Howe, widow of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, did not want their meeting to attract attention despite the fact that Brown and his compatriots were being celebrated across the country.Read more »

Abolitionist John Doy

Tempers flare and violence reigns in the pre–Civil War battleground of Kansas

On January 25, 1859, a small wagon expedition of three whites and 13 blacks stole away from Lawrence, Kansas, on the first leg of a journey that would take the African Americans to the free state of Iowa, far from Kansas and the ever-present threat of kidnapping by slave traders. For the three white abolitionists it was a protest against those who would deny their deepest beliefs about freedom and human rights. Read more »

Prizing History



Richard Gilder, sixty-six, a hugely successful New York investment counselor, and Lewis Lehrman, sixty-one, a Pennsylvania-born businessman who ran for governor of New York in 1982, joined forces in 1990 to become the decade’s most unlikely but arguably most influential partners in the field of American history. Together they have all but cornered the market on both spending and giving away money in the pursuit of history.

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The Father of American Terrorism

Two hundred years after his birth, Americans still revere him as a martyr and loathe him as a fanatical murderer. What was he?


On December 2, 1859, a tall old man in a black coat, black pants, black vest, and black slouch hat climbed into a wagon and sat down on a black walnut box. The pants and coat were stained with blood; the box was his coffin; the old man was going to his execution.

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The Northern Front

Boston is so bright a beacon of Revolutionary history that it is easy to forget the city played an equally significant role in another civil war. Dara Horn, a Harvard junior, seeks out the moral engine of the Union cause.

Time is a viscous fluid, and occasionally it sticks to places, leaving the residue of certain centuries attached to the edges of buildings, or to markers on the streets, or to the insides of tourists’ heads. In Boston that clinging moment is the colonial period and the American Revolution. When tourists think of Boston, they think of Puritans and patriots, of minutemen and Paul Revere.

The Slave Who Sued For Freedom

While the Revolution was still being fought, Mum Bett declared that the new nation’s principle of liberty must extend to her too. It took eighty years and a far more terrible war to confirm the rights she demanded.

Early during the year 1781, having heard a lot of talk about the “rights of man,” a black slave woman named Mum Bett walked out of her master’s house in western Massachusetts to tell a lawyer that she wanted to sue for her freedom. After asking her what had put such an extraordinary idea into her head and being satisfied by her reply, the lawyer agreed to represent her. The case is a reminder of the fact that slavery existed even in the cradle of abolitionism, and it is a testament to the hopes inspired by revolutionary rhetoric.Read more »

The Slaves Freed

Influence of “Advanced Republicans” Seen as Crucial to the Outcome
They Stand Ready to Defend With Arms the Rights Thus Gained

When the cold, fastidious Mississippian rose to speak, a hush fell over the crowded Senate chamber. It was January 21, 1861, and Jefferson Davis and four other senators from the Deep South were here this day to announce their resignations. Over the winter, five Southern states had seceded from the Union, contending that Abraham Lincoln’s election as President doomed the white man’s South, that Lincoln and his fellow Republicans were abolitionist fanatics out to eradicate slavery and plunge Dixie into racial chaos.Read more »

“A’n’t I a Woman?”

Soujourner Truth's mission was “testifyin’ concerning the wickedness of this ‘ere people.”

In the violent, restless decade before the Civil War some close ties were forged between the woman's-rights movement and abolitionism. The great feminist Susan B. Anthony, for instance, was a paid agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, while Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist, was a frequent speaker at woman’s-rights conventions. But if the relationship was occasionally a close one, it was rarely tranquil.Read more »

The Unexpected Mrs. Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe, an extraordinary member of an extraordinary family, always claimed that God wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin

She had been brought up to make herself useful. And always it suited her. Read more »