Source: Image from The Anti-Slavery Alphabet pamphlet at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History
The Anti-Slavery Alphabet was a poem-based pamphlet that was produced for an 1846 Anti-slavery Fair in Philadelphia. As noted by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History,
In the January 1847 Pennsylvania Freeman, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society reported profitable sales at its December 1846 fair of “an Anti-Slavery alphabet, written and presented to the Fair by Hannah and Mary Townsend, of this city.” The slim volume targeted young readers, with the hope of inspiring a new generation of abolitionists.
The Alphabet consists of sixteen leaves, printed on one side, with the printed pages facing each other and hand-sewn into a paper cover. Each of the letter illustrations is hand-colored.
Despite its simplicity – the poem was clearly made to be memorized by children – the Anti-Slavery Alphabet is a compelling and comprehensive condemnation of slavery. It discusses all the critiques of the institution: the separation of family members; its use of physical cruelty; and the overall unfair treatment of slaves, who are “Brothers with a skin of… darker hue” but nonetheless “dear” in the eyes of God.
Notably, the poem takes Northerners to task, saying, “M is the Merchant of the north, Who buys what slaves produce— So they are stolen, whipped and worked, For his, and for our use.”
The pamphlet begins with another poem titled To Our Little Readers which tells the young, “there’s much that you can do… plead with men that they buy not slaves again.” It also suggests that young people boycott slave produced goods.
A variant of the poem is presented in this YouTube video, titled “The Alphabet of Slavery”:
The text of the pamphlet is shown below, and taken from the EBook version from Project Gutenberg; see the note at the bottom of this blog entry. The pamphlet is also available for browsing at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as a slideshow of images of each page.
TO OUR LITTLE READERS.
Listen, little children, all,
Listen to our earnest call:
You are very young, ’tis true,
But there’s much that you can do.
Even you can plead with men
That they buy not slaves again,
And that those they have may be
Quickly set at liberty.
They may hearken what you say,
Though from us they turn away.
Sometimes, when from school you walk,
You can with your playmates talk,
Tell them of the slave child’s fate,
Motherless and desolate.
And you can refuse to take
Candy, sweetmeat, pie or cake,
Saying “no”—unless ’tis free—
“The slave shall not work for me.”
Thus, dear little children, each
May some useful lesson teach;
Thus each one may help to free
This fair land from slavery.
A is an Abolitionist—
A man who wants to free
The wretched slave—and give to all
An equal liberty.
B is a Brother with a skin
Of somewhat darker hue,
But in our Heavenly Father’s sight,
He is as dear as you.
C is the Cotton-field, to which
This injured brother’s driven,
When, as the white-man’s slave, he toils,
From early morn till even.
D is the Driver, cold and stern,
Who follows, whip in hand,
To punish those who dare to rest,
Or disobey command.
E is the Eagle, soaring high;
An emblem of the free;
But while we chain our brother man,
Our type he cannot be.
F is the heart-sick
Fugitive, The slave who runs away,
And travels through the dreary night,
But hides himself by day.
G is the Gong, whose rolling sound,
Before the morning light,
Calls up the little sleeping slave,
To labor until night.
H is the Hound his master trained,
And called to scent the track
Of the unhappy Fugitive,
And bring him trembling back.
I is the Infant, from the arms
Of its fond mother torn,
And, at a public auction, sold
With horses, cows, and corn.
J is the Jail, upon whose floor
That wretched mother lay,
Until her cruel master came,
And carried her away.
K is the Kidnapper, who stole
That little child and mother—
Shrieking, it clung around her, but
He tore them from each other.
L is the Lash, that brutally
He swung around its head,
Threatening that “if it cried again,
He’d whip it till ’twas dead.”
M is the Merchant of the north,
Who buys what slaves produce—
So they are stolen, whipped and worked,
For his, and for our use.
N is the Negro, rambling free
In his far distant home,
Delighting ‘neath the palm trees’ shade
And cocoa-nut to roam.
O is the Orange tree, that bloomed
Beside his cabin door,
When white men stole him from his home
To see it never more.
P is the Parent, sorrowing,
And weeping all alone—
The child he loved to lean upon,
His only son, is gone!
Q is the Quarter, where the slave
On coarsest food is fed,
And where, with toil and sorrow worn,
He seeks his wretched bed.
R is the “Rice-swamp, dank and lone,” W
here, weary, day by day,
He labors till the fever wastes
His strength and life away.
S is the Sugar, that the slave
Is toiling hard to make,
To put into your pie and tea,
Your candy, and your cake.
T is the rank Tobacco plant,
Raised by slave labor too:
A poisonous and nasty thing,
For gentlemen to chew.
U is for Upper Canada,
Where the poor slave has found
Rest after all his wanderings,
For it is British ground!
V is the Vessel, in whose dark,
Noisome, and stifling hold,
Hundreds of Africans are packed,
Brought o’er the seas, and sold.
W is the Whipping post,
To which the slave is bound,
While on his naked back, the lash
Makes many a bleeding wound.
X is for Xerxes, famed of yore;
A warrior stern was he
He fought with swords; let truth and love
Our only weapons be.
Y is for Youth—the time for all
Bravely to war with sin;
And think not it can ever be
Too early to begin.
Z is a Zealous man, sincere,
Faithful, and just, and true;
An earnest pleader for the slave—
Will you not be so too?
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