27 Harrowing Images From The 1830s’ Anti-Slavery Almanacs

Almanacs were a popular source of information for literate Americans starting in the 1600s, with the first of these publications focused on weather, horoscopes, and other amusements.

When the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) published the first Anti-Slavery Almanac in 1836 (and for years after that), they sought to educate people on the moral and ethical horrors of slavery, and included graphic images of slaves’ treatment to emphasize the un-Christian nature of the practice. As you’d imagine, these images created quite the controversy:

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Anti Slavery Almanacs

It's entirely possible that slavery wouldn't have been abolished when it was without these explosive Anti-Slavery Almanacs, starting in 1936... Image Sources: The Public Domain Review and Awesome Stories

anti slavery almanac January 1838

Abolitionist and editor William Lloyd Garrison was a leading figure behind the publication of these almanacs. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

anti slavery almanacs February 1838

Garrison launched the newspaper The Liberator in 1831, which would clear the path for these anti-slavery almanacs to be printed. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

March 1838

In 1832, Garrison formed the New England Anti-Slavery Society, which called for the immediate abolition of slavery, and it grew quickly. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

April 1838

It expanded to become the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, and within five years topped a quarter of a million members. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

May 1838

The first almanac was printed in 1836 by the American Anti-Slavery Society. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

June 1838

The almanacs were released annually, and featured a gruesome image to accompany each month of the year. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

July 1838

In addition to the images, made a strong written case about how deeply un-Christian the institution of slavery was. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

August 1838

These written passages helped expose the vile treatment of slaves, including the fact that many children were separated from their families. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

September 1838

In addition the almanacs marshaled statistics to help prove their case, marking a crucial moment in U.S. history when stats became an authoritative political tool. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

October 1838

Each year, the AASS featured statistics in its almanacs to convey the movement’s growth, as well as to reveal politicians’ voting records on the matter of slavery. Image Source: The Public Domain Review

November 1838

As Vanderbilt University English professor Teresa Goddu noted, “Numbers could simultaneously expose the horrors of slavery and promote the organizational system that undergirded antislavery’s success.” Image Source: The Public Domain Review

December 1838

She adds, “Just as the state solidified its power in this period through what Oz Frankel describes as “print statism”—the unprecedented production, accumulation, and diffusion of social facts in and through official reports—so too did antislavery rely on the printed discourse of numeracy to establish their knowledge system as credible and their movement as legitimate.” Image Source: The Public Domain Review

Arresting Fugitives

The years between 1832 and 1837 saw a sharp increase in the circulation of anti-slavery propaganda, thanks in no small part to Garrison’s strategic use of media, numeracy, and vivid imagery. Image Source: www.awesomestories.com

Burning McIntosh 1840

As noted activist/abolitionist Angelina Grimke said in 1838, “Until the pictures of the slave's sufferings were drawn and held up to the public gaze, no Northerner had any idea of the cruelty of the system, it never entered their minds that such abominations could exist in Christian, Republican America." Image Source: www.awesomestories.com

Chained Work 1840

That’s not to say the almanacs — carved from woodblocks — were not met without resistance. Southern states were adamant in their attempts to block the distribution of these materials. Image Source: www.awesomestories.com

Branding Slaves 1840

They were, however, widely read in the North, where they originated. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Cutting Slaves 1840

Their gruesome imagery incited social action, and petitions to end slavery soon began flooding Congress. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Dogs Guns 1840

These petitions became so overwhelming that in 1836 the U.S. House of Representatives implemented the “gag rule,” which blocked debate on the subject. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Field Work 1840

Abolitionists were unfazed by the ruling, and continued to agitate for the end of slavery, gaining momentum through the continued dissemination of their almanacs. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Improving Females 1840

The gag ruling was eventually repealed in 1844. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Mother Child 1840

Initially, abolitionists hoped that one of the major political parties of the time (the Democrats or the Whigs) would support their cause with the immediacy they demanded. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Negro Pew 1840

That didn’t happen, and so in 1848, abolitionists established the Free Soil party. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Northern Hospitality 1840

The party’s platform was "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men, and under it we will fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions." Image Source: Awesome Stories

Paid Unpaid 1840

While short-lived, the party exerted major influence in Congress, where it sent 16 elected officials. It also had two presidential candidates, Martin Van Buren in 1848 and John P. Hale in 1852, both of whom lost. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Poor Things 1840

The party's most important legacy lies not in votes or numbers, but the political possibilities it provided, allowing anti-slavery Democrats a way to convene with likeminded individuals of other parties. Image Source: Awesome Stories

Vicksburg 1840

This political faction would eventually become the Republican Party, whose most well remembered elected official, Abraham Lincoln, would later enact the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and change the status of 3 million people from "slave" to "free." Image Source: Awesome Stories

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Thomas Jefferson

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Ilse Koch

Ilse Koch. Image Source: Google Cultural Institute

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