Introduction

From the Revolution through Reconstruction, Boston led the national crusade against slavery and the struggle over emancipation and citizenship. Owing largely to activists in Boston, Massachusetts became one of the first states to end slavery, and throughout the antebellum era it granted black men unrestricted suffrage. It was the first state to end the ban on interracial marriage (in 1843), the first to desegregate public schools (in 1855), the first to admit black jurors (in 1860), and the first northern state to raise a black regiment during the Civil War. Black and white Bostonians, collaborating with the city's political, religious, intellectual, and business leaders, were instrumental in undermining conservative defenses of slavery and in convincing the Lincoln administration to turn a conflict fought chiefly to preserve the Union into a war for emancipation and black citizenship.

Boston's Crusade Against Slavery features objects from the extraordinary collection at Houghton Library to highlight Boston's role in the international fight for freedom. Each case focuses on a theme connecting Boston to the larger crusade against slavery. Each object constitutes an important marker in the crusade. Many are on display for the first time, and have rarely, if ever, been analyzed by scholars.

This exhibition has been curated by students enrolled in a two-part course on Emancipation, English 90eo and 90et, under the direction of Professor John Stauffer, Department of English, Harvard University; Peter X. Accardo, Houghton Library Public Programs Librarian; and Ryan McNabb, National Park Ranger, Boston African American National Historic Site; and in conjunction with the public symposium, "Freedom Rising," a three-day event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and African American military service.

The curatorial team wishes to express its special thanks to William P. Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian, and the staff of Houghton Library for their support of this project since its inception.

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