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

Published April 14, 2016
Updated November 28, 2019

The harrowing images in these 1830s anti-slavery almanacs helped reveal the brutality of slavery in the U.S. -- and helped end the practice.

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:

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. 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.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. 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. The Public Domain Review

May 1838
The first almanac was printed in 1836 by the American Anti-Slavery Society.The Public Domain Review

June 1838
The almanacs were released annually, and featured a gruesome image to accompany each month of the year.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.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.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. 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.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.”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.”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. 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."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.www.awesomestories.com

Branding Slaves 1840
They were, however, widely read in the North, where they originated.Awesome Stories

Cutting Slaves 1840
Their gruesome imagery incited social action, and petitions to end slavery soon began flooding Congress. 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.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. Awesome Stories

Improving Females 1840
The gag ruling was eventually repealed in 1844. 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. Awesome Stories

Negro Pew 1840
That didn’t happen, and so in 1848, abolitionists established the Free Soil party. 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."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.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.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." Awesome Stories

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Kelly, Erin. "27 Harrowing Images From The 1830s’ Anti-Slavery Almanacs." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 14, 2016, https://allthatsinteresting.com/anti-slavery-almanac. Accessed June 13, 2024.