In her concise history Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, Beverly Tomek corrects the long-held notion that slavery in the North was “not so bad” as, or somehow “more humane” than, in the South due to the presence of abolitionists. While the Quaker presence focused on moral and practical opposition to bondage, slavery was ubiquitous. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass an abolition law in the United States.
Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania traces this movement from its beginning to the years immediately following the American Civil War. Discussions of the complexities of the state’s antislavery movement illustrate how different groups of Pennsylvanians followed different paths in an effort to achieve their goal. Tomek also examines the backlash abolitionists and Black Americans faced. In addition, she considers the civil rights movement from the period of state reconstruction through the national reconstruction that occurred after the Civil War.
While the past few decades have shed light on enslavement and slavery in the South, much of the story of northern slavery remains hidden. Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania tells the full and inclusive story of this history, bringing the realities of slavery, abolition, and Pennsylvania's attempt to reconstruct its post-emancipation society.
Published in association with the Pennsylvania Historical Association
“Tomek’s tour de force synthesis of the latest scholarship on slavery and abolition in Pennsylvania reveals the complex nature of slavery in the North and its complicated unraveling in the aftermath of the American Revolution. She exposes the full implications of slavery’s slow death while providing students of Pennsylvania’s past with an engrossing look at the links between the first and second abolition movements and the pivotal role the free black community played in crafting nineteenth-century Pennsylvania.”
—James Gigantino, Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, and author of The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775–1865
“Beverly C. Tomek provides us with an important and impressive entry about slavery and abolition in Pennsylvania. Her work is a counternarrative to persistent revisionist efforts to cast the Commonwealth’s approach to slavery as superior to or more humane than that of the other colonies. Of significance is how Tomek gives voice to the voiceless by sharing the horrors experienced by enslaved black women in pre–Civil War Pennsylvania as supported by remarkable archival imagery. This book is an essential read for those interested in a critical examination of the historical through lines of Pennsylvania’s early abolition efforts, the impacts of immediatism, and attempts at reconstruction.”
—Alexia Hudson-Ward, Associate Director of Research and Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
"(A) concise, accessible, and well written overview of the history and scholarship surrounding slavery and abolition in Pennsylvania for students and non-academic audiences. Historians will find Tomek’s study as a useful reference for their own research or teaching.... Tomek has written an impressive synthesis on slavery and abolition in Pennsylvania that will shatter widely held misconceptions about these subjects among those who are unfamiliar with the history of black bondage and the antislavery movement in the Keystone State."
—The Journal of Social History
"(A) trenchant study.... Tomek shines fresh light on the experience of Pennsylvania’s free Black community and the different notions of 'immediatism' among antislavery advocates.... One of the virtues of this book is the way Tomek uses individual stories to exemplify her broader argument about slavery’s pernicious legacy.... Rigorously researched and written with verve, Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania belongs on the short shelf of Pennsylvania books focused on slavery and race."
The Pennsylvania History series, designed to make high-quality scholarship accessible for students, advances the mission of the Pennsylvania Historical Association by engaging with key social, political, and cultural issues in the history of the state and region.
The Health of the CommonwealthJames E. Higgins