Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections and the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College announce the completion of the Quakers and Slavery Project, a publicly accessible database of primary source material on the topic of Quakers and Slavery, and an interactive website to accompany the online material. Among the types of material included are photographs and lithographs, organization records, personal correspondence, and other publications. The interactive website includes commentary contributed by eminent scholars, Quaker researchers, and project staff.
Initial discussions about a joint digitizing project between the Quaker repositories at Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges began in 2007, when both were preparing for the 300th anniversary of the end of the slave trade in North America. Abolition was a cause whose beginnings and sustenance came largely from Quakers in northeastern America and England. The two colleges also began plans to join with the McNeil Center of Early American Studies at University of Pennsylvania to host an international conference on Quakers and Slavery in November 2010. This digitization project is timed to correspond with the conference, which will include material exhibitions by both Quaker repositories.
The materials selected for this project are available for research within the confines of our two Quaker repositories. However, these materials are unique or rare, and as such should receive limited physical handling in order to ensure their longevity. Digitization of these materials supports their long term preservation by reducing the amount they are handled, as well as providing greatly increased access to researchers who are not able to visit. Moreover, within each repository the documents span a range of material types and come from several collections, such that there is no easy way to bring them together physically. This project allows for the virtual reunification of these materials and collections.
The Religious Society of Friends was the first corporate body in Britain and North America to fully condemn slavery as both ethically and religiously wrong in all circumstances. It is in Quaker records that we have some of the earliest manifestations of anti-slavery sentiment, dating from the 1600s. After the 1750s, Quakers actively engaged in attempting to sway public opinion in Britain and America against the slave trade and slavery in general. At the same time, Quakers became actively involved in the economic, educational and political well being of the formerly enslaved.
The earliest anti-slavery organizations in America and Britain consisted primarily of members of the Society of Friends. Thus much of the record of the development of anti-slavery thought and actions is embedded in Quaker-produced records and documents. Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College and the Quaker Collection at Haverford College are jointly the custodians of Quaker meeting records of the Mid-Atlantic region, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York and Vermont and these records illuminate the origins of the anti-slavery movement as well as the continued Quaker involvement, often behind the scenes, in the leadership and direction of the abolitionist movement from the 1770s to the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, and beyond.
Funding for the Quakers and Slavery Project was provided by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, through a program stipulated by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). This program is administered in Pennsylvania through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries for assisting libraries in providing all users access to information, developing partnerships, and increasing information access for persons who have difficulty gaining it.