Pennsylvania Abolition Society Papers

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Pennsylvania Abolition Society Papers

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania Abolition Society Digital Exhibit brings together a series of documents to tell a history of the PAS's work during its crucial battle against slavery in the years before the U.S. Civil War. The papers, accessible by following the links to the left, are arranged by theme—from those documenting court cases involving illegal enslavements to the PAS's work on education—and are representative of the HSP's effort to make available to the public the stories of PAS lawyers and philanthropists, as well as those enslaved persons who both received aid from or crossed paths with the PAS during their fight for freedom.

Founded in 1775 at the Rising Sun Tavern in Philadelphia, Society for the “Relief for Free Negroes unlawfully held in Bondage,” the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (PAS) reorganized itself in the 1780s to include a third mission: “improving the Condition of the African Race.” For the founders, this primarily meant offering jobs and education to black youth, whether escaped slaves from the South or native Philadelphians. In order to further this part of its mission, in 1790 the PAS appointed 24 members to a Committee for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks, which was subdivided into a Committee of Inspection, a Committee of Guardians, a Committee of Education, and a Committee of Employ. The PAS Papers contain the records of the Society general meeting and various committees, financial papers, minutes, and legal papers related to cases taken on by the PAS, papers related to the documentation and education of the free black community, and the records of numerous anti-slavery societies. 

About the PAS Papers at HSP

"The PAS and American Abolitionism: A Century of Activism from the American Revolutionary Era to the Civil War," by Richard Newman (pdf)

PAS in Context: A Timeline (pdf)