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Mon, 01.25.1836

‘The Slave’s Friend’ Children’s Magazine is published

The Slave's Friend
1837 Issue

*The publication of The Slave's Friend is celebrated on this date in 1836. This was an anti-slavery magazine for children produced by the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS).

The American Anti-Slavery Society was established in 1833 by Arthur Tappan and others. It was one of the leading abolitionist organizations in the United States during the first half of the 19th Century. In June 1835, the AASS planned the launch of an array of publications to advance its anti-slavery agenda. These included three adult periodicals, The Emancipator, Human Rights, The Anti-Slavery Record, and a monthly for young readers, The Slave's Friend publications were by subscription and free distribution.

They were available in the free states of the North and within the slave-owning states of the South. Donations garnered some $30,000 was quickly raised. A small physical format was used to produce a periodical for little readers. The editors targeted a readership ranging in age from 6 to 12. The magazine included a mix of original anti-slavery writing, poetry, and reprints of relevant material from other popular periodicals of the day.

Each issue included woodcut illustrations, which typically revolved around the theme of the cruelty and abuse which inevitably accompanied forced physical servitude. The depictions of beatings and violence were contrasted with other happier images of black and white children attending school and playing together.  The Slave's Friend was an inexpensive publication, with a price of just one cent per issue listed on the cover. Two hundred thousand issues of The Slave's Friend were distributed during the first year of the magazine's existence, with an additional sale of 5,000 bound volumes.  

The Slave's Friend was highly moralistic, equating slavery with sinfulness and making a strong religious appeal to its young readers. The love and respect of parents were also propagandized as a core value. The abolitionist cause was a pacifist and humanitarian terms. All violent methods were waived. The publication tried to inculcate respectful language towards blacks among its targeted white readership. The 7th issue (1836) included a set of specific suggestions for appropriate dialog: 


 With God's help, I resolve,

 1. Never to call a colored person A NEGRO.  They do not like to be called so; and they think it is calling names.

 2. Never to call a colored person that BLACK FELLOW, or BLACKEY, or DARKEY.  It is insulting to call them so.

 3. Never to call a colored man a BOY.  This is often done, and it is insulting and foolish.

 4. To speak to colored people, and of them, just as I do to and of white people.

5. Always to have respectful and kind feelings toward colored people. 

Circulation tailed off somewhat during the second year of The Slave's Friend, with just over 130,000 copies circulated for the year — an average of just under 11,000 copies per issue. These figures were comparable to another magazine from the AASS stable, The Anti-Slavery Record.  Efforts were made to establish a network of juvenile anti-slavery clubs by the AASS, and The Slave's Friend gave coverage in its pages to such measures.

A sample constitution was published in the magazine's pages, and membership dues of one cent per month were suggested. Fundraising from adults to help subsidize the production of anti-slavery literature was given as one of the primary tasks of such children's organizations. A total of 38 issues were produced, with the final issue of the publication in 1838 assigned Volume IV, Number 2. It is believed that financial problems were the primary reason for the magazine's demise. 

The entire press of the American Anti-Slavery Society folded by the end of the decade of the 1830s, and the organization virtually disappeared.

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