The Liberty Bell: A Collection of Anti-Slavery Writings

From 1839 to 1858, a group of abolitionists from Boston, Massachusetts, edited and published The Liberty Bell, a gift book containing anti-slavery literature. Slavery was abolished in America in 1865. The Liberty Bell was sold annually at the National Anti-Slavery Bazaar to promote and raise funds for its campaign to abolish slavery. The annual Bazaar was aimed at a female audience, Maria Chapman, the sponsor, described it as ‘the promotion of the cause through the promulgation of its principles in an attractive form’.When women were largely excluded from politics, its form was necessary for the liberal policy to be placed within the accessible and respectable frame for women.

The poem ” A Curse for a Nation” draws upon biblical allusions to portray itself as a prophetic curse with divine authority, upon a nation for its failure to redress the evils of slavery.

“I heard an angel speak last night,
And he said ‘Write!
Write a Nation’s curse for me,
And send it over the Western Sea”

This intro verse in the prologue depicts the surrealness of the poem and what Elizabeth draws on for the rest of her work.

The poem largely discusses its need to address slavery and the countries lack of effort to acknowledge it. The angelic figure at the beginning of the poem comes down to talk with Elizabeth Barrett Browning to write a curse. This use of angelic beings promotes the idea that allows readers to think that Elizabeth is writing her poem due to divine intervention. Although, she could be using the idea of an angel to attract readers and give them the perception that the crusade for the abolishment of slavery is just. That it was a message from God.

Exhibit created by Emmanuel Arredondo

Elizabeth Barrett Browning " A Curse for a Nation" in The Liberty Bell. Boston: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1856

 This is what the front of the poem looks like in the Liberty Bell if you were to have the actually book in your hands.

Elizabeth Barret Browning's "A Curse for a Nation," 5 July 1858 Prentiss,Sawyer,&Co. of Boston, Manuscript. D0177

This is Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem ” A Curse for a Nation”. This poem has been greatly marked and edited by EBB. It wasn’t made for the Liberty Bell and was initially a stand-alone poem, it was later added to the collection of poems. 

A Title Page for The Liberty Bell. Boston: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1856

This image gives off a more eerie vibe and gives the feeling of how the text and poem book should feel when reading. The importance of this image is the use of hanging a bell from a tree, displaying how slaves were often hung from trees and whipped. The correlation isn’t prominent until you considered it in context to Elizabeth’s poems and activism.