African American social activist Amy Matilda Cassey (1808-1856) was a member of Philadelphia's elite free black society. Cassey was a member of the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society, founder of the African American coeducation literary and scientific society the Gilbert Lyceum, and active in the temperance movement. Cassey's friendship album, compiled between 1833 and 1856, contains original and transcribed poems, prose, and essays on topics including slavery, womanhood, religion, friendship, female refinement, death, and love. Contributors, many women of the African American elite community, are prestigious reformers and abolitionists active in the anti-slavery, intelligentsia, and cultural community of the antebellum North including Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Baltimore.
Mary Anne Dickerson (1822-1858), a young middle-class African American Philadelphian, probably created her friendship album as a pedagogical instrument to promote cultivated expression, with contributions dating from 1833 until 1882. Dickerson's album contains engraved plates depicting scenic views, and original and transcribed poems, prose, essays, and drawings on topics including friendship, motherhood, mortality, youth, death, flowers, female beauty, and refinement.
Mary Anne's sister Martina Dickerson (1829?-) also kept a friendship album, probably as a pedagogical instrument to promote cultivated expression, with twenty-two contributions dating from 1840 until around 1846. Her album contains original and transcribed poems, prose, and essays on topics including love, friendship, sympathy, courage, and female refinement.
For more on Amy Matilda Cassey, Mary Anne Dickerson, and Martina Dickerson, see our African American Friendship Albums exhibit and collection guide.