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A Guide to American Culture Studies

This page brings together various information resources on the subject of American Culture Studies

Slavery and Early African American History

​WUSTL-accessible proprietary database

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive - includes collections on the transatlantic slave trade; the global movement for the abolition of slavery; the legal, personal, and economic aspects of the slavery system, and the dynamics of emancipation in the U.S. as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other regions in four parts I: Debates over Slavery and Abolition; II: Slave Trade in the Atlantic World; III: The Institution of Slavery, and IV: The Age of Emancipation. Slavery and Anti-Slavery. These collections were published through partnerships with the Amistad Research Center, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Library, the National Archives in Kew, Oberlin College, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and many other institutions.

 

​Slave Narrative Anthologies

I Was Born a Slave: An Anthology of Classic Slave Narratives - Between 1760 and 1902, more than 200 book-length autobiographies of ex-slaves were published; together they form the basis for all subsequent African American literature. I Was Born a Slave collects the 20 most significant slave narratives. They describe whippings, torture, starvation, resistance, and hairbreadth escapes; slave auctions, kidnappings, and murders; sexual abuse, religious confusion, the struggle of learning to read and write; and the triumphs and difficulties of life as free men and women. The title link (above) is for Volume One; here is the link for Volume Two.

 

African American Slave Narratives: An Anthology - a three volume collection; the title link is for Volume One; here's the link for Volumes Two and Volume Three

 

Open Access

Library of Congress

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 - contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.  These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration, later renamed Work Projects Administration (WPA).

 

Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories - These recordings of former slaves took place between 1932 and 1975 in nine states. Twenty-three interviewees discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, coercion of slaves, their families, and freedom. Several individuals sing songs, many of which were learned during the time of their enslavement. It is important to note that all of the interviewees spoke sixty or more years after the end of their enslavement, and it is their full lives that are reflected in these recordings. The individuals documented in this presentation have much to say about living as African Americans from the 1870s to the 1930s, and beyond. 

 

African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection is primarily comprised of pamphlets mostly written by African-American authors including biographies, slave narratives, speeches by members of Congress, legal documents, poetry, playbills, dramas, and librettos. Other materials focus on segregation, voting rights, violence against African Americans, the colonization of Africa by freed slaves, anti-slavery organizations and investigative reports. 

 

Slaves and the Courts, 1740 to 1860 - The documents included herein comprise an assortment of trials and cases, reports, arguments, accounts, examinations of cases and decisions, proceedings, journals, a letter, and other works of historical importance. 

 

American Notes: Travels in America, 1750 to 1920 - this collection comprises 253 published narratives by Americans and foreign visitors recounting their travels in the colonies and the United States and their observations and opinions about American peoples, places, and society from about 1750 to 1920. Some documents relevant to the lives of American slaves include "American scenes and Christian slavery; a recent tour of four thousand miles in the United States" by Ebenezer Davies and "A journey in the seaboard slave states: with remarks on their economy" by Frederick Law Olmsted.

 

Other institutions

New-York Historical Society Manuscript Collections Relating to Slavery - include account books and ship manifests documenting the financial aspects of the slave trade, records of educational institutions and anti-slavery organizations, correspondence and other personal papers of abolitionists, legal documents such as birth certificates and deeds of manumission, and political works.

 

Digital Library on American Slavery - includes several collections including: The Race and Slavery Petitions Project - detailed information on about 150,000 individuals, including slaves, free people of color, and whites, extracted from 2,975 legislative petitions and 14,512 county court petitions, as well as from a wide range of related documents, including wills, inventories, deeds, bills of sale, depositions, court proceedings, amended petitions, among others; The North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project provides online access to all known runaway slave advertisements (more than 2300 items) published in North Carolina newspapers from 1751 to 1840. These brief ads provide a glimpse into the social, economic, and cultural world of the American slave system and the specific experience within North Carolina; Emory University's The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, including 86,689 slave names and 34,551 captain names. Voyages features information on more than 35,000 slave voyages that forcibly embarked over 12 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, and People Not Property - Slave Deeds of North Carolina is a new, collaborative endeavor between the UNCG University Libraries, North Carolina Division of Archives and Records, and North Carolina Registers of Deeds among others. The project is leading towards a unique, centralized database of bills of sales indexing the names of enslaved people from across North Carolina. 

 

The Georgetown Slavery Archive is a repository of materials relating to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown University, and slavery. 

 

Unknown No Longer - The Virginia Museum of History & Culture launched Unknown No Longer in 2011 to make accessible biographical details of enslaved Virginians from unpublished historical records in its collections. The site provided researchers with the ability to discover information on ancestors not found in other sources. Beginning in 2019 the unique content of Unknown No Longer is available through the Library of Virginia's Virginia Untold: African American Narrative, providing users with access to an expanded collection of resources for researching African American history in Virginia. The documents include bills of sale, certificates  of importation, cohabitation registers, colonization records, criminal court cases, coroner’s inquisitions, deeds of emancipation/manumission, election records, fiduciary records, free negro registrations, freedom suits, indentures of apprenticeship, civil judgments, legislative petitions, petitions for re‐enslavement, petitions to remain in the commonwealth, public claims, runaway slaves records, and slave requisitions  for public use.

 

North American Slave Narratives (UNC-Chapel Hill) - The goal of this project is to digitize all known extant narratives written by fugitive and former slaves and published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920, as well as many of the biographies of fugitive and former slaves published in English before 1920.

 

slave letters from the Duke University Library’s Special Collections - These web pages are based on the catalog of an exhibit mounted at Perkins Library, Duke University, in November and December, 1995. Some of the items described here were too large or fragile to be scanned, so images of them were not included in the on-line version even though descriptions of the items are.

 

American Slavery Documents from the John Hope Franklin Research Center (Duke University) - this collection contains an assortment of legal and personal documents related to slavery in the United States. Nearly all of the documents are singular and otherwise unrelated to the other, but as a composite, the collection brings to light the details of the lives and deaths of free and enslaved African Americans during the Antebellum and early Reconstruction Eras. The type of materials include bills of sale, manumission papers, emancipation notes, bonds, auction notices and other assorted items. The documents represent nearly all of the states of the American south including: North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, but a few documents are from northern states like New York and New Jersey.

 

National Museum of African American History and Culture - this online collection of materials related to slavery includes photographs, tax records, archival materials, portraits, receipts, sales records, correspondence, badges, broadsides (notices), stereographs, visiting cards, invoices, biographies, books, neckwear, pamphlets, blocks (shaped masses), business letters, and handkerchiefs. 

 

Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora - this growing collection currently has over 1,200 images and have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery 

 

Alabama Department of Archives & History - all states have archives, and all state archives has some documents related to slavery, but none I've found so far have as many as this one

 

Missouri Historical Society - search results for "slave"