To follow up my previous post listing some of the resources we have available for African American history in the 20th century, here I’ll set out some of the resources we have for earlier time periods, in particular related to slavery/anti-slavery, emancipation, and the Civil War (another core area of our collection). My period-division here has been very rough, just to avoid having an enormously long post, so some of the resources listed here will reach into the 20th century, and I will also not repeat resources here from my previous post that do cover earlier periods (especially our government publications and newspaper resources).
Microfilm and archival collections
The Freedmen’s Aid Society Records cover 1866-1932, and extend to 120 reels of microfilm (guide available at Micr. BX 8235 .F74 2000). The Freedman’s Aid Society was originally founded as the Fugitives’ Aid Society with the aim to assist fugitive slaves and to lobby and protest against slavery in the United States. With the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fugitives’ Aid Society became the Freedmen’s Aid Society. The organisation sent money and volunteer aid to the South after the defeat of the Confederacy. They also had a strong education initiative and was responsible for the establishment of many historically Black colleges and universities.
One of the major archival collections held in Rhodes House Library (next door) are the Papers of the (British) Anti-Slavery Society. This society, founded in 1835, had as its aim the abolition of slavery throughout the world in general and in the United States in particular. It convened the first World Anti-Slavery Convention, held in London in June 1840, at which some fifty leading American abolitionists were present. After 1840 the society’s transatlantic prestige declined and a second convention held in 1843 attracted only a few American delegates. The Society continued to concern itself with American problems and correspond with American abolitionists up to the Civil War but it was affected by the divisions in the American movement and there came a realisation that it could do little to affect the outcome of the Americn situation. If you’re interested in consulting papers from this archive, contact staff in Rhodes House Library. See http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/anti-slavery-society.html for more information.
Another archival collection held at Rhodes House is that of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which was founded in 1701 as a result of an enquiry into the state of the Church of England in the American colonies. Its remit was broadened to encompass evangelisation of slaves and Native Americans. More information can be found at http://www.mundus.ac.uk/cats/11/1052.htm, and again, if you want to consult this archive, contact staff in Rhodes House Library.
In addition to these papers of societies, we have several microfilm collections of the papers of individuals who were active in American politics in the mid-19th century, and which will include material on slavery and emancipation to a greater or lesser extent. These are the papers of James Buchanan (Micr. USA 458), Salmon P. Chase (Micr. USA 331), William H. Seward (Micr. USA 346), and Thaddeus Stevens (Micr. USA 353). Abraham Lincoln‘s papers can be found online via the Libary of Congress, who have digitised around 20,000 documents from the 1850s through to Lincoln’s death in 1865.
The Records of the American Colonization Society, founded in 1817 to resettle African Americans in West Africa, cover 1792-1964, but the bulk of the material dates from 1823-1912. There is a guide available at Micr. E 448 .U54 1979, and selections of these records are also available online via footnote.com.
On a similar theme, we also have the Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior relating to the suppression of the African slave trade and Negro colonization, which is a comprehensive set of government papers on many aspects of executive federal involvement in colonisation between 1854 and 1872. These are on microfilm at Micr. USA 456, and can also be found online via footnote.com.
And finally, here’s a list of some of the useful free online resources I have come across relating to African American history pre-20th century, slavery, emancipation etc, all saved on our delicious page for future reference:
- We Ain’t What We Ought To Be: tie-in website for Stephen Tuck’s book of the same name, which starts its coverage in 1861. Contains links to lots of online resources and documents mentioned in the book.
- Transatlantic Slave Database: information on some 35,000 slave trading voyages from the 16th-19th centuries.
- The New York African Free School Collection
- Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719-1820
- Digital Library on American Slavery
- End of Slavery (Massachusetts Historical Society)
- Texas Slavery Project
- BlackPast.org: online reference guide to African American history
- Frederick Douglass Papers
- Papers of Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915
- Samuel J. May antislavery collection
- The Friend of Man: Digitised newspaper documenting early anti-slavery and other reform movements.
- Map of American Slavery: from the New York Times website’s Disunion blog, the United States Coast Survey’s map of the slaveholding states, as used by Abraham Lincoln.
- New York Historical Society slavery collections
- The Alfred Whital Stern collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress
- Black History on Footnote.com: all free with basic registration
These are just some of the more specific online resources available, but there is so much more to be found in various state digital libraries or wider Civil War web resources, just to point you to two subsets of our delicious list. Happy hunting!
Credit: some of the text in this post was originally written by the History Librarian, Isabel Holowaty, as I have just borrowed her descriptions where they already existed.