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HIST2530: American Slavery: Web-Based Digital Collections

Web-Based Digital Collections

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
Located at Yale University, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition is "dedicated to the investigation and dissemination of information concerning all aspects of the Atlantic slave system and its destruction." Created by a major gift from Richard Gilder, the Center's Web site provides detailed information about the fellowships, conferences, publications, and educational materials that are a part of the Center's diverse set of activities. Researchers and students will want to first examine the Source Documents section, which features primary and secondary source materials related to slavery, slave resistance, and the abolitionist movement. Also, visitors will want to examine the Bibliographies section, which contains extended bibliographies on topics such as "Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa." Finally, scholars will want to examine the materials about the Center's fellowships, which support research projects that are complementary to the aims of the Center. [Internet Scout Project]

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Before 1863, the Underground Railroad was a system of cooperation among Black slaves, abolitionists, sympathetic Whites, and Native Americans to help slaves escape the bondage of American slavery. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center wants to educate the public about the legacy of the Underground Railroad and its historic struggle to abolish human enslavement. The Freedom Center is sponsored by the Federated Department Stores Foundation and has the mission of teaching lessons of courage and cooperation from Underground Railroad history in order to "promote collaborative learning, dialogue, and action to inspire today’s freedom movements." Exhibits include history galleries on pre-slavery African Kingdoms and post-slavery freedom movements in North America, Poland, South Africa, India, and more. [Internet Scout Project]

Slave Movement During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
This site offers downloadable raw data and documentation on 11 topics related to the 18th- and 19th-century slave trade, including records of slave ship movement between Africa and the Americas 1817-1843, the 18th-century Virginia slave trade, and slave trade to Jamaica 1782-1788 and 1805-1808. Data sets contain information such as port of departure, vessel and owner information, number of slaves carried, origins of slaves, and ports of arrival. Each data set includes a 250-word description explaining bibliographic information, file inventory, and methodology, as well as a codebook that guides users in reading the data. [Internet Scout Project]

The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony
During the Civil War, Roanoke Island, located between the coast of North Carolina and the Outer Banks, became a refuge for escaped slaves, called contrabands or freedmen. This site, created by University of Virginia professor Patricia C. Click presents an account of the history and selected documents and maps of the Roanoke Island Freedmens Colony, as the community was known. Documents include letters from Superintendent of the Colony, Horace James, a minister and abolitionist from Massachusetts, and letters from Freedmen themselves. The documents have been transcribed and are in PDF format, so users should not expect to see scanned versions of 19th century originals. The projects section includes seven projects for high school and college students, using historical materials at the site, and from other related Web sites. Professor Click has written a book, Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen‚s Colony, 1862-1867, and the Preview section contains the table of contents and Chapter One. Links in the site refer to this book for more information; in the Maps section users are referred to its online ordering instructions for more information on the layout of the colony. [Internet Scout Project]

Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery
In conjunction with the United Nations resolution designating 2004 as the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition, New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture presents this Web exhibit. Making use of Schomburg Center materials, as well as items loaned by other public institutions and private collections, the Web exhibition begins with a section entitled "A New People" that traces the complex genetic heritage of today's African-Americans--the vast majority descended from enslaved Africans--but also counting Europeans, Native Americans, and Asians among their ancestors. Shackles and coffle chains, currency used in the 16th to 19th centuries to buy and sell slaves, and artwork depicting the horrors of the slave trade are some the artifacts in "The Long March". "Slave Labor and Slave Systems" outlines the skilled and unskilled labor that African slaves were brought to the Americas to do, from sugar plantations in Brazil to cotton plantations in the southern United States. The exhibition also includes sections on the abolition of slavery in the United States, family life, religion, education, and "Expressive Culture", describing the influence of Africans on music, art, speech and dress in the U.S. [Internet Scout Project]

Black History at Harpweek
Harpweek is a privately funded project begun in 1992 to digitize the entire contents of the nineteenth-century, illustrated periodical Harper's Weekly. The full database is only available by subscription, but Black History at Harpweek is one of a series of free resources that explore various themes using text and illustrations from Harper's. Black History features a timeline that lists the major events of slavery from the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619 to the raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859, plus two more timelines on the Civil War and Reconstruction. There are also many illustrations, such as the often reproduced Alfred Waud engraving of the first Black man to vote, the cover of the November 16, 1867 issue, and drawings and engravings that are the only action pictures from Civil War battlefields. One of these, "The Fight at Milikin's Bend," is accompanied by an account of the fighting and an editorial on the bravery of Negro troops, dated June 20, 1863. [Internet Scout Project]

Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories
As part of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, this engaging website offers first-hand audio recollections of the experience of slavery in the American South from 23 African-Americans. The interviews themselves were originally conducted between 1932 and 1975, and contain memories of their lives that include discussions of their feelings on slavery, their families, and on freedom. It is not terribly surprising that very limited biographical information is available about each participant, though the special exhibit that is also available here (titled Faces and Voices From the Presentation), features photographs of some of the interviewees, such as Fountain Hughes, Uncle Bob Ledbetter, and George Johnson. As some of the audio recordings contain a good deal of background noise (and in some cases are incomplete), visitors may also want to follow along by viewing the full-text transcriptions as well. One interview that visitors will want to make sure and listen to is the one with Uncle Billy McCrea conducted in 1940, in which he sings both Blow Cornie Blow and Walk Dooley. [Internet Scout Project]

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1824-1909
This collection of pamphlets written by African-American authors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries boasts "complete page images of 397 titles ... as well as searchable electronic texts and bibliographic records." Part of the Library of Congress's American Memory project, the pamphlets constitute a wonderful collection of online primary resources in African-American history. Users can examine works here by pivotal black writers, such as Frederick Douglass, Kelly Miller, Charles Sumner, Mary Church Terrell, and Booker T. Washington. The materials deal with slavery, emancipation, African colonization, and related topics; and range from "personal accounts and public orations to organizational reports and legislative speeches." The collection is searchable by keywords and browseable by subject, author, and title. The pamphlets serve as a useful complement to the earlier American Memory Collection "African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907." [Internet Scout Project]

The Frederick Douglass Papers
The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress presents the papers of the nineteenth-century African American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his freedom by becoming an outspoken anti-slavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. The online collection, containing approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images), spans the years 1841-1964, with the bulk of the material dating from 1862 to 1865. Many of Douglass’s earlier writings were destroyed when his house in Rochester, New York, burned in 1872.

The Geography of Slavery in Virginia
The Geography of Slavery in Virginia is a digital collection of advertisements for runaway and captured slaves and servants in 18th- and 19th-century Virginia newspapers. Building on the rich descriptions of individual slaves and servants in the ads, the project offers a personal, geographical and documentary context for the study of slavery in Virginia, from colonial times to the Civil War. [Internet Scout Project]

New York Public Library Picture Collection Online
Part of NYPL's evolving Digital Library, the Picture Collection Online is a collection of 30,000 public domain digital images from books and periodicals, original photographs, prints, and postcards. Primarily dated pre-1923, the Picture Collections includes some of the most popular images in the NYPL collection. The physical collection is housed in folders by broad subject headings, which can be browsed online. Keyword and advanced searches are also provided. [Internet Scout Project]

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is the culmination of several decades of independent and collaborative research by scholars drawing upon data in libraries and archives around the Atlantic world. It contains information on almost 36,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The actual number is estimated to have been as high as 12.5 million. The database and the separate estimates interface offer researchers, students and the general public a chance to rediscover the reality of one of the largest forced movements of peoples in world history.

Subject Guide

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Richard Kearney
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Electronic Resources Librarian
Reference and Information Services Office, Room 107g
David and Lorraine Cheng Library
William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, NJ 07470