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African American Studies

Primary and selected secondary sources for research in African American Studies at Princeton University.

Additional resources


Correspondence of the Secretary of the Navy relating to African Colonization, 1819-1844

ReCap Microfilm 09664                       Printed guide: CD3026.A52          2 reels

Consists mainly of copies of letters sent by the Secretary of the Navy to agents of the United States stationed on the northwest coast of Africa for the purpose of receiving blacks freed by the capture of slave ships, and letters and reports received by the Secretary of the Navy from these agents.

Records of the American Colonization Society

Founded in 1817, the American Colonization Society sought to resolve the problem of slavery in America by helping African-Americans to return to Africa. The records of the ACS are available through interlibrary loan from the Center for Research Libraries.

Slavery and the slave trade

African American Music Reference  

Brings together text reference, biographies, chronologies, sheet music, images, lyrics, liner notes, and discographies which chronicle the history and culture of the African American experience through music. The database will expand to include coverage of blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other forms of black American musical expression.

American Broadsides and Ephermera, Series I

Bibliography of Slavery and World Slaving  (1900+)

Searchable database containing verified references (except as noted) to approximately 25,000 scholarly works in all academic disciplines and in all western European languages on slavery and slaving, worldwide and throughout human history, including modern times. It includes all known print materials published since 1900 in scholarly formats, as well as digital scholarly journals, recent unpublished presentations at academic conferences, professional historical sites, and major museum exhibitions and catalogs.


Electronic access to Harper's Weekly: 1857-1912.

Miscellaneous slavery collection, 1700-1885.     Finding Aid

Princeton University.  Rare Books: Manuscripts Collection (MSS) C1210  

Consists of an open collection of correspondence and documents related to slavery in America, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean area in the 17th through 19th centuries. Among the documents included is a manuscript copy (1830) of the 1st American census conducted in 1790, with statistics for slaves in each state, and several bills-of-sales for slaves.

Papers of the American Slave Trade

ReCap Microfilm 10617     E-guide    Printed guide: (FilmB) E445.R4 P363          53 reels

This material "documents the international slave trade in Britain's New World colonies and the United States from 1718 to the trade's demise after 1808."

Race, Slavery and Free Blacks: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1777-1867

ReCap Microfilm 10695           E-guide          Printed guide: (FilmB) E441.R323          23 reels

This collection consists of petitions by slaves and free persons of color to local legislatures. The petitions were selected from those files at county courthouses in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Sabin Americana Digital Archive  (1500-1926)  

Digital library of works written or published in the United States, as well as items printed elsewhere, that document the history of the Americas from 1492 to the mid-1800s. Based on Sabin's Bibliotheca Americana.

Slave Rebellion Trials CO137/185

ReCap Microfilm 12461                             Printed guide: none          2 reels

Material from the UK National Archives, CO 137, Jamaica Correspondence, relating to the slave rebellion trials of 1832.

Slave Trade, 1858-1892: British Foreign Office Collection 541

ReCap Microfilm 03157                       Printed guide: (FilmB) HT1162.G8          10 reels

Consists of correspondence and reports of British officials in Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, from the Foreign Office confidential print.

Slave Trade Journals and Papers. Pt. 1. The Humphrey Morice Papers from the Bank of England, London

ReCap Microfilm 11775   E-guide     Printed guide: (FilmB) T1161.M674     4 reels                                                   

Papers of Humphrey Morice, a prominent British slave trader of the 18th century.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive

Part 1: Debates over Slavery and Abolition. Part 2: Slave Trade in the Atlantic World.  The entire collection, which will have five parts when completed, has a transnational and comparative focus, and encompasses a wide variety of materials, both printed and archival.

Slavery Source material and Critical Literature

ReCap Microfiche 199             Printed guide: (Film B) HT857.S528          11,949 microfiche         

Large collection of primary source documents on slavery in the United States. All works are cataloged in the library's Main Catalog.

Slavery Tracts and Pamphlets from the West India Committee Collection

ReCap Microfilm 05622           Printed guide: (FilmB) HT1071.S52          28 reels

Consists of pamphlets on the sugar trade and slavery in the West Indies.

Southern Historical Manuscripts

ReCap Microfiche 848             Printed guide: none          526 microfiche

From original plantation records in the collection of Louisiana State University, Dept. of Archives and Manuscripts (Baton Rouge).

Slave narratives

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, edited by George P. Rawick.  (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972-1979) (F) E444.A447 1972 with suppl. 1 and 2 

v.1. From Sundown to sunup.—v.2. South Carolina narratives, part 1 and part 2.—v.4. Texas narratives, part 1 and part 2.—v.6. Alabama and Indiana narratives.-- v.7. Oklahoma and Mississippi narratives.-- v.8. Arkansas narratives, part 1 and part 2.—v.9. Arkansas narratives, part 3 and part 4.—v.10. Arkansas narratives, part 5 and part 6.—v.11. Arkansas narratives, part 7 and Missouri narratives.—v.12. Georgia narratives.--v.13. Georgia narratives, part 3 and part 4.—v.14. North Carolina narratives, part 1.--v.15. North Carolina narratives, part 2.--v.16. Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee.--v.17. Florida narratives.

Volumes below are not available in electronic format. Location: (F) 1083.122

v. 4 and v.5. Texas narratives, part 1 and 2, part 3 and 4

v. 18. Unwritten history of slavery (Fisk University)

v. 19. God struck me dead (Fisk University)

Suppl. 1: v.1. Alabama narratives.--v. 2. Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, and Oregon and Washington narratives.--v. 3. Georgia narratives, part 1.--v. 4. Georgia narratives, part 2.--v. 5.Indiana and Ohio narratives.--v. 6. Mississippi narratives, part 1.--v. 7. Mississippi narratives, part 2.--v. 8. Mississippi narratives, part 3.--v. 9. Mississippi narratives, part 4.--v. 10. Mississippi narratives, part 5.--v. 11. North Carolina and South Carolina narratives.--v. 12. Oklahoma narratives

Suppl.  2: v. 1. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington narratives.--v. 2. Texas narratives, part 1.—v.3. Texas narratives.—v.4. Texas narratives, part 3.—v.5. Texas narratives, part 4.—v.6.Texas narratives, part 5.—v.7. Texas narratives, part 6.-- v. 8. Texas narratives, part 7.-- v 9. Texas narratives, part 8.—v.10. Texas narratives, part 9.

American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology

“This web site provides an opportunity to read a sample of these narratives, and to see some of the photographs taken at the time of the interviews. The entire collection of narratives can be found in George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972-79). (F) E444.A447 1972

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938.

Contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.

Slave Narratives, A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves

ReCap Microfilm 1083.341          11 reels

Collection of first-person accounts of slavery, prepared by the Federal Writers' project, 1936-1938. Narratives were digitized by the Library of Congress as part of the American Memory Project.  Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938.

Southern University. John B. Cade Library.Slave Narratives Collection - Opinions Regarding Slavery: Slave Narratives. 1822-1865

"The archives are a series of letters and documents of interviews with slaves that focus on the thoughts of slaves about slave owners, abuse, clothing, religious life, superstitions and religion in their communities."  See also, John B. Cade, "Out of the Mouths of Ex-Slaves," Journal of Negro History, volume 20, number 3 (July 1935), pp.294-337.

Voices from the Days of Slavery 

“Twenty-three interviewees, born between 1823 and the early 1860s, discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, coercion of slaves, their families, and freedom.  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.”


African American Newspapers: The 19th Century  (1827-1882)

Complete text of the major African-American newspapers published in the United States during the 19th century.

Anti-slavery Materials: Regional Records and Other Pamphlets, 18th-19th Centuries: The Collection at John Rylands University Library, Manchester

Microfilm 06843                       Printed guide (FilmB) HT1163.A67          20 reels

Pamphlets collected by H.G. Wilson and now held at John Rylands University. The collection is particularly rich in materials from British provincial philanthropic societies. Also includes materials from America, the West Indies (Jamaica), and India.

Black Abolitionist Papers, 1830-1865

ReCap Microfilm 05367                       Printed guide (FilmB) E449.B625 1981          17 reels

Primary sources from African Americans actively involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States between 1830 and 1865.

Estlin Papers, 1840-1844

ReCap Microfilm 1098.331                  Printed guide: none          6 reels

Papers covering the activities of J. B. Estlin and his daughter Mary in supporting the British and American anti-slavery movements.

Papers of Frederick Douglass 

ReCap Microfilm 1083.309                  Printed guide: none          20 reels

Born a slave, Douglass escaped to the north and became a leading abolitionist in the 1840's. See also the printed edition of Frederick Douglass' papers at (F) E449 .D733 and E449.D734.

Papers of the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society

ReCap Microfilm 1083.706                  Printed guide: none          5 reels

These papers document the activities of the first formal abolitionist society in America. Included are minutes from 1787 to 1916 and the society's large collection of manuscripts dealing with abolition, spanning the years of 1775-1868.

Rhodes House Anti-slavery Papers: Material Relating to America from the Anti-slavery Collection in Rhodes House, Oxford, mainly 1839-1868

ReCap Microfilm 1083.692                  Printed guide: none          2 reels

A collection of anti-slavery papers acquired in 1951 from the Anti-slavery Society by the Rhodes trustees. This is the largest Anti-slavery collection in Great Britain, containing well over 1,000 volumes of manuscript and typescript material in addition to pamphlets and periodicals.


Lexis-Nexis Congressional  (1789+)

Indexes publications of the U.S. Congress such as hearings, committee reports, documents and prints. Material is available in microfiche and/or electronic. Essential tool for doing legislative history research. Includes Congressional Research Reports from 1916 to the present, U.S. Serial Set from 1789-1969, Annals of Congress from 1789-1824, Register of Debates from 1824-1837, Congressional Globe from 1833-1873, and Congressional Record from 1873-1997.

Lexis-Nexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection  (1789-1969)

Collection of U.S. Government publications compiled under the directive of Congress. Includes Congressional reports and documents as well as executive agency and departmental reports ordered to be printed by Congress.

Making of Modern Law Digital Archive (Legal Treatises 1800-1926)    

Digital library of works from the 19th and early 20th centuries on British Commonwealth and American law. Includes treatises, casebooks, local practice manuals, books on legal form, works for lay readers, pamphlets, letters, and speeches.

Making of Modern Law Digital Archive (U. S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs 1832-1978)    

A fully searchable digital archive containing 150 years of U.S. SupremeCourt records and briefs. The record for a case may contain the following types of documents: motions, petitions, oral transcripts, transcripts of the trial record, applications for writ, appendices, letter briefs and jurisdictional statements.

Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1970    

Contains digitized and searchable copies of over 300 years of legal primary sources, such as early U.S. state codes, city charters, constitutional conventions and compilations, and other documents.

Making of the Modern World Digital Archive  (1450-1850)  

Digital edition of the Goldsmiths'-Kress collections of books on that document economic and business activity in the West, from the last half of the 15th century to the mid-19th century. Materials include books, pamphlets and ephemera and cover a broad range of topics in political science, history, sociology, and banking, finance, transportation and manufacturing.

U. S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs 1832-1978 (Making of Modern Law Digital Archive)  

A fully searchable digital archive containing 150 years of U.S. SupremeCourt records and briefs. The record for a case may contain the following types of documents: motions, petitions, oral transcripts, transcripts of the trial record, applications for writ, appendices, letter briefs and jurisdictional statements.

Westlaw Campus  

Note: Restricted to academic research by Princeton University faculty and students. If Westlaw Campus asks for a password, please click the refresh button on your browser. This should allow access to the database without putting in a password.

Comprehensive database of legal materials, including cases, statutes, and regulations of the U.S. government and the various state governments; includes the legal encyclopedia American Jurisprudence 2nd and American Law Reports; case law from 1789 to present; current statutes and regulations. Documents can also be accessed through broad subject categories such as Civil Rights, International Law and Environmental Law.

Internet: Law and legal cases

__________.  American Memory Historical Collections for the National Digital Library. Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860. 
Drawn from the resources of the Law Library and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, users may access first-hand accounts of trials and cases, reports, arguments, examinations of cases and decisions, proceedings, journals, and other primary historical materials.  Although limited to 105 items, some of the more noteworthy works include the Case of Dred Scott in the United States Supreme Court, the Trial of John Brown, and the Argument of John Quincy Adams, before the Supreme Court of the United States, which is also known as the Amistad Case.

O Say Can You See

"This project explores multigenerational black, white, and mixed family networks in early Washington, D.C., by collecting, digitizing, making accessible, and analyzing thousands of case files from the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, Maryland state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. We include petitions for freedom, civil, criminal, and chancery cases. And we incorporate where possible related documents about these families from special collections, archives, churches, and local historical societies. Scholars from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Maryland will collaborate by uncovering the web of litigants, jurists, legal actors, and participants in this community, and by placing these family networks in the foreground of our interpretive framework of slavery and national formation."

St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project. Freedom Suits in Missouri. 
Between 1814 and 1860, nearly 300 enslaved persons in St. Louis sued their owners for wrongful servitude in Missouri courts.  The most famous case was the 1846 petition filed by Dred Scott and his wife Harriet.  Collectively these cases became known as the St. Louis Circuit Court Freedom Suits which are part of the larger St. Louis Circuit Court Case File Records Series.  So far, these cases represent the largest collection of freedom suits filed by enslaved persons in nineteenth-century America.

Yale University. The Avalon Project: Documents on Slavery. 
The Avalon Project at the Yale University Law School brings together digitized primary documents, treaties, speeches, and biographical texts relevant to the fields of history, economics, politics, law, diplomacy and government. The documents on slavery include literary works, federal and state statutes, and treaties and agreements concerning the slave trade.  Coverage spans pre-eighteenth century to the twenty-first century.

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database  

“A single multi-source data-set of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.”


Black demographic data, 1790-1860: a sourcebook, by Clayton E. Cramer.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1997.  

Distribution of Slaves in 1860 

Historical census statistics on population totals by race, 1790 to 1990, and by Hispanic origin, 1970 to 1990, for large cities and other urban places in the United States, by Campbell Gibson and Kay Jung.  Washington, DC : Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, [2005] 

Historical statistics of Black America, compiled & edited by Jessie Carney Smith and Carrell Peterson Horton.  New York: Gale Research, c1995.  (F) E185 .H543 1995

Historical Statistics of the United States Millennial Edition  (Colonial Period to 2000)

Statistical series on subjects ranging from population and land area to production figures for crops and manufactured products. Detailed documentation provides brief histories of the statistical series and source materials.

Negro population in the United States, 1790-1915.  New York, Arno Press, 1968. (F) HA205.A33 1968, (Stokes) HA205.A33 1968

Tables showing the number of emigrants and recaptured Africans sent to the colony of Liberia by the government of the United States [electronic resource] : also, the number of emigrants free born, number that purchased their freedom, number emancipated, &c. : together with a census of the colony and a report of its commerce, &c., September 1843. Washington [D.C.] : [s.n.], 1845

Web Resources

Digital Library on American Slavery

“The Digital Library on American Slavery offers data on race and slavery extracted from eighteenth and nineteenth-century documents and processed over a period of eighteen years. The Digital Library contains detailed information on about 150,000 individuals, including slaves, free people of color, and whites. These data have been painstakingly extracted from 2,975 legislative petitions and 14,512 county court petitions, and from a wide range of related documents, including wills, inventories, deeds, bills of sale, depositions, court proceedings, amended petitions, among others. Buried in these documents are the names and other data on roughly 80,000 individual slaves, 8,000 free people of color, and 62,000 whites, both slave owners and non-slave owners.”

The Geography of Slavery in Virginia

“The Geography of Slavery project presents full transcriptions and images of all runaway and captured ads for slaves and servants placed in Virginia newspapers from 1736 to 1790, and is in the process of compiling advertisements well into the nineteenth century. In addition, the project offers a number of other documents related to slaves, servants, and slaveholders, including court records, other newspaper notices, slaveholder correspondence, and assorted literature about slavery and indentured servitude.”

“I Will Be Heard!”  Abolitionism in America

“Featuring rare books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, and other materials from Cornell University’s pre-eminent anti-slavery and Civil War collections.”