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Primary Sources: Slavery

Transatlantic Slavery Internet Resources

 Routes of the Undergound Railroad 1830-1865 Image from Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain
These online sites focus on the transatlantic slave-trading system between west African states and the Americas, and the anti-slavery and abolitionist movements. See this note on primary sources and offensive language.
This large (>8000 pages of material) site is published by the Schomburg Centre and the New York Public Library that includes: essays, texts (primary and secondary), images, and maps. 
Contains three collections:
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
When you choose the “Documents” link you’ll see that this site contains much more than slave sources, so expect to do some hunting. See, for example “1776-1785” Jefferson’s Notes on Slavery; “1826-1850” Refugee Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada; and “1851-1875” Henry Carey’s The Slave trade Domestic and Foreign 1853
Small collection of scanned documents - pamphlets, speeches, sermons, books - on slavery and antislavery in New England.
Contains a significant collection of slave narratives, tracts, prose fiction, religious literature, journals, and other resources. 
Anti-Slavery Movement in Canada (Library & Archives Canada)
A small collection of print material and images from the LAC collection.
A sub-set of the large Avalon collection on law and history. There are about thirty documents on the laws, agreements, and history of slavery in the US.
Hundreds of speeches and editorials by antebellum blacks who were part of the anti-slavery movement.
See also the related ‘American Memory’ page: From Slavery to Freedom (Pamphlet Collection 1822-1909):  .
A collection of petitions for land grants that were made by free Black Loyalists when they left the US to settle in New Brunswick.  
See the "Documents" link in the sidebar. A small collection of primary sources: personal journals, letters, and official documents.
This collection from American Memory contains 2300 slave narratives from first-person interviews were collected in 1941.
Images and text from both the master and slave classes in the British sugar islands.
A collection of primary resources on history, literature, and culture from the University of North Carolina. Slavery-related documents form only part of the site.
        Focus on enslaved people. "From archival fragments and spreadsheet entries, we see the lives of the enslaved in richer detail." 
About fifty original documents. Topics deal with enslavement, the middle passage, conditions of life, resistance, emancipation, etc.
A very few brief documents related to slavery can be found on this page.
A digital collection of newspaper ads concerning runaway and captured slaves in Virginia in the 18th & 19th centuries.
See the sub-heading ‘The Impact of Slavery’.
The JSTOR database has nine collections of pamphlets, one of which is the Wilson Anti-Slavery Collection. It contains resources from the philanthropic and emancipation societies, and shows the prominent role of women in the movement. 
Liberian Letters (University of Virginia)
A small collection of fifty-one personal letters from the mid-nineteenth century.
A Slavery & Justice collection of source documents from Brown University. Includes scans of original hand-written documents (and some transcripts) related to slave voyages, contracts, inventories, pamphlets, speeches, etc. 
Contains about 10,000 items – sermons, pamphlets, newsletters, testimonials, and broadsides on slavery, abolition, and the Civil War.
The Slave Narrative (Washington State University)
A collection of first-person accounts of slaves who escaped to freedom.
This large collection is divided into four topics: Debates over Slavery and Abolition, The Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, The Institution of Slavery, and The Age of Emancipation. Slavery and Anti-Slavery. It is one of the collections from ‘Points to the Past’ (
This collection brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. It includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. Cases go into the 20th century, because long after slavery was ended, there were still court cases based on issues emanating from slavery. 
Includes trial transcripts, cases and decisions, proceedings, and other historical material on legal cases dealing with slavery from 1772-1889.
An educational resource site that contains both primary documents and secondary-resource essays.
Contains hundreds of letters, newspaper articles, and legislative decrees. 
Contains statistical information on 35,000 slave voyages that embarked more than 12,000,000 Africans from the 16th to 19th centuries.
While the dated language and terms of degradation found in source documents are not endorsed. On this point the Nova Scotia Archives page on African Nova Scotians moderately disagrees, highlighting unacceptable language by placing quotations around terms like 'mulatto', or 'colored'. 
The term “holocaust” has been borrowed from the vocabulary of World War II to describe the enforced deportation and enslavement of millions of people from states in Africa. The Swahili term “Maafa” has more recently been used to describe slavery – it’s a word used of tragedy and disaster.

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