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Primary Sources

Transatlantic Slavery Internet Resources

Routes of the Underground 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.

Abolition, Abolitionists, and Antislavery

Atlantic Slave Trade


Slave Narratives

  • Born in Slavery - This collection from American Memory contains 2300 slave narratives from first-person interviews collected in 1941.
  • Excerpts from Slave Narratives - About fifty original documents. Topics deal with enslavement, the middle passage, conditions of life, resistance, emancipation, etc.
  • The Slave Narrative (Washington State University) - A collection of first-person accounts of slaves who escaped to freedom.

United States

  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • American History: From Revolution to Reconstruction - 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
  • Avalon Project: Documents on Slavery - 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.
  • Documenting the American South - 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.
  • Geography of Slavery in Virginia - A digital collection of newspaper ads concerning runaway and captured slaves in Virginia in the 18th & 19th centuries.
  • Repository of Historical Documents - A Slavery & Justice collection of source documents from Brown University.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. 
  • Slavery Code of the District of Columbia (1862) - A compendium of American laws on slavery (primary source)
  • Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law - 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. 
  • Slaves and the Courts 1740-1860 - Includes trial transcripts, cases and decisions, proceedings, and other historical material on legal cases dealing with slavery from 1772-1889.
  • Spartacus Educational: Slavery in the US - An educational resource site that contains both primary documents and secondary-resource essays.
  • Texas Slavery Project - Contains hundreds of letters, newspaper articles, and legislative decrees. 


Note on primary sources and offensive language:

We do not endorse the dated language and terms of degradation found in source documents.. Language in primary sources comes from the era in which they were written, and we cannot edit them without distorting these texts. Some sites put quotation marks around possibly offensive terms.

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.