The Library Offers Researchers a Comprehensive Look at History of the Atlantic Slave Trade

Captives in nineteenth-century Brazil.

While the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University is lifting a veil from the history of enslaved African Americans who lived and worked on Grounds, the Library is offering researchers the online resource Slavery and Anti-Slavery—the most complete documentary archive on the world-wide commerce in lives of which UVA was a part.

Gale publishing has assembled 12,049 books, 170 serials, 71 manuscript collections, 377 Supreme Court records and briefs, and 194 reference articles dealing with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to abolish it.

Click the “Research Tools” tab for valuable context to guide your research. Did you know that only 6 percent of enslaved Africans who were shipped across the Atlantic were taken to the United States? The fact that 94 percent went to other parts of the western hemisphere demonstrates the international scope of the Atlantic slave trade. The Research Tools tab also shows the four-part structure of the database, and the collections covered by each part—below are just a few of the primary sources waiting to be discovered!

Part I, Debates over Slavery and Abolition contains:

  • The Anti-Slavery Collection from Oberlin College—a project begun in the 1880s by librarian Henry Matson to collect “every book, every pamphlet, every report, every tract, every newspaper, and every private letter on the subject.”
  • The Slavery and Abolition Collections from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture—65,000 volumes and 226,000 manuscripts from the 17th to the 20th century, including slave deeds, passes, manumission papers, wills, speeches, letters, and more.

Part II, Slave Trade in the Atlantic World

  • Africa Squadron, 1843–1861—U.S. naval commanders’ reports on the enforcement of American laws against slave trading, as well as on the seizure of slaving vessels.
  • Appellate Case File No. 2161, United States v. The Amistad—documents pertaining to the Supreme Court case that declared the African captives who seized the slave-ship Amistad in 1839 were justified in using force to free themselves and would not be returned to their captors as property.
  • Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading in Africa, and Successors—account books, diaries, shipping records, and letters tracking the slaving voyages of Britain’s Royal African Company.

Part III, The Institution of Slavery

  • British Library Collections—plantation records, accounts of insurrections and travels in British and European colonies in Africa, the West Indies, and the Americas from the 17th to the 19th century.
  • Court Cases and other documents from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History—deeds, wills, court cases, and petitions seeking compensation for slavery, manumission, and even a return to bondage by freed people desperate to remain with their families.
  • Appellate Case File No. 3230, Dred Scott v. Sandford—papers filed in the incendiary Supreme Court case that declared African Americans were not citizens and therefore were not entitled to the protection of the law.
  • Records related to Slavery from the Court of King’s Bench, Privy Council, and Treasury—collections related to the Zong Massacre in which a sea captain murdered 250 people, casting them into the sea to prevent the spread of disease aboard a crowed slaver.

Part IV, The Age of Emancipation

  • Various Manuscript collections—for example, the papers of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucy Stone Blackwell (1818–1893), including correspondence with Susan B. Anthony, Henry Ward Beecher, William Lloyd Garrison and others.
  • Freedman’s Aid Society Records, 1866–1932—correspondence, financial papers, annual reports, and meetings of the group that was established to promote schools and colleges for African Americans in the South.

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