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Home » About » Blog » Announcing digitized archival collections documenting the slave trade, Caribbean enslavement, and anti-slavery activities in Michigan

The William L. Clements Library has recently made available online three archival collections pertinent to the trade of enslaved persons, slavery in Jamaica, and antislavery activities in Michigan. They include the Thomas Leyland Company Account Books, 1789-1793; Jacob Aemilius Irving Letterbooks, 1809-1816; and Harriet DeGarmo Fuller Papers, 1852-1857. These collections are made up of bound volumes, which see regular use in the reading room and classes. The digital surrogates have significant anticipated use by scholars who cannot make it to Ann Arbor and bolster our growing body of online archival materials pertinent to African American and Black Caribbean history.

In order to improve our service to scholars and casual readers, the William L. Clements Library recently released a Harmful Language Statement to prepare researchers for culturally insensitive, derogatory, and other harmful language and content that may be encountered in its catalog records and finding aids. The same statement pertains to readers approaching these digitized collections. The Thomas Leyland Company Account Books, for example, contain vivid documentation of trauma in the form of the raw accounting of slave trade voyages, in which human beings were treated and represented as property and objects of trade. Similarly, the Jacob Aemilius Irving letter books are filled throughout with content that dehumanizes enslaved persons. The Clements Library is committed to preserving and providing access to these important historical documents, and it will continue to explore ways of flagging or identifying content that may be difficult for the benefit of our readership.

We would like to express our appreciation for the University of Michigan’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiative, which partly funded the digitization of these collections. The Clements Library would also like to recognize the many people involved in the manuscripts digitization process and metadata creation. They include, but are not limited to Chris Powell, Jackson Huang, and University of Michigan Library’s Digital Content and Collections (DCC) department, as well as DEI-funded interns Allie Scholten and Amelia Fuller.

Thomas Leyland Company Account Books, 1789-1793. The Thomas Leyland Company account books are two volumes of records for the slave ships Hannah (1789-90) and Jenny (1792-1793), traveling from Liverpool to Africa, then across the Atlantic to Jamaica and other West Indian Islands. The books record the sales in each port, including enslaved Africans, fabric, and sugar, and contain details on seamen’s wages and instructions to the captain for the treatment of enslaved persons. Digital collection located at:

Jacob Aemilius Irving Letterbooks, 1809-1816. The Irving collection consists of three volumes of outgoing correspondence written from Liverpool, England, and Jamaica, 1809-1816. These volumes are a resource for understanding the mentality of a Jamaican sugar planter during the years following the cessation of the British slave trade. In addition to important regular commentary on his business network and debts, these volumes contain discussion of the trade of enslaved persons, their value to the estates, and their status as currency in the Jamaican economy. Digital collection located at:

Harriet DeGarmo Fuller Papers, 1852-1857. The Harriet DeGarmo Fuller papers consist of four bound volumes of records and eight miscellaneous receipts of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, kept between 1852 and 1857, when Harriet DeGarmo Fuller was a member of the executive committee of the Society. The Harriet DeGarmo Fuller Papers form an important and detailed picture of the formation and early activity of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, with a record of their official resolutions, activities and expenditures. The Fuller Papers provide unique insight into the inner workings of one of the most important state-level Garrisonian antislavery societies. Digital collection located at:

Volume four of Harriet DeGarmo Fuller’s papers contain the founding constitution and by-laws of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, October 22, 1853.

Cheney J. Schopieray
Curator of Manuscripts