African American History Subject Guide
The collections at the William L. Clements Library document the varied and rich histories of African Americans, with particular strengths on the history of slavery, antislavery and abolition movements, the Civil War, and emancipation. Materials from all of the divisions grant different entry points to explore how Americans experienced, interpreted, and recorded race.
Examples of some key manuscript collections include the African American History Collection, the Weld-Grimké Family Papers, and collections in the James S. Schoff Civil War Collection. The Graphics Division helps document the visual history of African Americans through sources like the Arabella Chapman Carte-de-Visite Albums, which illustrate the lives of the Chapman family, middle-class African Americans from Albany, New York.
Selected examples of the type of material on this subject to be found in each division include:
- Pro- and anti-slavery tracts and defenses
- Printed travel accounts describing slave states
- Autobiographies and biographies of formerly enslaved people, abolitionists, and leading figures
- City directories with information about free and enslaved residents and their various business enterprises
- Family papers that include information about plantation management, mixed-race children, and commentary on enslaved workers
- Diaries, journals, and letters describing travel through and everyday life in slave-holding states as well as encounters with African Americans in free states
- Papers from military figures, soldiers, and civilians during wartime documenting African American participation in wars and debates relating to race and slavery generated during them
- Papers of antislavery groups and activists
- Photographs representing African Americans, free and enslaved, including portraits commissioned by African Americans and albums assembled by them
- Printed historical views that include representations of African Americans
- Printed satires commenting on race, slavery, abolition, and politics
- Sketchbooks and other original artwork depicting African Americans
- Sheet music, including minstrel songs and music relating to African Americans and slavery
- Printed maps of particular slave states or of the nation as a whole delineating boundaries between slave-holding and free territories
- Maps with demographic information about enslaved populations
- Maps with details of plantations
Antislavery movements–United States
Slavery and the church
United States. President (1861-1865 : Lincoln). Emancipation Proclamation
United States–Race relations
subdivision African Americans under individual subjects, e.g. United States — History — Revolution, 1775-1783 — African Americans.
Selections in the William L. Clements Library Image Bank and volumes from the Book Division scanned into HathiTrust relate to African Americans.
By the time early abolitionist George Bourne wrote, “the detention of men in bondage indefinite, should receive unmitigated execration” in 1834, slave …
This issue of The Quarto looks at the Library’s collections for the study of pre-1900 African American history.
Through an exploration of freedom, military service, executive power and visual representations, Proclaiming Emancipation pays tribute to a near-sacre …
“Reframing the Color Line: Race and the Visual Culture of the Atlantic World” examines early constructions of race in visual culture and asks “what we …
Estate and business documents of Adams, a free man of African descent living and working in Trenton, New Jersey, in the late 18th century.
Last Updated 11/22/2019