American slavery documents collection, 1757-1878 and undated

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John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture
Collection of manuscript items relating to American slavery assembled over a number of decades by the staff of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. Collection contains items documenting the sales, escapes, and emancipations of enslaved people from colonial times through the Civil War, and to a lesser extent, materials relating to slavery in the United States dating from the post-emancipation period.
2.0 Linear Feet (5 boxes and 5 oversize folders)
Materials in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The materials in this collection span the years 1757-1878 and bring to light details of the lives and deaths of enslaved and free Africans and African Americans in the southern United States, primarily in North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky, but also in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Biographical / historical:

Slavery was a widespread practice in colonial and Revolutionary America. Most enslaved people in the United States were descended from Africans who were forced into slavery and brought to America against their will. The system of American chattel slavery meant that any children of enslaved people would also be enslaved automatically at birth. Importation of enslaved people from outside the country was federally prohibited in 1808, but the domestic slave trade remained very active in the United States throughout the early nineteenth century. Although all Northern states had abolished slavery by the 1800s, slavery was actively practiced in Southern and Western states, causing deep political, religious, and economic divides that eventually led to the American Civil War. The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln freed enslaved people in rebel territories; this was followed by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 outlawing slavery throughout the entire United States.

Acquisition information:
The American Slavery Documents Collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as gifts and purchases from the 1930s through 2020. It was formerly known as the African-American Miscellany Collection.
Processing information:

Processed by Gloria Ayee, November 2015

Reprocessed by Rubenstein Library staff, 2024


The collection is arranged chronologically. Documents with references to enslaved persons for which there are no exact or estimated dates are filed at the end of 1865.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], American Slavery Documents Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.