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The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

From the American Antiquarian Society

Explore 100 years of published works on slavery and abolition
Learn what makes this product unique
  • One of the most foundational and wide-ranging topics in American history
  • More than 3,600 printed works about the institution of slavery, all digitized in full color
  • Diverse materials include books, pamphlets, graphic materials, and ephemera

This digital edition of the American Antiquarian Society’s extraordinary holdings of materials related to the enslavement of African peoples in America delivers more than 3,600 works published over more than 100 years. The American Slavery Collection addresses every facet of one of the most foundational and wide-ranging topics in U.S. history. These fully-searchable, full-color materials include books, pamphlets, graphic materials, and ephemera; among them are a significant number of invaluable Southern imprints. 

Expanded research and teaching opportunities 
Coverage includes the Missouri Compromise, the founding of Liberia as a colony for Blacks fleeing America, the rise and suppression of abolitionist activities, the first National Anti-Slavery Society Convention in 1837, the Compromise of 1850, the Emancipation Proclamation, the establishment of “Redeemer” state governments, the birth of Jim Crow, and the expansion of segregation through the early 1920s. Subjects covered include religion, suffrage, insurrections, the slave trade, the lives of Black men and women during and after enslavement, and many others. Genres range from personal narratives to children’s literature, and include many African American authors, including Denmark Vesey, Olaudah Equiano, W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles Ball and dozens more. 

The American Slavery Collection is cross-searchable with all other collections on Readex AllSearch for seamless searching to jumpstart research and quickly navigate results. 

About the American Antiquarian Society 
The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is both a learned society and a major independent research library. The AAS library houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, sheet music and graphic arts material printed from the beginning of European colonization through 1876 in what is now the United States, Canada and the West Indies. The Society’s holdings of American printed materials dating from 1821 through 1876 are among the strongest anywhere.

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“…highly recommended…”
“Now any scholar or student…can easily access this vast and invaluable collection….a windfall for historians of 19th-century American history.”
Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut
Areas of Study
This product supports the following subjects
African American Studies
American Studies
Caribbean Studies
US History
Title List
Reviews & Accolades

“…a truly exceptional resource….The organization and formatting of the subject browsing category provides an excellent, easily navigable resource for new users or students exploring topics for a class project or research assignment….The broad coverage of The American Slavery Collection—materials that range from the lived experiences of enslaved peoples to nineteenth-century history textbooks and more—allows for a wide range of research on slavery and abolition in the nineteenth century….the digitization of more than three thousand printed materials on slavery from the vast holdings of the AAS is a phenomenal addition to the growing assortment of digital resources related to slavery.”
H-Slavery, H-Net Reviews (February 2020)

Winner of the 2017 Outstanding Academic Title Award from the Association of College & Research Libraries' Choice magazine!

The American Slavery Collection…comprises more than 3,500 works held by the American Antiquarian Society among its vast collection of material….These credentials tell researchers that they are accessing the finest in peer-reviewed or expert-selected material. A number of developments in the study of popular culture in the last decade, including the intractable plague of racism still afflicting society, have again popularized the examination of slavery and leading students and scholars worldwide to pursue the truth about this ‘peculiar institution.’ Primary sources are always the most reliable for understanding the root causes of issues, and this new digital collection offers such resources as captivity narratives, memoirs, newspapers, photographs, pamphlets, and graphic materials.

“The interface is well designed for both novice and expert researchers.…this valuable database of primary sources fills a notable void in African American studies, taking researchers right to the heart of the matter. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers.”
— D. W. Bilal, Missouri State Library, in Choice (August 2017)

“This splendid new addition to the rapidly expanding Archive of Americana collections offers scholars across the globe access to more than 3,500 texts that tackle the subject of slavery from almost every conceivable angle. Drawn from the riches of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, this searchable digital repository is thick with every possible genre; from politicians' speeches and prize essays, to slave rebels' trial transcripts, antislavery fiction and juvenilia, graphic arts and ephemera. The geographical coverage is equally broad, encompassing publishing centers from Williamstown to Washington, D.C., and the West Indies. The presence of so many southern imprints, in particular, will prove invaluable to scholars investigating the development and maturation of pro-slavery ideology, while the archive's temporal range—it spans the brutal century-long period between 1820 and 1922—creates new opportunities for creative enquiry into the legacy and memory of the peculiar institution.”
Richard Bell, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland

“The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) houses one of the best collections of pamphlets and books on the history of slavery and abolition in the United States. My own work on abolition relied heavily on research conducted in the AAS. Now any scholar or student interested in abolition, the politics of slavery, the coming of the Civil War, and emancipation can easily access this vast and invaluable collection thanks to its digitization by Readex. This project is nothing less than a windfall for historians of 19th-century American history.”
— Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut

“Readex has done it again.  By digitizing the American Antiquarian Society’s American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922, Readex has not only ensured that future research within antislavery studies will be far more efficient and thorough, but also enabled educators to implement dynamic curricula within the classroom.  Now that digitization has helped eliminate the need to scan reel after reel of microfilm and comb through mounds of unrelated materials, one can only imagine how such searchable databases will inspire a new generation of 19th-century scholars.  A digital edition of the AAS’s American Slavery Collection will certainly revolutionize how cultural historians think about and engage with this incomparable archive.”
Radiclani Clytus, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies, Brown University

“This is an invaluable compilation of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century documents addressing histories of racial slavery and struggles for freedom in North America. Drawing upon the American Antiquarian Society’s extensive collection of printed materials, it provides a myriad of textual and graphic sources, beginning with debates over the “Missouri Compromise” and extending through the formal termination of slavery in the United States and the Caribbean. In so doing, The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922, exposes a wide range of voices, including those of pro-slavery ideologues, free people of color, black and white abolitionists, fiction writers and visual artists, and the enslaved themselves, providing a fuller picture of how people navigated their lives and imagined their futures within and beyond systems of servitude.”
— Dawn Peterson, Assistant Professor of History, Emory University

The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society is a vast resource allowing unprecedented web access to over 3,500 print culture texts and artifacts. This extraordinarily practical database documents virtually every aspect of human slavery in the United States and across the Americas. Readers of all types may now access capacious resources previously available only to privileged scholars able to travel to archives of rare special collections. Readex and the American Antiquarian Society are to be commended for this exciting and socially responsible move toward a democratization of archival research, which will lead to deeper, richer knowledge about the role of slavery in the nation’s past.

“As a searchable database of diverse imprints, the newly digitized collection offers a means for more original research projects as well as new research questions and paradigms. Especially exhilarating is the sheer breadth of media and genres represented. Multivalent, in diverse languages, of varying lengths, a partial list of the items includes abolitionist tracts, almanacs, Biblical exegeses, biographies, colonization society minutes, convention proceedings, correspondence, essays, eulogies, last wills and other legal documents, manners handbooks, maps, memoirs, missionary magazines, monographs, plantation diaries, poetry volumes, proslavery treatises, sermons, sheet music, ship voyage records, ‘slavery rhymes,’ textbooks for youth, transcripts of speeches, treaties, and trial proceedings. The authors of these works range from some of the most luminous figures on the landscape of America’s slave trade and slavery history—L. Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Charles Sumner—to the least and lowliest, such as the ‘Father of a family,’ who wrote Poems: Moral and Religious, for Children and Youth, and Mary Sterndale, whose collection The Sisters: Being the First of a Series of Interesting Stories sought to capture the republican spirit in 1821.

“One remarkable, and remarkably steady, feature of the title list is the undeviating use of the term “Negro” to identify people of African descent in the United States. It first appears in The American Slavery Collection in an anonymously authored 1820 title, The Story of Quashi; or, The desperate Negro: To which is added, The story of Sinbad the Sailor and The elephants: Together with the story of Mendaculus. Its last appearance forms the title of this collection’s final work: Carter G. Woodson’s The Negro in Our History (1922). There is an irony in this persistence, given the many debates within those 102 years as to what the Negro shall be called. The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society gives us more than 3,500 documents to peruse in search of answers to not only that persistent question, but also innumerable others.”
— Joycelyn Moody, Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature, University of Texas-San Antonio

Notable Titles

A Selection of Notable Titles, Including Some Explanatory Notes, Organized Chronologically

A journal, comprising an account of the loss of the Brig Commerce, of Hartford, (Con.) James Riley, master, upon the western coast of Africa, August 28th 1815: also of the slavery and sufferings of the author and the rest of the crew, upon the desert of Zahara, in the years 1815, 1816, 1817; with accounts of the manners, customs, and habits of the wandering Arabs; also, a brief historical and geographical view of the continent of Africa (1821)
•    Example of maritime accounts of the African slave trade

An Account of honest Josiah, an African youth (1821)

The re-captured Negro (1821)
•    Slavery as depicted in early 19th-century novels for children

A refutation of the calumnies circulated against the southern & western states, respecting the institution and existence of slavery among them: To which is added, a minute and particular account of the actual state and condition of their Negro population: Together with historical notices of all the insurrections that have taken place since the settlement of the country (1822)
•    Southern defense of slavery in early 1800s as the Abolitionist movement grew in the North

An official report of the trials of sundry Negroes, charged with an attempt to raise an insurrection in the state of South-Carolina: preceded by an introduction and narrative; and in an appendix, a report of the trials of four white persons, on indictments for attempting to excite the slaves to insurrection (1822)
•    Example of trial-reports regarding slave insurrections in the South

Review of the reports of the American Colonization Society (1823)
•    Rise of the Colonization movement, which proposed sending slaves back to Africa

The West Indies as they are; or, A real picture of slavery, but more particularly as it exists in the island of Jamaica...with notes (1825)
•    Early history of the slave trade in the Caribbean, which would have a direct impact on the laws governing slavery in the American South

A practical view of the present state of slavery in the West Indies; or, An examination of Mr. Stephen's "Slavery of the British West India Colonies": containing more particularly an account of the actual condition of the Negroes in Jamaica: With observations on the decrease of the slaves since the abolition of the slave trade, and on the probable effects of legislative emancipation (1828)
•    Detailed history of slavery in the Caribbean/West Indies

Speech of Henry Berry, (of Jefferson,) in the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the abolition of slavery (1832)
•    Southern debates over abolition

The speech of Charles Jas. Faulkner, (of Berkeley) in the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the policy of the state with respect to her slave population (1832)
•    Example of Southern political orations regarding slaves rights

Memoir of Mrs. Chloe Spear, a native of Africa, who was enslaved in childhood, and died in Boston, January 3, 1815--aged 65 years (1832)
•    Example of personal memoirs of early 19th-century slaves

A view of the present condition of the slave population in the island of Puerto Rico, under the Spanish government: Showing the impolicy and danger of prematurely emancipating the West India slaves: With observations on the destructive tendency of injudicious reform and revolutionary principles on the prosperity of nations and colonies (1832)
•    Example of political debates in Europe on slavery conditions in the Americas (Caribbean, in this instance)

Letters on slavery: addressed to the Cumberland congregation, Virginia (1833)
•    Anti-slavery advocacy by religious groups in the South

First annual report of the board of managers of the New-England Anti-Slavery Society (1833)

Excessive cruelty to slaves: Three months in Jamaica, in 1832: comprising a residence of seven weeks on a sugar plantation (1833)
•    Slavery in the British West Indies, which would strongly influence the governance of slavery in the Americas)

A pastoral letter, on the religious instruction of the slaves of members of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the state of South-Carolina (1835)
•    Southern Church's views on the religious instruction of slaves

Proceedings of the citizens of Charleston, on the incendiary machinations, now in progress against the peace and welfare of the Southern states (1835)
•    Southern pamphlet on conspiracies to foment slave insurrections

The war in Texas: a review of facts and circumstances, showing that this contest is the result of a long premeditated crusade against the government, set on foot by slaveholders, land speculators, &c. with the view of re-establishing, extending, and perpetuating the system of slavery and the slave trade in the republic of Mexico (1836)
•    Pamphlet on the role of pro-slavery activists in early Texas history

Slavery in the United States: a narrative of the life and adventures of Charles Ball, a black man, who lived forty years in Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia, as a slave, under various masters, and was one year in the navy with Commodore Barney, during the late war. Containing an account of the manners and usages of the planters and slaveholders of the South, a description of the condition and treatment of the slaves, with observations upon the state of morals amongst the cotton planters, and the perils and sufferings of a fugitive slave, who twice escaped from the cotton country (1836)
•    Example of personal narratives of escaped slaves

Slavery in the United States (1836)
•    A Northern history of slavery in the U.S.

Natural history of the Negro race (1837)
•    A Southern history of the Negro race

Slavery in America: a reprint of an appeal to the Christian women of the slave states of America (1837)
•    A European (Edinburgh, Scotland) appeal to women in slave-holding American states

The rights and duties of slave-holders: Two discourses, delivered on Sunday, November 27, 1836. In Christ Church, Raleigh, North-Carolina (1837)
•    An appeal by the Episcopal Church of North Carolina for the humane treatment of slaves

Our relations with England: in which are discussed the various attempts and schemes by which that government has endeavored to control the police of the seas; and in which it is shewn how the slave trade has increased continually, ever since that government commenced its interference; the designs of England--her false humanity--and hypocrisy, and the system of slavery of British India, are also fully discussed and exposed : Extracted from the June number of the Southern literary messenger (1842)
•    A Southern book critical of England's enforcement of maritime anti-slavery laws

Prison life and reflections: or A narrative of the arrest, trial, conviction, imprisonment, treatment, observations, reflections, and deliverance of Work, Burr and Thompson, who suffered an unjust and cruel imprisonment in Missouri Penitentiary, for attempting to aid some slaves to liberty (1847)
•    Memoirs of convicted anti-slavery activists in the Midwest

Speech of Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, on the Oregon bill: Delivered in the Senate of the United States (1848)
•    Speech by Jefferson Davis before Congress on the Oregon bill and the question of slavery in American West

Narrative of the life and adventures of Henry Bibb, an American slave / written by himself (1849)
•    Memoirs of former slaves increased dramatically as the 19th century progressed

California and New Mexico: Speech of Mr. John A. Rockwell, of Connecticut, in relation to slavery in the territories: Delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States (1849)
•    Congressional speech on the question of slavery in the new territories

Speeches of Hon. John C. Calhoun, and Hon. Daniel Webster on the subject of slavery: Delivered in the Senate of the United States (1850)

Reality versus fiction: A review of a pamphlet published at Charleston, S.C. entitled, "The Union, past and future, how it works and how to save it" / Now answered by a citizen of Boston (1850)
•    Pro-slavery and anti-slavery pamphlets and rebuttals

A narrative of Thomas Smallwood, (colored man): giving an account of his birth--the period he was held in slavery--his release--and removal to Canada, etc. Together with an account of the underground railroad / Written by himself (1851)
•    Personal memoirs like this one track the rise of the Underground Railroad

My bondage and my freedom / by Frederick Douglass; with an introduction by James M'Cune Smith (1855)
•    Frederick Douglass's influential memoir

Cotton is king: or The culture of cotton, and its relation to agriculture, manufactures and commerce: To the free colored people; and to those who hold that slavery is in itself sinful / By an American (1855)

Lectures on the philosophy and practice of slavery: as exhibited in the institution of domestic slavery in the United States: With the duties of masters to slaves (1856)

Cannibals all! or, Slaves without masters / By George Fitzhugh (1857)
•    A complex defense of slavery that has been widely studied and cited, especially among anti-capitalist and Marxist scholars in the early 20th century

Autobiography of a female slave (1857)
•    Personal narratives of former slaves proliferated in the North by mid-century

The North and the South: being a statistical view of the condition of the free and slave states (1857)
•    A detailed statistical summary covering both free and slave states

Cotton is king, and pro-slavery arguments: comprising the writings of Hammond, Harper, Christy, Stringfellow, Hodge, Bledsoe, and Cartwright, on this important subject (1860)
•    An in-depth Southern history and defense of slavery as the Civil War begins

The Yankee slave-dealer; or, An abolitionist down South: A tale for the times / By a Texan (1860)

A catechism for the oral instruction of coloured persons who are inquirers concerning religion or candidates for admission into the church (1860)
•    A Charleston reverend’s advice to his colleagues on how to advise slaves who seek church guidance

Argument of Hon. Daniel W. Voorhees, of Terre Haute, Indiana, delivered at Charlestown, Virginia, November 8, 1859, upon the trial of John E. Cook, indicted for treason, murder, and inciting slaves to rebel, at the Harper's Ferry insurrection.    Tallahassee [Fla.] (1860)
•    Trial records related to Harper's Ferry

Relations of states: Speech of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, delivered in the Senate of the United States (1860)
•    Speech by Jefferson Davis before the U.S. Congress in 1860

Slavery and abolitionism, as viewed by a Georgia slave / By Harrison Berry, the property of S.W. Price (1861)
•    Purported slave’s view of the abolitionist movement published in Atlanta, Georgia

I am a witness against American slavery and all its horrors: A narrative of events of the life of J.H. Banks, an escaped slave, from the cotton state, Alabama, in America (1861)

The progress and intelligence of Americans; collateral proof of slavery: from the first to the eleventh chapter of Genesis, as founded on organic law; and from the fact of Christ being a Caucasian, owing to his peculiar parentage; progress of slavery south and south-west, with free labor advancing, through the acquisition of territory; advantages enumerated and explained (1862)
•    Biblical defense of slavery published during the Civil War in the pivotal “border state” of Kentucky

War powers of Congress: Speech of Hon. Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, on the house bills for the confiscation of property and the liberation of slaves belonging to rebels, delivered in Senate of the United States (1862)
•    Debates in the U.S. Congress on the many military policy disputes that arose during the Civil War

The Florida exiles and the war for slavery, or, The crimes committed by our government against the maroons, who fled from South Carolina and other slave states, seeking protection under Spanish laws (1863)
•    A book published in the North (New York) criticizing the U.S. government’s policy towards slave refugees

A letter to the women of England, on slavery in the southern states of America: considered especially in reference to the condition of the female slaves, most of the facts from the observation of the author while travelling in the South (1863)
•    Appeals to the citizens of England were made by both North and South, as Britain’s alliance remained uncertain

Catalogue of anti-slavery publications in America (1864)
•    One of many such bibliographic tools for researchers in the field

President's emancipation proclamation: Speech of Hon. Calvin T. Hulburd, of New York. Delivered in the House of Representatives (1864)
•    Congressional speeches in reaction to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

Life of James Mars, a slave born and sold in Connecticut / Written by himself (1864)

First anniversary of the proclamation of freedom in South Carolina, held at Beaufort, S.C. (1864)
•    This Southern pamphlet celebrated the emancipation of the region’s slaves

The crisis of emancipation in America: being a review of the history of emancipation, from the beginning of the American war to the assassination of President Lincoln (1865)

The devil in America: a dramatic satire. Spirit-rapping--Mormonism; woman's rights conventions and speeches; abolitionism; Harper's Ferry raid and black republicanism; defeat of Satan, and final triumph of the gospel (1867)

White supremacy and Negro subordination; or, Negroes a subordinate race, and (so-called) slavery its normal condition: With an appendix, showing the past and present condition of the countries south of us (1868)
•    Defenses of slavery, such as this one published in New York in 1868, lingered in both the North and South after the War

Behind the scenes, or, Thirty years a slave, and four years in the White House (1868)

Behind the seams / by a nigger woman who took in work from Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Davis (1868)

Speeches of General U.S. Grant, Republican candidate for eighteenth president of the United States, being extracts from speeches, letters, orders, military and state papers (1868)

Grant or Greeley--which? Facts and arguments for the consideration of the colored citizens of the United States: being extracts from letters, speeches, and editorials by colored men and their best friends: Sumner's mistake, Greeley's surrender, and Grant's faithfulness. Opinions in brief of Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Prof. J. Mercer Langston, R.H. Dana, Jr., Judge Hoar, Fred. Douglass, Speaker Blaine, Wm. D. Forten, Prof. Wm. Howard Day (1872)
•    Political publications such as this attempted to influence the views of African-American citizens

Southern rights and northern wrongs: containing tableaus, nos. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and letters to several persons, on various subjects (1872)

History of the rise and fall of the slave power in America (1874)

Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the reputed president of the underground railroad: being a brief history of the labors of a lifetime in behalf of the slave, with the stories of numerous fugitives, who gained their freedom through his instrumentality, and many other incidents (1880)
•    Many memoirs such as this recounted the history of the Underground Railroad

History of the Negro race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as slaves, as soldiers, and as citizens: Together with a preliminary consideration of the unity of the human family, an historical sketch of Africa, and an account of the Negro governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia (1883)

The brotherhood of thieves; or, A true picture of the American church and clergy: a letter to Nathaniel Barney, of Nantucket (1884)
•    Stephen Foster’s attempt to clarify the Abolitionist actions that spurred the “Brother of Thieves” riot in Nantucket

The connection of Massachusetts with slavery and the slave-trade (1886)

The underground railroad from slavery to freedom (1898)

Reminiscences of a southern woman (1900)
•    Many memoirs by Southern women were published in the decades following the Civil War

The history of Negro servitude in Illinois and of the slavery agitation in that state, 1719-1864 (1904)
•    An example of the kind of post-War histories of slavery that emerged, this one the history of slavery in a Northern state

The early Negro convention movement (1904)

Slavery and the race problem in the South: With special reference to the state of Georgia (1906)

The neglected period of anti-slavery in America, 1808-1831 (1908)
•    Example of the many histories of the abolition movement that emerged after the Civil War

Canada's part in freeing the slave (1910)

The Negro in Pennsylvania: slavery--servitude--freedom, 1639-1861 (1911)

The political history of slavery in the United States, Book I. Legislative history of reconstruction, Book II. (1915)

A neglected factor in the anti-slavery triumph in Iowa in 1854: a study of the part taken by the foreign-born in the preliminaries of the formation of the National Republican Party (1920)
•    Detailed regional histories of 19th-century abolitionism emerged in the early 1900s

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 (1922)

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