By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
The phenomenon that has had the most devastating impact on African Americans in the United States has been the institution of slavery. Between the years of 1500-1866 an estimated 10-15 million enslaved Africans were transported from Africa to the Americas in what is known as the slave triangle. Slavery brought about unspeakable horrors. In fact, physical assault, rape, illness, illiteracy, malnourishment, separation of families and murder were commonplace in the life of the slave.
Impact of Slavery on the Black Community Today
Today many Americans balk at even the mention of slavery, as if it is a subject best forgotten. They likely react this way out of frustration over race relations and the seeming impasse the United States has come up against with conversations about racial reconciliation. Indeed many argue that it happened so long ago, why should the topic even be brought up? However, the history of slavery is an ugly chapter in American history that still continues to have a negative impact on the black community even today. Slavery has effected the black family, the economy, education and entire social structure of the African American community. For example, many black families cannot accurately identify ancestors and construct their own genealogy because of the impact of the slave trade. And in terms of economics, it is almost incalculable the amount of financial loss the African American community has undergone due to years of forced free labor. Furthermore, African Americans today are still playing “catch up” educationally because of limited access to education during slavery and more recently in the Jim Crow era.
A Number of Digitized Resources are Available Online
Thus, in honor of black history month it is necessary to provide some resources for the study of the institution of slavery in the United States. There is a lot of new research and information emerging because many of the documents, photos and records from that time period have only recently been accessible to the public and researchers. Many of the resources for the study of American slavery are now being digitized by various institutions and can now be easily accessed via the Internet for teaching and learning. Below we have provided some digital primary sources that teachers can use to assist in teaching about the history of slavery.
Slave Narratives (Written and Audio)
Ex Slaves talk about Slavery in the USA
Were Slaves Really “Well-Fed”? Tour the Whitney Plantation and Find Out | ESSENCE Live
A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw
The Interesting Narrative Of The Life OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO Or GUSTAVUS VASSA THE AFRICAN
Life and Adventures of Venture | Venture Smith
Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories
Articles and Primary Source Documents
History of Slave Narrative
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself. Vol. I.
Venture Smith Biography
A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, but Resident Above Sixty Years in the United States of America.
The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, 1811
John Jea Biography
Letters From Slaves
Slave Letters- Duke Library
Three Letters That Former Slaves Sent To Their Masters
Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson Slave Letters, 1837-1838 From the Campbell Family Papers An On-line Archival Collection Special Collections Library at Duke University
Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson Slave Letters in the Campbell Family Papers Letter to Eliza from Hannah Valentine, November 1, 1837
Letter from Westly Townsend, An Emancipated Slave, 1850’s
Letters from the Slave States, 1857 (Book)
Letter from A Slave Holder, Camden Court House, N[orth] C[arolina], to William Lloyd Garrison
Bill of sale for one slave
girl: 11 y.o., 32 pounds and 10 shillings, from Absalom Lancaster to Thomas
Bills of Sale of Slave Children
Runaway Slave Ads
North Carolina Runaway Slave Ads
Fugitive Slave Ads
Transcriptions of Virginia Gazette Runaway Slave Ads
Texas Runaway Slave Project
The Geography of Slavery in Virginia
Misc Primary Sources
The Anti-Slavery Alphabet: 1846 Book Teaches Kids the ABCs of Slavery’s Evils
Library of Congress Search: Slaves and the Courts, 1740 to 1860
Secondary Sources/ References
African-American History: Modern Freedom Struggle (A Free Course from Stanford)
The History Behind a Slave’s Bill of Sale
An Archive of Fugitive Slave Ads Sheds New Light on Lost Histories
Massive New Database Will Finally Allow Us to Identify Enslaved Peoples and Their Descendants in the Americas