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  • 614 titles
  • 74,559 pages


TIME PERIOD: 1600–1800


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Related Subject Areas
American History

Related Areas of Interest
African American History
American Civil War/Reconstruction
U.S. South

Explore writings on slavery by those who lived it.  Sources in U.S. History Online: Slavery in America contains primary sources, including personal narratives, pamphlets, addresses, monographs, sermons, political speeches, periodicals, poems, songs, plays and novels. Documenting key aspects of the "peculiar institution," the collection enables students, faculty and researchers to study slavery and its abolition from the 17th century through the end of the 19th century.

Summary:  No study of the United States is complete without detailed research on the issue of slavery and its impact on our country. Sources in U.S. History Online: Slavery in America documents key aspects of the history of slavery in America from its origins in Africa to its abolition, including materials on the slave trade, plantation life, emancipation, pro-slavery and anti-slavery arguments, religious views on slavery and more.

This digital archive provides access to a wide variety of documents — personal narratives, political speeches, sermons, plays, songs, poetic and fictional works and more — published from the time of the transatlantic slave trade to the post-Civil War period.  Users will find information surrounding important individuals, influential perspectives, controversial topics, key cases and significant events, including: Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, the Fifteenth Amendment and the New York African Free School

Full-text search functionality gives researchers unprecedented access to fascinating documents like the “Testimonies of Capt. John Brown”— written before he was hung for inciting a slave insurrection at Harper’s Ferry.

Significance: Primary sources are the most relevant material written about the influential events in U.S. history because they are written by those who witnessed it.  Sources in U.S. History Online: Slavery in America provides researchers with unprecedented access to the essential documents that tell the story of slavery and the fight for abolition — critical for any study of U.S. history.   

Source:  Vernon Burton, Coastal Carolina University, and Troy Smith, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reviewed a list of thousands of titles from several Gale collections — including Sabin Americana, 1500-1926, Travels in the Old South, the Anti-Slavery collection from Oberlin College, and The Making of Modern Law — to select the most meaningful and relevant documents for this comprehensive survey of slavery in America. Source libraries include Harvard University, Huntington Library, Library of Congress, Oberlin College and Yale University.

Illustrations, portraits, maps and more — like this depiction of a slave escape — provide a visual history.

Structure:  Sources in U.S. History Online: Slavery in America is fully searchable through simple and advanced searches, but also can be browsed via six topical sections, each with an accompanying text and bibliographies.  

1. The Transatlantic Slave Trade

  • The Slave Trade
  • Slavery in the Caribbean

2. Antebellum

  • Plantation Life
  • Free Blacks
  • Legal Aspects
  • Other Manifestations of Slavery
  • Slave Narratives
  • Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895)
  • Insurrections

3. Buildup to War

  • Abolition
  • Colonization
  • Proslavery Arguments
  • Antislavery Arguments
  • Slavery's Expansion
  • Fugitive Slaves
  • The Opening Violence

4. War

  • Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
  • The Civil War (1861-1865)
  • Emancipation
  • Black Soldiers

5. After the War

  • Reconstruction
  • Freedmen
  • The White South Responds

6. Slavery in Arts and Literature

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Other Fiction
  • Poems, Songs, and Plays

For more information, download a Product Fact Sheet [pdf, 104 KB]

Discover primary documents on all aspects of the history of slavery in America — from its origins in Africa to its abolition.

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