Pre-Emancipation Primary Sources

Posted: March 10, 2015 by saacua in Miscellaneous Research
Tags: , , ,

Guest Post by Kelsey Conway

For all that we do know about the history of slavery in the United States, actually getting your hands on some primary sources can be a bit of a challenge. If the records weren’t burned or otherwise lost during the Civil War (as is the case in much of Virginia, there is a good chance that the lives and identities of these individuals simply weren’t recorded – or if they were, prior to emancipation they were recorded in the limiting context of other people’s property.

Researchers may find the DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) area a promising location for potential primary sources with the National Archives and Library of Congress so close at hand. Indeed, both of these repositories have potentially fantastic resources. But primary sources on slavery are, as described, an odd case. Records are sporadic, and vibrant information may be hidden in unlikely sources. The DMV area is rich in history, and to focus exclusively on NARA and LOC might just keep some great resources hidden away.

The following are a few of the fantastic and ever growing resources that can be found out there today. Additions and amendments to this list are, of course, entirely welcome!

Washington DC:


  • Apro-American Sources in Virginia: A Guide to Manuscripts: This is a 1995 database recording some of the potentially useful records held throughout Virginia (including Arlington County). Editor – Michael Plunkett.
  • Links to Local History: A Researcher’s Guide, Northern Virginia History Notes: A 2013 compilation of (extensively diverse) resources useful to African American and slavery research in Northern Virginia. Primarily online resources.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s