Event: Bancroft Roundtable: California’s Place in Anti-Slavery Litigation on the Eve of the Civil War

The second Bancroft Library Roundtable talk of the spring semester will take place in the Lewis-Latimer Room of The Faculty Club at noon on Thursday, March 15. Alexandra Havrylyshyn, J.D. and Ph.D. candidate in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at UC Berkeley and Bancroft Library Study Award recipient, will present “California’s Place in Anti-Slavery Litigation on the Eve of the Civil War.”

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Between 1846 and 1851 New Orleans trial judge John McHenry ruled in favor of nearly twenty enslaved petitioners who sought freedom on the basis of having touched free soil. These rulings directly contravened Louisiana state legislation, but McHenry reasoned that they were in keeping with higher sources of law: constitutional, federal, and international. He migrated to California, and his personal and legal papers are now preserved in The Bancroft Library. Havrylyshyn’s presentation will explore McHenry’s political identification and the ways that anti-slavery litigation influenced California before the start of the Civil War.

We hope to see you there.

José Adrián Barragán-Álvarez and Kathi Neal

Bancroft Library Staff


Trial: Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantation Records, Part 2

The Library has a trial of Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantation Records, Part 2 that will run until November 20.

You can find a more detailed description of this collection at http://hv.proquest.com/historyvault/hv.jsp?pageid=browse&mid=14243#14243.

Access to Part 1 of the Plantation Records was acquired by the Library a few years ago.

Please send your feedback to dorner@berkeley.edu.


Manuscripts of Slavery Collection from the XULA Library Archives & Special Collections

Bill of sale for slaveThe Xavier University of Louisiana Library Archives and Special Collections is in the process of digitizing and making accessible the Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection, which includes materials dating from 1724 to 1897 relating to the social, economic, civil, and legal status of slaves and free people of color in Louisiana. Currently there are over 2,100 viewable items on the website, consisting of over 8,000 manuscript pages.

According to the collection guide, “approximately half of the Charles F. Heartman collection consists of municipal records from city of New Orleans. Clerical books, especially those of the Third Municipality, provide valuable information on the labor and leisure activities of slaves in the early nineteenth century. The city also had the largest concentration of Free People of Color in the nation, and encompassing tax records and business bonds reflect their economic activity. There are also rosters of Negro soldiers in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and records of societies of Freemen dating from Reconstruction and beyond.” The collection includes records in French, English, and Spanish.


Primary Sources: Slavery and the Law

Slavery and the Law  is an archival database of petitions on race, slavery, and free blacks that were submitted to state legislatures and county courthouses between 1775 and 1867. These petitions were collected by Loren Schweninger over a four year period from hundreds of courthouses and historical societies in 10 states and the District of Columbia. They document the realities of slavery at the most immediate local level and with amazing candor. Slavery and the Law also includes the important State Slavery Statutes collection, a comprehensive record of the laws governing American slavery from 1789-1865.

Included in this resource:

Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro by Helen Tunnicliff Catterall

Law of Freedom and Bondage in the United States by John Codman Hurd

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series I: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1777-1867

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, Part A: Georgia (1796-1867), Florida (1821-1867), Alabama (1821-1867), Mississippi (1822-1867)

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, Part B: Maryland (1775-1866), Delaware (1779-1857), District of Columbia (1803-1865)

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, Part C: Virginia (1775-1867) and Kentucky (1790-1864)

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, Part D: North Carolina (1775-1867) and South Carolina (1784-1867)

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, Part E: Arkansas (1824-1867), Missouri (1806-1860), Tennessee (1791-1867), and Texas (1832-1867) 

Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, Part F: Louisiana (1795-1863)

State Slavery Statutes


Primary Sources: Records Relating to the Slave Trade at the Liverpool Record Office

This British Online Archives collection includes private merchants’ papers preserved at the Liverpool Record Office relating to the transatlantic slave trade. During the eighteenth century when these documents were compiled, Liverpool was the leading slave trade port in the world. “The material includes correspondence with ship captains and Caribbean agents about the acquisition of Africans and their sales; statistics on the Liverpool slave trade; sales accounts of the lots of Africans disembarked in the Americas, often with the names of purchasers and prices; information on dealings with diverse African groups along the coast of West Africa; and details of payments for slave sales. The account books of ships’ voyages includ material on the outfitting of vessels and the cargoes of goods exported to Africa.”

 The vast majority of these documents are handwritten and have not been transcribed. The metadata describing the documents can be searched, but not the documents themselves. Only individual pages can be downloaded and/or printed.


Primary Sources: Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice database

Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice is a searchable database that includes documents and images that have been selected from the collections of various libraries, museums, and archives from the UK, United States, and Canada.

Most materials are in English, but other languages are represented. Similar to the other Adam Matthew Digital resources owned by the Library, this one can be accessed using a basic search, advanced search, or choosing from a list of popular searches. When searching, use the suggested search tips, which will not only help you retrieve more relevant results, but will help you account for variations in spelling and scanning errors that occur when optical character recognition is done on older type styles or documents in poor condition.

The content can also be accessed by browsing through thematic collections, which include:

  • Slavery in the Early Americas 
  • African Coast 
  • Middle Passage 
  • Slavery and Agriculture 
  • Urban and Domestic Slavery 
  • Slave Testimony 
  • Spiritualism and Religion 
  • Resistance and Revolts 
  • Underground Railroad 
  • The Abolition Movement and the Slavery Debate 
  • Legislation and Politics 
  • Freed Slaves, Freedmen and Free Black Settlements 
  • Education 
  • Slavery and the Islamic World 
  • Varieties of Slave Experience 
  • The Legacy of Slavery and Slavery Today 

The court records category includes slavery-related court cases drawn mainly from the states of North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Missouri. Under Advanced Search there is a link to Court Records Advanced Search, allowing more precise searching of that subset of documents.

Supplementary resources include maps, scholarly essays, external resources links, visual resources, and an extensive bibliography.


Primary Sources: Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantation Records, Part 1

Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantation Records, Part 1 is made up of plantation journals, crop books, overseers’ journals, account books, personal diaries, and business and personal correspondence drawn from major repositories in the south. A more detailed description of the collection can be found in the promotional flier.

This module is part of a resource called History Vault. It is possible to search and browse the entire module and to browse individual collections within the module. Searching the module is fairly straightforward, but a quick start guide is available to assist you.