Primary Sources: Confederate Slave Payrolls

The National Archives recently released a digitized collection of Confederate Slave Payrolls, 1861-1865 that are part of Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records. The records list the names and locations of the slaves whose labor was leased to the Confederacy for a variety of tasks, including digging entrenchments, creating obstructions on rivers, digging potassium nitrate for gunpowder, and providing labor at ordnance factories and arsenals. The payrolls provide the name and usually the place of residence of each slave owner. The information provided about the slave included his or her name, date and place employed, occupation, number of days worked, daily rate of pay, total amount of pay, and name of the Confederate Officer responsible for the payroll. The article “Civil War Confederate Slave Payroll Records” provides more information about the content and organization of the records.

Trial: Slavery and Anti-Slavery, parts 2-4

Vintage image features the 1865 Emancipation Ordinance to abolish slavery in Missouri.

Until April 2, 2021, the Library has trial access to parts 2-4 of Slavery and Anti-Slavery. All modules can be accessed from the A-Z database link.

Part I: Debates over Slavery and Abolition sheds light on the abolitionist movement, the conflicts within it, the anti- and pro-slavery arguments of the period, and the debates on the subject of colonization. It explores all facets of the controversial topic, with a focus on economic, gender, legal, religious, and government issues.

Part II: Slave Trade in the Atlantic World charts the inception of slavery in Africa and its rise as perpetuated on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, placing particular emphasis on the Caribbean, Latin America, and United States. More international in scope than Part I, this collection was developed by an international editorial board with scholars specializing in North American, European, African, and Latin American/Caribbean aspects of the slave trade.

Part III: The Institution of Slavery expands the depth of coverage of the topic. Part III explores, in vivid detail, the inner workings of slavery from 1492 to 1888. Through legal documents, plantation records, first-person accounts, newspapers, government records, and other primary sources, this collection reveals how enslaved people struggled against the institution. These rare works explore slavery as a legal and labor system, the relationship between slavery and religion, freed slaves, the Shong Masacre, the Dememara insurrection, and many other aspects and events.

Part IV: Age of Emancipation includes numerous rare documents related to emancipation in the United States, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. This collection supports the study of many areas, including activities of the federal government in dealing with former slaves and the Freedmen’s Bureau, views of political parties and postwar problems with the South, documents of the British and French government on the slave trade, reports from the West Indies and Africa, and other topics.


Primary Sources: Expanded access to ProQuest’s digital archives

The California Digital Library is piloting an arrangement with ProQuest that provides access to 45 History Vault modules.  At the end of the calendar year, UC may elect to purchase perpetual access to some of this content. Your feedback on which resources are most useful to you is welcome.

In the Library’s A-Z databases list, these resources have been grouped thematically into these categories; in some cases there are links to individual modules that we previously purchased. Once on the ProQuest platform, you can search within a single source or across multiple sources.

ProQuest History Vault – search across all ProQuest History vault collections

American Indians and the American West, 1809-1971 – Contains a large variety of collections from the U.S. National Archives, a series of collections from the Chicago History Museum, as well as selected first-hand accounts on Indian Wars and westward migration.

American Politics and Society – includes the collections: Thomas A. Edison Papers, Law and Society since the Civil War: American Legal Manuscripts from the Harvard Law School Library; Progressive Era: Reform, Regulation, and Rights; Progressive Era: Robert M. LaFollette Papers; Immigration: Records of the INS, 1880-1930; Records of the Children’s Bureau, 1912-1969; New Deal and World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Office Files and Records of Federal Agencies; American Politics in the Early Cold War: Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, 1945-1961; FBI Confidential Files and Radical Politics in the U.S., 1945-1972; Students for a Democratic Society, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the anti-Vietnam War Movement; American Politics and Society from Kennedy to Watergate

Civil rights and the Black Freedom Struggle – includes the collections: Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Federal Government Records and Supplement; Organizational Records and Personal Papers Parts 1 & 2; and the NAACP Papers

International Relations and Military Conflicts – includes the collections: U.S. Military Intelligence Reports, 1911-1944; U.S. Diplomatic Post Records, 1914-1945; World War I: British Foreign Office Political Correspondence; World War I: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces, and Diplomacy in the World War I Era; Creation of Israel: British Foreign Office Correspondence on Palestine and Transjordan, 1940-1948; World War II: U.S. Documents on Planning, Operations, Intelligence, Axis War Crimes, and Refugees; Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – State Department Intelligence and Research Reports, 1941-1961; Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files, Africa and Middle East, 1960-1969, Asia, 1960-1969, Europe and Latin America, 1960-1969; and Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy, 1960-1975

Southern Life, Slavery, and the Civil War – includes the collections: Slavery and the Law; Slavery in Antebellum Southern Industries; two modules of Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantations Records; Confederate Military Manuscripts and Records of Union Generals and the Union Army; and Reconstruction and Military Government after the Civil War.

Women’s Studies – includes the collections: Struggle for Women’s Rights: Organizational Records, 1880-1990; Women’s Studies Manuscripts from the Schlesinger Library: Voting Rights, National Politics, and Reproductive Rights; Women at Work during World War II: Rosie the Riveter and the Women’s Army Corps; and Margaret Sanger Papers: Smith College Collections and Collected Documents

Workers, Labor Unions, and Radical Politics – includes the collections: Labor Unions in the U.S., 1862-1974: Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO and
Workers, Labor Unions, and the American Left in the 20th Century: Federal Records

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.”


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

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

Please send your feedback to

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.