In 2012, at Mirror of Race, Molly Rogers reflected on the Jacques Zealy daguerreotypes of South Carolina slaves (now held by Harvard University).
In the summer of 1976, employees of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology discovered fifteen daguerreotypes in the museum attic. The photographs were made in 1850 and they depict five African men and two African American women, all of whom were slaves in or near Columbia, South Carolina. The names of the people are known—the men are Jack, Jem, Fassena and Alfred, and the women Drana and Delia—as are a few details on the circumstances of their lives. The daguerreotypes are considered to be the earliest known photographs of identifiable American slaves….
…As I examined the photographs, scrutinizing Delia’s body with the aid of a magnifying glass—seeking in her image evidence of maltreatment, of the circumstances under which the image was made, and of her individual character—an unpleasant feeling came over me. Louis Agassiz had commissioned Delia’s photographs after physically examining her. The images were intended to serve as aides-memoire to this ostensibly scientific examination and also as evidence of his findings, which he could show to other people. The photographs were therefore doubly linked to Delia’s violation: they were both the culmination of an invasive examination and a second instance of this objectifying scrutiny. And there I was, examining Delia much as the scientist had done: she was exposed against her will and in her body I sought information, facts, evidence. That the kind of the evidence I hoped to find differed from that of the Swiss naturalist offered little consolation. Ultimately, there was no avoiding the fact that I was regarding Delia as an object and doing so for my own gain…
Read the rest: Molly Rogers, “Fair Women Are Transformed into Negresses,” mirrorofrace.org 2012 January 18. http://mirrorofrace.org/fair-women/
Erica Armstrong Dunbar (Associate Professor of Black American Studies and History at the University of Delaware) discusses early African American women’s history, digitization, and constructing historical narratives of black women in the 21st century.
From the announcement:
The Maryland State Archives Legacy of Slavery in Maryland: An Archives of Maryland Electronic Publication has launched “Beneath the Underground.”
From the website:
The Beneath the Underground database features entries of over 300,000 individuals including, white and black, slave owners, enslaved and free individuals from primarily the years of 1830 through 1880 to review. Listed below are the record series currently searchable on-line.
About the Legacies of Slavery in Maryland site:
This program seeks to preserve and promote the vast universe of experiences that have shaped the lives of Maryland’s African American population. From the day that Mathias de Sousa and Francisco landed in St. Mary’s county aboard the Ark and the Dove in 1634, Black Marylanders have made significant contributions to both the state and nation in the political, economic, agricultural, legal, and domestic arenas. Despite what often seemed like insurmountable odds, Marylanders of Color have adapted, evolved, and prevailed. The Maryland State Archives’ Study of the Legacy of Slavery Staff invites researchers to explore all of these elements and more within its numerous source documents, exhibits and interactive online presentations.
(H/T: Krystal Appiah (@kaappiah) on Twitter)
via Registers of the Havana Slave Trade Commission | Desk of H.B. Lovejoy.
“Between 1808 and 1848, courts in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Havana, Cuba, charged with suppressing the transatlantic slave trade, meticulously recorded the African names and physical features (sex, age, height; and evidence of ethnic scarring and small pox) for almost 100,000 people rescued off slave ships. These records are known as “The Registers of Liberated Africans;” and they constitute a large and representative sample of an estimated 2.7 million people carried to the Americas after 1807 – the majority of whom landed in Brazil (1.9 million) and most of the rest in Cuba. Thus, they may be the most cohesive body of documentation available for assessing where people came from in West Africa.
Although the Sierra Leone registers contain over 85,000 names, the focus is on the smaller, yet equally significant dataset made in Havana. I updated the Registers of the Havana Slave Trade Commission, 1824-1841. It totals 10,391 “liberated Africans.” It was made using digital copies of the original records. A team of historians made multiple revisions of the lettering for each name. To find out more about the making of this database please click here. The Havana Registers database is a small part of the African Names Database….”
For more information, click here. Many thanks to Linda Rodriguez for bringing this resource to our attention.
The Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University is digitizing eighteenth and nineteenth-century anti-slavery petitions:
“…Included in the thousands of petitions are first-person accounts of former slaves and free African-Americans seeking aid and full rights. For scholars, the use of the documents will be invaluable in research and teaching….
…According to project archivist Nicole Topich, signers of the petitions include 18th-century abolitionist Prince Hall, the founder of the first African-American Freemasonry. Other notable signers: African-American abolitionists Thomas Paul, Charles Lenox Redmond, and William Cooper Nell. Support also came from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Louisa May Alcott. Labor, political, and religious organizations backed many petitions….
…The Center for American Political Studies received a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the project, which in addition to the digitized petitions will include an interactive map, with connections to statistical and geographical data. Completion of the project is slated for June 2015.”
Read the rest: Colin Manning | Digitizing a movement | Harvard Gazette http://hvrd.me/ZLdQE1
Image Credit: “Led by John T. Hilton and signed by 11 prominent freemen of color in Boston, this 1858 petition was in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision.”
E. Lee Shepard at the Virginia Historical Society’s Blog on processing the Life Insurance Company of Virginia’s records:
“Processing thirteen volumes that make up records from the formative years of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia was my first task on this project. Exploring these apparently routine books became an extraordinary experience for this veteran archivist. The evidence they disclose about a broad cross-section of Virginians dealing with the aftermath of a huge and devastating conflict is both unexpected and invaluable…..
The majority of the volumes are registers, indicating to whom life insurance policies were sold and for what premium and benefit amounts. The Life Insurance Company of Virginia, founded in Petersburg in 1871 and known familiarly as “Life of Virginia” in the twentieth century, recorded an extraordinary amount of information about its policyholders here besides just names and policy amounts—date and place of birth, race, occupation, age, and beneficiaries, for instance.
I was frankly amazed to see the range of policyholders. I had expected the strong showing of Petersburg and Richmond merchants and professionals; I found, too, a liberal smattering of artisans, laborers, domestics, and householders. Judy Batte of Hicksford, Virginia, a “house servant,” was the first African American to secure a policy, in February 1872, and she was followed by a fairly steady stream of men and women of her race. In fact, as the company grew and its client base became more national in scope, women made up an increasing percentage of policyholders….” (my emphasis)
Read the rest: What Can an Insurance Policy Register Tell Us About Life in Post–Civil War Virginia? | Virginia Historical Society’s Blog
Image Credit: First page of policies in the Register for the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, April 1871-December 1886 (Virginia Historical Society, Mss3 L6263 a 1, detail)
“Europeans Purchasing a Slave Woman, late 18th cent.,” Guillaume Raynal, Histoire Philosophique et Politique . . . des Europeens dans les Deux Indes (Geneva, 1780), vol. 7, p. 377. (Copy at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University) Image Reference H005 as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.
From The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe website:
The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe project uses database technology to map the trade of the Société Typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), a celebrated Swiss publishing house that operated between 1769 and 1794.
As the STN sold the works of other publishers alongside its own editions, their archives can be considered a representative source for studying the history of the book trade and dissemination of ideas in the late Enlightenment.
Using state of the art database, web interface and GIS technology, the project provides a user-friendly resource for use by scholars, teachers and students of French literature and history, book history, the Enlightenment and bibliography more generally…
Spanning nearly 5,000 years and documenting virtually all forms of media, the Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive is an unprecedented research project devoted to the systematic investigation of how people of African descent have been perceived and represented in art.
Started in 1960 by Jean and Dominique de Mänil in reaction to the continuing existence of segregation in the United States, the Archive contains photographs of approximately 30,000 works of art, each one of which is extensively documented and categorized by the Archive’s staff. For the first thirty years of the project’s existence, the project focused on the production of a prize-winning, four-volume series of generously illustrated books, The Image of the Black in Western Art.
Since moving to Harvard in 1994, the project is focused on the production of the final volume of The Image of the Black in Western Art and expanding access to the Archive itself (prior to its arrival at Harvard, the Archive was only available to scholars working on the published volumes). The Institute hosts conferences, fellowships for scholars, seminars, and exhibitions on issues raised by the Archive, including the African American Art Conference in 2004.
via Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive | W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. A selection of documents are available online via ArtStor ($$)