Rogers on Researching the Zealy Dagguerreotypes of Slaves (2012)

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/

DIGITAL/RESOURCES: Readex Highlights Five African-American History Collections

via Readex:

In 1925 Carter G. Woodson and his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History created Negro History Week. A half century later, during the U.S. bicentennial, this formal period for recognizing African American contributions to our national history was expanded to a month. At that time President Gerald Ford asked Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” During this 2014 celebration of African American History month, Readex is pleased to highlight these five new and recent resources:

The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society

Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia

African American Periodicals, 1825-1995

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998

Caribbean Newspapers, Series 1, 1718-1876: From the American Antiquarian Society

Read full descriptions here: Celebrating African American History Month: Five Acclaimed Research and Teaching Collections for African American Studies | Readex

DATABASE: Maryland State Archives Launches Name Database

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)

Yale Acquires 1850s Prison Memoir of African-American Man

via NYTimes:

“…The 304-page memoir, titled “The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison,” describes the experiences of the author, Austin Reed, from the 1830s to the 1850s in a prison in upstate New York.

Caleb Smith, a professor of English at Yale who has written extensively about imprisonment, said he believed the manuscript to be authentic. Reed’s account was corroborated through newspaper articles, court records and prison files, with help from Christine McKay, an archivist and researcher who also works for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Manhattan…

…Reed is believed to have been born a free man near Rochester. As a young man, according to Yale’s research, he was sent to the New York House of Refuge, a juvenile reform school in Manhattan, where he learned to read and write. By the 1830s, a string of thefts resulted in his incarceration in a state prison in Auburn, now known as the Auburn Correctional Facility, which was built in 1816.

The manuscript, written with the dramatic flair of a natural storyteller but in unpolished English, with grammatical and spelling errors, traces his life from childhood to his years at Auburn. It is written under the name Rob Reed, although it is unclear why he used that name, according to Yale…”

Read the rest.

WEB/SOURCE: Joan Peters’ Slave and Free Negro Records Digitized

via Prince William County, Virginia Digital Library

“The latest addition to our Digital Library is Joan W. Peters’ work, Slave and Free Negro Records from the Prince William County Court Minute and Order Books, 1752-1763, 1766-1769, 1804-1806, 1812-1814, 1833-1865 (Broad Run, Va.: Albemarle Research, 1996). Click on the following link http://eservice.pwcgov.org/library/digitalLibrary/index.htm and find it under Historic Records, 1700-1800. It covers all mentions of African Americans found in those records, including registrations of slaves and free Negroes, emancipations, arrests and lawsuits. The database is keyword searchable (use CTRL+F). It does not cover persons mentioned in deeds, wills, inventories, sales or tax lists. There are also gaps in the court minutes as shown in the years of coverage. We are grateful to Joan for allowing us to post her work online.”

For more: Historic Wanderings: PWC RELIC Digitizes Peters’ Slave and Free Negro Records from the Prince William County Court Minute and Order Books, 1752-1763, 1766-1769, 1804-1806, 1812-1814, 1833-1865.

WEB/SOURCES: Registers of the Havana Slave Trade Commission Compiled by H.B. Lovejoy

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.

BOOK/SOURCE: HNOC Publishes Caillot’s 1729 Memoir

A Company Man

Marc-Antoine Caillot, A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies. Edited by Erin M. Greenwald. 1st ed. The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2013.

via the Historic New Orleans Collection:

Recently rediscovered and never before published, Marc-Antoine Caillot’s buoyant memoir recounts a young man’s voyage from Paris to the port city of Lorient, across the Atlantic to Saint Domingue, and up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Only twenty-one when he set sail as a clerk for the French Company of the Indies in 1729, Caillot was in many ways the ultimate company man. His descriptions of flora, fauna, and native peoples mirror the sentiments and literary conventions of his class and his era. He would spend his entire adult life in service to the company, rising high in its ranks before dying, at the age of fifty-one, in a shipwreck off the coast of India.

Yet in other ways Caillot was fully his own man, possessed of a voice both witty and prescient. An incorrigible rake—if not an outright rogue—he documents with gusto a string of pranks, parties, and romantic escapades. A persuasive self-promoter, he stakes narrative claim to New World terrain. And he speaks with immediacy across the centuries, illuminating racial and ethnic politics, environmental concerns, and the birth of New Orleans’s distinctive cultural mélange.

Brilliantly introduced and annotated by Erin Greenwald, translated by Teri Chalmers, and enlivened by Caillot’s own exquisite illustrations, A Company Man provides an intimate look at the early history of one of America’s most storied cities, placing New Orleans—and the fledgling colony it anchored—within the nexus of the French-Atlantic empire.

The original manuscript, Relation du voyage de la Louisianne ou Nouvelle France fait par le Sr. Caillot en l’année 1730, is housed in the Williams Research Center of The Historic New Orleans Collection, where it is a capstone of the institution’s rich archival holdings documenting life in French-colonial Louisiana.

BOOK: Rodriguez on the Voices of the Enslaved in Cuba

Voices of the Enslaved

Gloria Garcia Rodriguez. Voices of the Enslaved in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Documentary History. Translated by Nancy L. Westrate. Durham: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

via University of North Carolina Press:

Putting the voices of the enslaved front and center, Gloria García Rodríguez’s study presents a compelling overview of African slavery in Cuba and its relationship to the plantation system that was the economic center of the New World. A major essay by García, who has done decades of archival research on Cuban slavery, introduces the work, providing a history of the development, maintenance, and economy of the slave system in Cuba, which was abolished in 1886, later than in any country in the Americas except Brazil. The second part of the book features eighty previously unpublished primary documents selected by García that vividly illustrate the experiences of Cuba’s African slaves. This translation offers English-language readers a substantial look into the very rich, and much underutilized, material on slavery in Cuban archives and is especially suitable for teaching about the African diaspora, comparative slavery, and Cuban studies. Highlighting both the repressiveness of slavery and the legal and social spaces opened to slaves to challenge that repression, this collection reveals the rarely documented voices of slaves, as well as the social and cultural milieu in which they lived.

Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive

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 ($$)