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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Thomas Jefferson Decries Slavery in a Draft of the Declaration of Independence

The passage below was included in Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence as one of the grievances against King George III of England. Jefferson, a slave owner himself, later wrote in his autobiography that this passage [...]

Making Sense of Evidence: The African Burial Ground

The reports on the archeology, history, and skeletal remains of the African Burial Grounds present a more complex picture of 18th-century colonial New York than has been presented in textbooks. The reports also leave many questions unanswered, [...]

An 18th Century Bill of Sale for a Slave and Her Child

This is a transcription of a bill of sale for a slave woman and her child that took place on Long Island in 1716. In the transaction, a woman named Francis and her two-year-old daughter Hannah are sold by William Willis of Hempstead to David Seaman [...]

Democrats Outline their 1856 Party Platform

In an attempt to settle sectional conflicts about the expansion of slavery, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The act stated that the residents of Kansas and Nebraska, rather than the federal government, would determine the legality [...]

The Emancipation Proclamation (Excerpt)

In addition to abolishing slavery in the rebellious Confederate states on January 1, 1863, Lincoln's Proclamation announced that the Union Army and Navy would accept black men in their ranks. Nearly 200,000 African Americans joined Union forces by [...]

A Slave Song Asserts "We'll Soon Be Free"

Within the strict and often violent boundaries of enslavement, African Americans drew strength and identity from spiritual beliefs and practices, which included singing the songs that became known as "spirituals." This spiritual was published [...]

"Deep River"

Both the author and original date of "Deep River" are unknown, as is usually the case with slave songs. It was first published in a collection entitled Slave Songs of the United States (New York: A. Simpson & Co., 1867). The compilers of this [...]

"Go Down, Moses"

This song was originally published as "O! Let My People Go: The Song of the Contrabands." Though it is generally thought of as a spiritual, it was first recorded as sheet music after having been heard as a rallying cry for the ex-slaves at Fort [...]

"Many Thousand Go"

Both the author and original date of "Many Thousand Go" are unknown, as is usually the case with slave songs. It was first published in a collection entitled Slave Songs of the United States (New York: A. Simpson & Co., 1867). The compilers of [...]

Item Type: Music/Song
Colonial Virginia Laws on Slavery and Servitude

From the earliest days of the Virginia colony, laws governing the ownership of slaves were put in place to define the legal status of slaves and their masters and regulate interactions between them. In this series of laws dating from 1639 to 1705, [...]

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