Manuscript Resources on African American History

This guide describes manuscript collections documenting African American history in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections at LSU. It includes the papers of African Americans and their families; oral histories done with African Americans; and other collections that document African American history in one way or another. In the early period, these collections include documentation of slavery, the slave trade, abolitionism, and apologies for slavery. In the modern period, they include collections that document issues like civil rights, integration, and race relations.

Indeed, the experience of African Americans before and during the Civil War is often documented through the papers of others--among them, planters who bought and sold them as slaves and Union soldiers who commented upon them in letters and diaries. LSU has such resources in abundance. Papers of early African Americans themselves are more difficult to find. But Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley had a relatively large population of free persons of color, some of whom did leave papers. They worked as artisans in cities like New Orleans or Natchez, or were planters and even slaveholders themselves. LSU's collections of the papers of free persons of color include the papers of William Johnson of Natchez, now famed as a diarist and commentator on Southern mores.

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Bello, Susanne Moreau. Document, 1791. 1 item. Location: Misc.:B. Widow of Donato Bello, an officer in the militia of the post of Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. Mortgage of a slave by Susanne M. Bello at the post of Opelousas to Antoine Dubroqua. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 893.

Referenced in Guides: Women, African Americans

Benedict, Edwin Letters, 1862 Dec. 12-1863 Mar. 20. 13 items.Location: Misc:B. Corporal with Company G of the 23rd Connecticut Infantry. Mentions the building of Fort Massachusetts and the presence of female Confederate prisoners at Ship Island, and describes food, camp conditionsand illness, as well as duty guarding Louisa Plantation, his interaction with slaves, and belief war is divine lesson for slaveholders. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4318.

Referenced in Guides: Women, Civil War, African Americans

Bennett, George W. Account books and papers, 1838-1917. 16 linear ft., 346 vols. Location: W:71-87, 89; O:6-13; OS:B. Merchant, postmaster, sugar and cotton planter of Rapides Parish, Louisiana. Papers records comprised of correspondence, ledgers, daybooks, journals, receipts, leases, agreements, labor contracts with freedmen, invoice books, record books, stock inventories, and other items relating to Bennett's commercial interests. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1010.

Referenced in Guides: Sugar, Plantations, Business, African Americans

Berbice Colony slave records, 1826-1827. 3 items, 1 microfilm reel. Location: OS:B, Mss.Mf:B. Deed of arrangement between owners of three sugar plantations in Berbice (Guyana), and lists of slaves attached to the plantations as of October 20, 1826, citing names, ages, employment, places of birth, and distinguishing marks. Also listed are children born to slave mothers on the plantations (1819-1826) with names, dates of birth, ages, and names of mothers noted. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2934.

Referenced in Guides: Sugar, Plantations, Women, African Americans

Bethel Baptist Church (Natchitoches, Louisiana). Records, 1921-1928. 3 items, 2 vols. Location: B:18. Church with an African American congregation located in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Lists of names of members and amounts of dues paid by members, minutes of church meetings, and an account of the salary paid to the minister. A minute book contains minutes of regular meetings. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 981.

Referenced in Guides: Religion, African Americans

Bills, John H. and family. Papers, 1825-1880 (bulk 1855-1861). 103 items. Location: A:17. Postmaster, merchant, and major of Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tennessee, who also owned a plantation on Bayou Bartholomew, Louisiana. Bills was the father-in-law of Tennessee and Louisiana legislator Horace M. Polk. Personal and business letters discuss lands in Arkansas, dealings with factors, cotton trade, national and Louisiana state politics, the Democratic Party, the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, and slave customs and behavior. Correspondents include Daniel Graham, James Walker, and Horace M. Polk. Additional items consist of statements of accounts, receipts, and bills of lading. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2075.

Birge, N. A. Papers, 1861-1865 (bulk 1862-1864). 88 items. Location: OS:B, U:15. Confederate assistant quartermaster at Monroe Army Post and Shreveport, Louisiana, and agent of the Trans-Mississippi Department at Jefferson, Texas. Papers include requisitions, vouchers, and receipts for clothing, camp equipment, transportation, and medical supplies. Included are copies of official forms, routine correspondence from army personnel, and a few letters from soldiers. The impressment of cotton in Texas is discussed in two letters from Lieutenant Colonel W. A. Broadwell, Office of the Cotton Bureau, Headquarters, Trans-Mississippi Department. Available on microfilm 5735: University Publications of America Confederate Military Manuscripts Series B, Reels 2-3. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 918, 1036.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, African Americans, Medicine

Birney, James Gillespie, 1792-1857. Letter, 1838 Jan. 11. 1 item. Location:Misc.: B. Letter concerning the loss of John Quincy Adams to the anti-slavery cause and whether someone should be dispatched to Adams' district to take up the cause. Also discussed are the anti-slavery movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Ohio Supreme Court's reversal Birney's conviction, and the national anti-slavery movement in general.

Referenced in Guides: African Americans

Bishop, Wm (William). Letter, 1835 May 1. 1 item (4 leaves). Location: Misc:B. Resident of Mobile, Alabama. Letter from Bishop to Agents William McCauly and Nesbit in New Orleans regarding his financial assets and liabilities. Topics include property in Mobile, money owed Bishop, instructions regarding his house and slaves, and Mary Harral's education. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 28.

Black, Norman P. Document, 1861. 1 item [copy]. Location: Misc.:B. Contract containing the terms of sale by William London to Norman P. Black of an African American slave. Notarized by Tom. John McHugh, of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 893.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, African Americans