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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Withers, Picket. Letter, 1852 January 25. 1 item. Location: Misc.:W. Slaveholder, residence unknown, discusses the genetic background and intelligence of an albino slave in his possession.. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2918.

Referenced in Guides: African Americans

Womble-Abell-Norman family. Papers, 1859-2011 (bulk 1900-1955). 4.3 linear ft. Location: 103:40-44, OS:W. Womble-Abell-Norman family papers document five generations of personal activities, family life, and the genealogy of the Womble-Abell-Norman family and the related Buie family. Collection is comprised of correspondence, photographs, personal family papers, and professional papers of Evelyn Abell Norman. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4879.

Woods, Beverly Babin. Collection, 2002-2008. 5 items. Location: Misc.:W. Genealogist, poet, and writer. Walter William Williams was an advocate of education and voting rights for African Americans in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Research material written and compiled by Beverly Babin Woods on the life and work of Walter Hamilton Williams includes biographical sketches of Williams and typed transcriptions of excerpts taken from his letters and reports relating to the education of freedmen and political elections. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 5197.

Referenced in Guides: Politics, Education, African Americans

Work Projects Administration. Ex-Slave Narrative Project, 1937-1941, undated 39 items [photocopies]. Location: W:11. Narratives based on interviews with ex-slaves in the Alexandria and New Orleans areas pertain to slave life; post-emancipation black life; and black folklore, religion, and music. Originals in Louisiana State Library, Baton Rouge. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2858.

Wynkoop, Richard Letter, 1864. 1 item. Location: Misc:W. A native of New Jersey, Wynkoop was a lawyer living in New York City during the Civil War. Letter outlines Wynkoop's stance on the issues of abolition and rebellion. For further information, see online catalog. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4078.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, African Americans