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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Anonymous traveler's letters, 1882 March 8-13. 2 items. Location: Misc:A. An unidentified traveler writes his son two letters from New Orleans, Louisiana. His March 8, 1882, letter describes his journey by train from Jacksonville, Florida, to New Orleans, complaining of the low state of the countryside and the manners of the poor whites and African-Americans. His March 13, 1882, letter gives a vivid description of New Orleans, including news of levee breaks and flooding on the Mississippi River. Mss. 3858.

Referenced in Guides: New Orleans 1866-, African Americans

Anti-Episcopal cartoon, ca. 1800-1865. 1 printed item. Location: E:Imprints. Carte-sized cartoon satirizes the Protestant Episcopal Church for its acceptance of Southern attitudes toward slavery. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2897.

Referenced in Guides: Religion, African Americans

Arceneaux, William. Papers, 1964-2007 (bulk 1972-2007). 15 linear feet and 20 volumes. Locations: 4:36, 4:43, 110:4-11, OS:A, Vault:2. Louisiana higher education official. Papers consist of correspondence, business papers, photographs, printed items, and scrapbooks related to the professional, civic, and personal activities of William Arceneaux. A small amount of correspondence is in French and Spanish. For further information, see online catalog Mss. 4107.

Arden, D. D. Letter and abstracts, 1856 May 29. 2 items. Location: Misc:A. Constable of Washington, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. Letter from Arden to P. Gurnett appointing him leader of a patrol squad. Attached are laws stating that squads be armed with guns and have the right to enter and examine cabins and residences of African Americans without prior notice of property owners. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3108.

Referenced in Guides: African Americans

Arguments on slavery, intemperance, the press, and suffrage, 1832. 1 manuscript. Location: Misc. An anonymous debater in South Reading (now Wakefield), Mass., argues that slavery is a worse evil than intemperance and the freedom of the press is of superior importance to the right of suffrage. Mss. 3913.

Referenced in Guides: African Americans