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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Banes, Alexander. Alexander and Nannie I. Banes Family Papers, 1888-1990. 1.3 linear ft. Location: U:252, OS:B. African American family of Waco, Texas. Collection includes photographs, correspondence, writings, and legal and financial papers. Some materials document Nannie Bane's work as a teacher in North Texas. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4392.

Referenced in Guides: Women, Education, African Americans

Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss, 1816-1894. Letterpress copybook, 1863-1864. 1 vol. Location: B:12. Congressman, governor of Massachusetts, and general in command of the Union Gulf Department in the Civil War. Letterpress copybook of official letters written by Banks from his headquarters, Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, during fall 1863 and early winter 1864. Letters comment on civilian life in New Orleans, freed slaves, and the cotton trade. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2326.

Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss, 1816-1894. General order no. 105, 1864 Aug. 1. 1 item. Location: E:74. orders stipulate that all Black troops mustered into the U.S. Army will receive the same uniform, clothing, arms, rations, and other provisions alloted to other soldiers, and that Black volunteers will be granted the same amount of bounty as white volunteers. The order further decrees that Black soldiers who were free in 1861 and mustered into military service are entitled to any pay, bounty, and clothing allowed by law to free persons at the time of their enlistment. Part of the United States Army Collection. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3365.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, African Americans

Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss,1816-1894. General orders, 1864 September 7. 1 printed item. Location: E:74. General Orders No. 122, issued by George B. Drake, Headquarters, Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, outlining wage schedules for white and black laborers and mechanics in army employment. Part of the United States Army Collection. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3032.

Barrow, Bennet H. Diary, 1833-1846. 1 volume. Location: Vault:9, W:24, Mss. Mf.:B. Cotton planter and owner of Highland Plantation in West Feliciana Parish, La. Diary reflects the management of Highland Plantation. Entries offer information on the cotton crop, weather conditions, personal activities, and treatment of slaves, specifically discipline and health care. Included are slave lists giving names and birth dates, and some financial records. Original volume housed in vault. Please use microfilm or typed transcription. Mss. 2978-2014.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, African Americans