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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Burgess, West. Agreement, 1804. 1 item. Location: Misc.:B. Agreement outlining conditions for the apprenticeship of a slave with blacksmith Phillip Alts of Maryland. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2186.

Referenced in Guides: Business, African Americans

Burguières, Jules M., Jr. Papers, 1699, 1816-1957 (bulk 1911-1915). 2.5 linear ft. Locations: 78:1-2, OS:B, J:30, E:65. Sugarcane planter and researcher, land developer. Papers consist of correspondence, research notes, clippings, photographs, and financial records relating primarily to Jules M. Burguières, Jr.’s involvement in the sugar and timber industries of Louisiana and Florida. Some research material in French and German. The estate papers of Joseph E. Burguières are also included. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1927, 2026, 2134, 2264, 2525.

Burnett family. Papers, 1778-1862. 6 items. Location: Misc.:B, OS:B. Papers include bills of sale of slaves; two pieces of private script; one piece of Continental currency for eight dollars; and an 'extra' edition of the RICHMOND ENQUIRER, giving the text of Confederate President Jefferson Davis' inaugural address. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 901.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, African Americans

Burnham, B. Letters, 1863 January 4-May 23. 2 items. Location: MISC:B. Union soldier in a regiment stationed at Camp Parapet, near New Orleans, and Fort Butte-a-la-Rose (also called Camp of Fort Burton), Louisiana. His regiment was brought to Louisiana by transport ship. Letters describe the conditions of the regiment's camp, Confederate attacks on transport boats, and a African American regiment stationed near Camp Parapet. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3443.

Burnham, Howard and Horace. Letters, 1862-1863. 4 items. Howard Burnham, apparently a Union soldier in an Illinois regiment stationed in Arcadia, Missouri. Horace Burnham, apparently a Union soldier in the Marine Hospital in New Orleans in the Civil War. Howard Burnham's two letters (1862) tell of the number of men ill and in hospitals; Horace Burnham writes of accommodations at the Marine Hospital in New Orleans, African Americans, and sanitation facilities. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1181.

Burns, Paul Y. Papers, 1953-2011, (bulk: 1970-2011). 4.3 linear ft. Location: Y:104-108, OS: B. Member of the faculty at LSU School of Forestry and an active member in several community service organizations. The papers of Paul Y. Burns reflect his commitment to social and economic equality for all individuals regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. The collection is comprised of files of several community service organizations of which he was an active member, and in some cases a member of the board.  Material consists of minutes, newsletters, reports, correspondence, newspaper clippings, flyers and photographs related to the work of these groups to improve race relations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mss. 5183. 



Burruss, John C. Family Papers, 1825-1882. 407 items. Location: C:56,Mss. Mf.:B Methodist minister of Virginia and planter of Wilkinson County, Mississippi. Correspondence, and personal and business papers of the Burruss and Edward McGehee families. Papers relate to the Methodist Church and plantation operationst, including sugarcane growing, rice planting, the construction of a sugar mill, and African American laborers. They also reflect Confederate military life, and civilian life during the Civil War. A group of poems concern the 1845 presidential election of James K. Polk and George M. Dallas.For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1514, 2296.

Butler family. Papers, 1663-1950 (bulk 1813-1915). 16.5 linear ft. Location: S:2-S:11, OS:B, 65:, Vault:2. Cotton and sugar planters in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Papers include letters, personal papers, financial and legal documents, photographs, and printed items. Papers discuss the Civil War; plantation life; Thomas Butler's judicial and political career; and antebellum life in the Gulf South states. Included is correspondence from prominent Louisiana residents and others. Letters from Anna Butler who lived in the White House (1849-1850) Collection also contains manuscript and published music, including the music of John Thuer. Available on microfilm 5322: University Publications of America Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations Series I, Part 5, Reels 13-27. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 893, 965, 1026, 1076, 1217, 1240, 1309, 1353, 1381, 1640, 1649, 1913, 1938.

Butler, Edward. Family Papers, 1809-1950 (bulk 1904-1945). 10 linear ft. Location: U:282-290, M:19, OS:B. Cotton planter of West Feliciana Parish, La. Correspondence, personal papers, business records, printed material, and photographs reflect the personal activities and plantation operations of the Butler and related Mathews families, with a focus on Edward Butler and his immediate family. Noteworthy are two letters discussing a sick slave (Dec. 29, 1817) and runaway slaves (Aug. 15, 1835). Letters also discuss student life, World War II experiences, and yellow fever in New Orleans (Aug.-Oct. 1837). For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4315.

Butler, Louise. Papers, 1892-1950. 2.25 linear ft., 1 volume. Location: S:17-19, OS:B. Granddaughter of Judge Thomas Butler of The Cottage, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Writings consist of poetry, short stories, and historical sketches of West Feliciana Parish. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 51, 523, 1069.

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