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Pilot Projects

Making America: Records of Enslaved Laborers Within and Beyond the Plantation

Millions of enslaved people lived on plantations, private homes, and universities before emancipation. Enslavers often created financial and personal records to track, count, and inventory families and individuals laboring on their land.

Enslaved family

Journeys to Liberation: Records of Mariners, Migrants, and Freedom Seekers

All throughout the slavery era in pre- and post-colonial America, individuals and families of African descent pursued paths to freedom. Most famously, people used the Underground Railroad to escape, but other enslaved people turned to legal channels to gain emancipation.

Wagon travel

On the Battlefield: Records of Soldiers, Veterans, and Refugees

Prior to emancipation, Black soldiers served both voluntarily and involuntarily in conflicts in what is now the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Enslaved and free men took part in colonial wars (1609–1775), the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the War of 1812 (1812–1815), and the Civil War (1861–1865).

Photograph of soldiers

Community Building: Records of Black Institutions

While historically Black institutions, organizations, and churches have played a pivotal role in the lives of men, women, and children of African descent after emancipation, some of these organizations were also central to enslaved people in pre- and post-colonial America.

Community building

Remembering Slavery: Testimonials After Emancipation

The most powerful, poignant, and detailed records of formerly enslaved persons are first-person accounts collected in the pre- and post-emancipation eras. The oral tradition of persons of African descent and enslaved persons helped Black family history and culture survive.

Fisk Jubilee Singers