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AMST 3221: Hands-On Public History: Slavery and Reconstruction

Research guide for students in Lisa Goff's AMST 3221 class.

Research Using Library Databases

The UVA Library subscribes to hundreds of databases that contain scholarly resources not available on the free web. Access to most of these databases is restricted to current members of the UVA community. Since you will be accessing from off Grounds, you will be prompted to sign in with NetBadge when using these resources. For some resources, you may need to use the VPN - see tab on left side menu (see the Off-Grounds Access link for more information).

The best way to connect to the library's databases is through the research portal. This page provides a  list of recommended databases for your assignment. In addition, library subject specialists have created research guides for academic departments here at UVA. Subject research guides list the most important databases for conducting research in that discipline. Other guides that may be useful for this course include:

Databases & More for Finding Primary Sources

Some of the links below will take you to library subscription databases, while others are for resources made freely available on the web. If you have trouble connecting to or searching any of these resources, please contact Sherri or Chris (information on left) for help. 

Slavery and Anti-Slavery includes collections on the transatlantic slave trade, the global movement for the abolition of slavery, the legal, personal, and economic aspects of the slavery system, and the dynamics of emancipation in the U.S. as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other regions.

Slavery, Abolition & Social Justice This resource is designed as an important portal for slavery and abolition studies, bringing together documents and collections covering an extensive time period, between 1490 and 2007, from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world. The link is to AM Explorer. Choose Collections, then Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice. This database is on trial and therefore only available through May 30, 2020. Because it is a trial, no PDF downloads are available. 

The Colored Conventions Project (CCP) is a digital humanities interdisciplinary research hub that uses digital tools to bring the buried history of nineteenth-century Black organizing to life. The site features hundreds of primary sources from the conventions movement. Primary sources include minutes, proceedings, newspaper articles, speeches, letters, transcripts, and images. The digital collections are organized by year, type, and region. Many primary sources have been transcribed and are keyword searchable. Mirroring the collective nature of the nineteenth-century Colored Conventions, CCP uses inclusive partnerships to locate, transcribe, and archive the documentary record related to this nearly forgotten history and to curate engaging digital exhibits that highlight its significant events and theme.

Freedom on the Move is a database of fugitive slave advertisements from North America created by researchers at Cornell University and other institutional partners. 

Documenting the American South includes primary sources that document the cultural history of the American South from the Southern point of view. Includes diaries, autobiographies, travel accounts, titles about slavery, and regional literature. Emphasis is on the 19th century.

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas is a media database with images documenting many aspects of the slave trade and its aftermath. 

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database provides the most comprehensive source of data on the Atlantic slave trade. Based on the records of almost 35,000 Atlantic slave trade voyages, the database provides information on ships, crew, slave cargo, and routes. Information is supplemented by extensive maps and other resources.

Ancestry Library Edition is an academic version of Along with images of original documents, it includes narratives, oral histories, indexes, and abstracts to other resources. Over 30,000 record collections and 11 billion records available to search. Record collections span the 1500s–2000s. NOTE: UVA Library has a trial of this until April 10, 2020. You will likely need to use the VPN to access (see VPN tab on left for more info).

African American Resources for Virginia from FamilySearch provides a list of online resources for conducting research on African Americans in Virginia. 

The African-American Families Database (AFFD) "is hosted by the Central Virginia History Researchers, a partnership among local historians, anthropologists, genealogists, and community residents. CVHR is developing a database for connecting African-American families to their antebellum roots and tracing patterns of community formation in the post-bellum period. We locate ante-bellum ancestors, and descendants of enslaved individuals, as well as visualize communities, research Projects, and map social networks."

Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names was launched in 2011 by the Virginia Museum of History & Culture to make accessible biographical details of enslaved Virginians from unpublished historical records in its collections. The site provides researchers with the ability to discover information on ancestors not found in other sources. 

Virginia Untold: The African American NarrativeThe Library of Virginia houses local court records, state records, personal papers, business records, newspapers, special collections, books, journals, etc., that date back to the 1600s. Collectively, these records contain the names of millions of African Americans both enslaved and free. These names are access points to the individual stories of African Americans who lived in Virginia from the establishment of slavery in the 1600s until its demise in 1865. Taken as a whole, these individual stories help to shed light on the narrative of a people that has not been fully told.

African-American Genealogy is a list of resources compiled by UVA librarian and genealogy expert Jean Cooper. Some resources are available online. 

DPLA - Immigration since 1840 - Resources about immigration available from the Digital Public Library of America 

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930 - This digital collection of historical materials in Harvard's libraries, archives, and museums, documents "voluntary immigration to the United States from the signing of the Constitution to the start of the Great Depression." 

Databases for Newspaper & Magazine Articles

Accessible Archives includes texts and page images from The Pennsylvania Gazette (1728-1800), 7 African-American newspapers from 1827-1860, and 3 Civil War newspapers: New York Herald, Richmond Enquirer, and Charleston Mercury.

The African American Historical Serials Collection features 173 periodicals spanning from 1816 through 1922. The periodicals in this collection include newspapers and magazines, in addition to reports and annuals from various African American organizations, including churches and educational and service institutions.

Databases for Scholarly Journal Articles

America History & Life covers the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to present with records from 2,000 English-language journals published worldwide. 

Academic Search Complete is a large general database of articles from scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers on many topics. Updated daily, it can be the best source for resources about very current topics.

JSTOR includes older issues of scholarly journals in many disciplines, from the start to 3-5 years ago.

Project Muse Searchable full text of nearly 600 scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics, mostly from North American university presses. Older volumes are often available from JSTOR.

Finding items using Virgo

Virgo, the UVA Library’s primary search tool, contains catalog records for books, print journals, DVDs, maps, and digitized materials, as well as links to online articles from our rich array of subscription journals. You can search catalog materials and articles together, or view those results separately, using the facets provided to limit your results by author, format, publication period, and more. To find online content, use the Format limiters like EBook, Streaming Video, or Online to limit your catalog search results. 

Example subject terms 

  • African Americans - Social Conditions - 19th Century 
  • Freedmen - United States - Biography 
  • Freedmen - Virginia 
  • Knights of Pythias 
  • Slave Narratives - United States
  • Slavery - Political Aspects - Virginia 
  • Slavery - Virginia 
  • Slaves - Southern States - Biography 
  • Slaves - Southern States - Social Conditions 
  • Slaves' Writings, American 
  • Virginia - Politics and Government 

Example E-Books of Interest