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AMST 3221: Hands-On Public History. Finding Images

Research guide for how to find images related to slavery in the U.S. for Lisa Goff's AMST 3221 class.

Databases & More for Finding Images

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 (information on left) for help. 

Slavery Images - a collection of images of "the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World." Created by a former professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIU-C) and later fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH), now Virginia Humanities. You will want to look specifically for images depicting life in the United States, as this collection includes images of slavery in other countries as well. 

Documenting the American South - North American Slave Narratives - Image Subject List of North American Slave Narratives - an extensive list of images from the slave narratives that make up this collection. Images organized by subject. Includes images of slavery and enslaved people from particular states and locations in the U.S. and much more. 

DPLA - Digital Public Library of America - search the collection for slavery or enslaved people or plantation or similar related keywords. Then refine your search to image. If helpful, also refine by dates. 

New York Public Library (NYPL) Digital Collections - search for keywords related to slavery or other areas of interest. You can also browse through collections (then filter by topic-slavery and/or other limiters) including:

You might also search the NYPL Digital Collections for images related to cities, towns, or geographical areas. Some collections that might be of interest include: 

ArtStor, a database of images of world art from all periods, includes a few hundred contemporary photographs of slave quarters and plantations, as well as reproductions of artwork with related themes. Search for key terms like plantation or slave quarters or slavery. Once you run a search you can also limit by Geography to United States under North America. 

Library of Congress - Images of African-American Slavery and Freedom - small collection of images from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Collection. 

Library of Congress - Born in Slavery Collection - includes photographs of formerly enslaved persons and items/locations related to slavery. Browse through Collection Items for images. 

Finding Images in Harper's Weekly

The database HarpWeek provides full-text and images of Harper's Weekly, America's leading 19th century illustrated newspaper. 

Once in the database, I used Finding Aids to browse topics and chose Race Relations (another option is Blacks). One of the categories within race relations is slavery. Choosing that leads to an index for entries for slavery that includes illustrations. Choosing one of the index entries in the Illustrations category will take you to links of images that have been indexed under that name. Click on thumbnail images to make them larger. 

You can also search Harper's for images of cities and towns from this time period. Again, Browsing Topics I chose Geopolitical Units and then city to get to an index for entries for city that also includes illustrations. A similar index for entries for state, or index for entries for territory, searched by illustrations, might also be useful. 

The Search function and Full Article Text- Standard Search can also be limited under Feature to Illustration, Portrait, or Map if you would like to search using keywords. 

Also of Possible Interest

Freedom on the Move is a database of over 25,000 advertisements for fugitives from North American slavery. Some advertisements include small illustrations. Although searching by illustration did not seem possible, you might think about looking for advertisements for enslaved peoples that were escaping from or escaping to particular geographic areas.