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A.S. Williams III Americana Collection: African American History

Manuscript Collections

Virginia J. Hanson Papers (W.0018): The collection contains Hanson’s Master’s thesis, “Alabama in Legend in Lore.” The research material includes binders on “Negro Lore” (W.0018.02) and “Traditional Stories of Slaves and Civil War” (W.0018.02).

Goodloe W. Malone Account Book (W.0020): This small account book documents the sale of items between 1834 and 1839. Most of the listings are dated between 1834 and 1835, and include sales in Richmond, Vicksburg, and Nashville. The ledger is notable for containing several records related to the purchase and sale of slaves.

“Mammy Stories” (W.0026): This handwritten, twenty-four page manuscript by Birmingham author Julia Neely Finch describes "an old-time Southern Mammy," which Finch writes is "a picture drawn from real life." Finch provides a vivid yet lyrical description of the unnamed mammy's physical appearance, speech, and daily life.

Commonplace Book on Christianity and Slavery (W.0032): This commonplace book includes handwritten entries addressing a number of religious topics, ranging from church politics, theological concerns, child rearing practices, and slavery. Although this manuscript is undated, included quotations suggest that the book was compiled in the 1840s and 1850s. The owner and compiler is unknown. [Digitized version]

United Daughters of the Confederacy, Arkansas Division, Confederate Veterans’ Documents (W.0034): This collection consists of typescript copies of legal and financial documents filed in Arkansas between 1848 and 1873, as well as typescript copies of letters, diaries, and military service accounts written primarily by Confederate soldiers. The legal documents are mainly deeds of conveyance, tax records, and deeds for swampland. . 

James Smith U.S. Army Discharge Papers (W.0145): The collection contains two forms discharging James Smith, an African American born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, from the United States Army Tenth Cavalry Regiment, in 1872. One form, dated April 4, 1872, is the "final statement" showing how much money is due to him for his term of service, while the second form is his signed receipt, dated May 6, 1872, showing that he received his pay.

Jennie C. Lee Papers (W.0113): The Jennie C. Lee papers contain photographs; letters; telegrams; newspaper clippings; programs for assorted musical performances and dedications; pamphlets; publications; and circulars. Many appear to have been removed from scrapbooks; a large number of the photographs are still affixed to black scrapbook paper. Volume one, 1891-1934, contains numerous photographs, loose and attached to scrapbook pages. There are several photographs of persons who are clearly Tuskegee Institute faculty members. Volume two, 1905-1938, is smaller than volume one, and it contains the same types of material. 

Ephraim Madison Henry Papers (W.0114): The collection contains correspondence, concert programs, and other miscellaneous documents of Ephraim Madison Henry. Volume I is made up mainly of correspondence, the majority of which is addressed to Henry and covers the time period he was in school at the Tuskegee Institute and shortly afterwards. Volume II is primarily various programs for concerts by the Tuskegee Institute Choir or a visiting choir or musician. There are other programs from church services and other events. Volume III contains newspapers from Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Tuskegee (Alabama), mimeographed sheet music, and other concert programs. 

Booker T. Washington Letter (W.0136): This typescript letter from Booker T. Washington to Robert E. Ely is dated November 12, 1915, two days before Washington's death. In the letter, Washington urges Ely to support the Tuskegee Institute's scholarship fund. The typed letter includes Washington's signature.

Published Material

History of the Detection Conviction Life and Designs of John A. Murel (1835) (SH 2308): John Andrews Murrell was an outlaw, thief, and "land-pirate" that operated along the Arkansas-Tennessee frontier in the first half of the Nineteenth Century. Murrell was arrested in 1834 with the assistance of Virgil A. Stewart, who published this mostly fictitious account of Murrell's life. It claimed, among other things, that he and northern abolitionists intended to incite a slave rebellion in the South on December 25, 1835. The false account was taken as true in cities like Nashville, Memphis, Natchez, and Vicksburg and the pamphlet increased sectional tensions and encouraged white southerners to further oppress enslaved African Americans. 

The Condition of the South: Extracts from the Report of Major General Carl Schurz (1865) (CW 3917): In the summer of 1865, President Andrew Johnson sent Major-General Carl Christian Schurz throughout the South to assess social and political conditions after the Civil War. In his reports, Schurz describes lingering sectionalism, the condition of African Americans, and the white opposition to the end of slavery, including violence whites inflicted on freedmen despite attempts by the Army to maintain order. 

George W. Cable, The Negro Question (1890) (SF 255): George W. Cable was a white novelist born in New Orleans in 1844. Considered to be one of the first modern southern writers, Cable attempted to capture contemporary Southern life in his novels and criticized segregation and Jim Crow in his non-fiction works. In The Negro Question, Cable describes segregation as a political and moral mistake and criticizes white northerners for abandoning Reconstruction.

Henry Latham, Black and White: A Journal of A Three Months' Tour in the United States (1867) (SH 1937): Henry Latham, a British barrister, toured the United States for three months from late December 1866 to early March 1867. The letters he wrote during the trip were collected and published in 1867 as Black and White. Latham visited most major cities along the East Coast and also spend a considerable amount of time in the American South. His letters discuss white attitudes towards African Americans and the book includes specific sections on African Americans, Native Americans, and Irish immigrants.

Atticus Green Haygood, Our Brother in Black: His Freedom and His Future (1881) (CW 1956): Atticus Haygood was a Methodist bishop in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. In Our Brother in Black, Haygood explores the state of southern African Americans after emancipation and Reconstruction. While still a product of the era, Haygood draws attention to the centrality of religion within the African American community, the racist oppression of free blacks, and the need for the South to look towards rebuilding the region instead of looking back towards the past.

Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868) (PRES 1894): Elizabeth Keckley was born in February 1818 as a slave in Dinwiddie, Virginia. Keckley convinced her master to allow her to buy her and her son's freedom, which she did in 1855. In 1860, she moved to Washington D.C. and established herself as a seamstress. She became the personal dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln in 1861 and served throughout the Lincoln administration. After Mrs. Lincoln fell into debt in 1867, Keckley wrote Behind the Scenes in an attempt to improve the public perception of her former employer. The work describes her life in slavery and her success as a businesswoman in Washington D.C. 

Thomas Clarkson, An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly The African (1786) (SH 684): Thomas Clarkson was an English abolitionist and helped found The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. At Cambridge, Clarkson entered a Latin essay competition and proceeded to research and write about the transatlantic slave trade. The essay won the contest and Clarkson translated it into English a year later. Clarkson's essay covers the history of slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, and the horrific conditions inflicted upon enslaved Africans during the Middle Passage and in the New World.  

New York Court of Appeals, Report on the Lemmon Slave Case: Containing Points and Arguments of Counsel on Both Sies, and Opinions of All the Judges (1860) (SH 1976): Lemmon v. New York was the final case in a series of court cases that decided the fate of eight slaves brought to New York from Virginia in 1852. Upon hearing of the slaves' arrival in New York, Louis Napoleon sued for their freedom under New York's 1817 law that declared no person brought into the state could be held as a slave. The Lemmon family objected to this suit and argued that since they and their slaves were on the way to Texas, New York had no power to regulate commercial interests as they crossed state borders. The Report lays out the case, provides the arguments of the defending and prosecuting attorneys, and records the opinions of the ruling judges.    

Frederick Douglass, U.S. Grant and the Colored People (1872) (PRES 4653): A pamphlet describing Ulysses S. Grant's support for African American emancipation and civil rights during Reconstruction. Douglass wrote the pamphlet to encourage African Americans to vote for Grant.

J.B.T. Marsh, The Story of the Jubilee Singers (1883) (SH 2137)Marsh chronicles the origins of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and their rise to international fame in the late-nineteenth century.

African American Intellectuals

W.E.B. Du BoisDu Bois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Over the course of his career, Du Bois became an acclaimed historian, civil rights activist, and author and helped found both the Niagara Movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Niagara Movement argued for full equal rights and political representation for African Americans in contrast with Booker T. Washington's vision in the Atlanta Compromise. In his writing, Du Bois fought against racism, Jim Crow, lynching, and discrimination while advocating for equal rights and an international Pan-African identity. The A.S. Williams III Americana Collection holds the following works by Du Bois:

  • Negro in the South: His Economic Progress in Relation to his Moral and Religious Development (1907) (SH 3201)
  • John Brown (1909) (CWR 937)
  • Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911) (SH 948)
  • Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America (1924) (SH 957)

Zora Neale Hurston: Hurston was an African American novelist, folklorist and anthropologist who published four novels and over fifty shorter during her career. She also traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the U.S. South in order to collect folktales and conduct anthropological research. Politically, Hurston aligned herself with Booker T. Washington's belief in self-help for African Americans and opposed integrated schools out of fear that it would prevent African American children from learning of black traditions. As part of its extensive collection of Southern Fiction, the Williams Collection holds a 1938 copy of Tell My Horse (SH 1529) and a 1991 edition of Their Eyes Were Watching God (SF 1292).

Martin Luther King, Jr.: While King is famous for his role as a civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s, his activity as an author is less known. King wrote five books between 1958 and 1968 that addressed racial segregation, the Vietnam War, civil disobedience, and nonviolence. The Williams Collection is home to the following works:

  • Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958) (SH 1826)
  • Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963) (SH 1845)
  • Strength to Love (1963) (SH 1825)
  • Where Do We Go from Here?: Chaos or Community? (1967) (SH 1831)

Booker T. Washington: Washington was an author, educator, and one of the leading African American voices at the turn of the twentieth century. He founded Tuskegee University in 1881 as a center for "industrial education." Washington believed that African Americans needed to be trained in skills that would allow them to sustain themselves and bring themselves out of poverty. In 1895, Washington issued a speech that became known as the "Atlanta compromise" at Atlanta's Cotton States and International Exposition. Here, Washington suggested a compromise by which African Americans would not oppose racial segregation as long as they received education. Although W.E.B. Du Bois at first agreed with this plan, he and other African American leaders turned against the compromise and argued that no progress could be achieved as long as African Americans were considered second-class citizens. The Williams Collection holds a significant number of works, including his published papers. This fourteen-volume set contains his writings organized by year. The Collection also includes the following published works by Booker T. Washington: 

  • Daily Resolves (1896) (SH 3241)
  • The Future of the American Negro (1899) (SH 3232)
  • A New Negro for a New Century (1900) (SH 3220)
  • Sowing and Reaping (1900) (SH 3240)
  • ‚ÄčWorking with the Hands (1904) (SH 3239)
  • Tuskegee and its People: Their Ideals and Achievements (1905) (SH 3218)
  • Putting the Most Into Life (1906) (SH 3243)
  • Negro in the South: His Economic Progress in Relation to his Moral and Religious Development (1907) (SH 3201)
  • Negro in Business (1907) (SH 3219)
  • Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery (1909) (SH 3234-3235)
  • My Larger Education; Being Chapters from My Experience (1911) (SH 3238)
  • Story of Slavery (1913) (SH 3193)
  • Man Farthest Down (1913) (SH 3237)
  • Up From Slavery (1928) (BALD 0088)

African American Soldiers

George Livermore, Historical Research Respecting the Opinions of the Founders of the Republic on Negroes as Slaves, as Citizens, and As Soldiers (3rd Edition, 1863) (SH 2004): Originally published in 1862 by the Massachusetts Historical Society, this paper examines how the Founding Fathers viewed African Americans as citizens and soldiers during the American Revolution. The pamphlet also compares these views to similar questions raised during the sectional crisis of the 1850s and during the first years of the Civil War.

Stephen Brague, Notes on Colored Troops and Military Colonies on Southern Soil (1863) (CW 419): This pamphlet praises the valor and prowess of African American soldiers and recommends that the United States army continue to create African American regiments. While the text describes African Americans with racist stereotypes, Brague ultimately argues that African Americans should be rewarded for their military service and that they, as well as freed southern slaves, should be granted southern land and organized into new regiments that would prevent white southerners from fomenting future rebellions.  

Amendment to the Negro Soldier Bill, CSA (1865) (CONF 0370): The amendment, dated February 14, 1865, authorized the General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army to "call into the service of the Confederate States, to perform any duty to which he may assign them, so many of the able-bodied slaves within the Confederate States." In doing so, the amendment required the Confederate Army to give clothing and food to the impressed slaves during their time with the military. The amendment was printed on a broadside and has been stamped with "Record Division, War Department. Rebel Archives."

George Washington Williams, A History of Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 (1888) (CW 4822): Williams was an African American soldier, historian, and minister from Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. At age fourteen, Williams enlisted as a Union soldier under a fake name and fought in some of the final battles of the Civil War. After the war, Williams continued his military career until he was wounded in 1868 and discharged. He studied at Newton Theological Institution in Massachusetts and became a Baptist minister. In 1888, Williams released A History of Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, which is considered one of the first substantial histories of African Americans in the United States. The work explores the quality of black soldiers, their bravery in combat, and compares their achievements with white soldiers. 

Joseph T. Wilson, Black Phalanx: A History of the Negro Soldiers of the United States in the Wars of 1775-1812, 1861-1865 (1888) (CW 4867): Wilson was an African American soldier who served in the 2nd Regiment, Louisiana Native Guard Volunteers, and later in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers. The book describes African Americans who served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Wilson wrote the book at the request of other African American veterans and draws upon their experiences as well as his own.

Regimental Histories: The Williams Collection is home to a substantial number of Civil War regimental histories. These works include several histories about African American regiments that served in Union Army. They describe the mustering of units, the battles they fought in, and daily life at war. The African American regimental histories include:

  • Joshua M. Addeman, Reminiscences of Two Years with the Colored Troops (1880) (CW 4701)
  • Robert Cowden, Brief Sketch of the Organization and Services of the Fifty-Ninth Regiment of United States Colored Infantry, and Biographical Sketches (1883) (CW 5708)
  • William H. Chenery, Fourteenth Regiment Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored), in the War to Preserve the Union, 1861-1865 (1898) (CW 5693)
  • Oliver Wilcox Norton, Army Letters, 1861-1865. Being Extracts from Private Letters to Relatives and Friends from a Soldier in the Field During the Late Civil War (1903) (CW 5666)
  • Robert Dollard, Recollections of the Civil War and Going West to Grow Up With the Country (1906) (CW 1198)
  • Edwin M. Main, Story of the Marches, Battles, and Incidents of the Third United States Colored Cavalry; A Fighting Regiment in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-5; With Official Orders and Reports Relating Thereto, Compiled from the Rebellion Records (1908) (CW 5495)
  • Lawrence Van Alstyne, Diary of an Enlisted Man (1910) (CW 5660)
  • Samuel Johnson Crawford, Kansas in the Sixties (1911) (CW 902)

Photo Collections and Albums

Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad PhotographsThis collection contains over five hundred photographs related to the mines, quarries, labor camps, and mills operated by the Tennessee, Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company. The photographs run from approximately 1900 to 1915 and depict the living and working conditions of free white and African American laborers, African American convict laborers, and child laborers. 

Lincoln Normal SchoolThis collection consists of two photograph albums from the Lincoln Normal School in Marion, Alabama, among the first schools established for the education of freed slaves after the Civil War. Taken 1909 to 1924, they include images of students, teachers, facilities, and activities.

African American History Photographs and Pamphlets (UBx017): This loose collection includes several different pamphlets and photographs related to African Americans in Alabama. The pamphlets primarily relate to the Freedmen's Bureau and Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute. The photos include African American soldiers mustering for World War I, civil rights protesters in Birmingham and Washington D.C., and members of the Tuskegee Choir. 

Maria Howard Weeden, Shadows on the Wall (SH3253): Maria Howard Weeden was a white Alabama artist and poet who was born in Huntsville in 1846. In 1893, she visited Chicago's Columbian Exposition and grew frustrated with how other artists portrayed freed African Americans with racist caricatures and exaggerated features. She began painting African Americans in and around Huntsville and in 1898, published a collection of her paintings and poetry in Shadows on the Wall. She would publish three more similar works by 1904. 

Augustus Washington Daguerreotype (VAULT 020): Augustus Washington was an African American photographer from Trenton New Jersey. The son of a former slave, Washington learned to make daguerreotypes at Dartmouth College and moved to Hartford Connecticut to open a studio in 1846. Washington eventually emigrated to Liberia in 1852 and opened a studio in Monrovia. He later became a sugarcane grower and politician before he passed away in 1875. The daguerreotype in the collection, taken by Washington, is of a white woman wearing a bonnet and dark dress.

Edward Augustus Harleston Paintings: Harleston was an acclaimed African American painter who is associated with the Charleston Renaissance. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, he primarily painted portraits of black and white residents of Charleston. In addition to his portraits, Harleston was the first president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP and helped Aaron Douglas paint the African American murals on the campus of Fisk University.

Racist Stereotypes and Humor

Behind the Seams (1868) (PRES 4780): Behind the Seams is an extremely racist parody of Elizabeth Keckley's Behind the Scenes. Published in New York, the parody work was designed to embarrass and ostracize Keckley for being an African American and publishing on the private life of white women. These types of parodies came out frequently in the nineteenth century and served to reinforce racial segregation in both society and culture.

James S. Pike, The Prostrate South: South Carolina Under Negro Government (1874) (SH 2496): James S. Pike was a correspondent and associate editor for the New York Tribune. In 1874, the Tribune sent pike to South Carolina to cover the state's government under Reconstruction. While Pike had once been a Radical Republican and a supporter of "free soil," he was also known for his racism and antipathy for African American suffrage. Although The Prostrate South was once considered an eyewitness account of African American legislators under Reconstruction, historian Robert Durden emphasizes that "it was far from objective, simply reflecting Pike's long-standing racism." 

Stereographs - "African American Americana": This collection contains 85 stereographs from the turn of the twentieth century. These images are examples of racist African American stereotypes that demonstrate how whites used humor to demean African Americans and reinforce segregation.

Saint-Remy, Histoire du Petit Negre (1945) (VAULT 0028): This illustrated book follows a young African American boy during World War II. In the story, he leaves Missouri, learns to drive an army jeep in Texas, and then goes to Europe to pursue the Germans. He finally returns home to Missouri after the war. The illustrations include exaggerated caricatures of the boy that reflect the racist stereotypes that were common around World War II. 

Racial Theories and Eugenics

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1st American Edition,1788) (PRES 571): Notes on the State of Virginia was originally published in 1785 and grew out of a series of correspondence between Jefferson and Francois Barbe-Marbois. While the bulk of Notes on the State of Virginia records the state's social, economic, and geographic characteristics, it also argues that African Americans were innately inferior to whites. Jefferson draws upon stereotypes and pseudoscientific arguments to describe how, in his mind, African Americans, Native Americans, and white Europeans were three distinct races. Jefferson's comments were repeated by pro-slavery advocates throughout the nineteenth century and were a frequent target of abolitionist appeals.

Matthew Estes, A Defence of Negro Slavery, as it Exists in the United States (1846) (SH 990): In the few decades preceding the Civil War, northern abolitionists began publishing moral, economic, and political tracts that argued against slavery. In response, white southerners developed a series of arguments that grounded slavery in the Bible, Roman society, and scientific racism. In A Defence of Negro Slavery, Estes compiles these arguments and offers his own opinions as well. 

Josiah Clark Nott, Two Lectures on the Connection Between the Biblical and Physical History of Man (1849) (SH 2354): Nott was a physician, surgeon, and one of the earliest proponents of scientific racism. In the first lecture, Nott argues that several different "species" of humanity developed in different parts of the world. Nott uses racist scientific theories like phrenology to argue for innate physical and mental differences between Africans, Europeans, Asians, and Native Americans. In the second lecture, Nott rejects the Bible as a historical source in order to reinforce his belief that there are several distinct races of humanity.   

Iveson L. Brookes, A Defence of the South against the Reproaches and Incroachments of the North: In Which Slavery is Shown to be an Institution of God to Form the Basis of the best Social State and the Only Safeguard to the Permanence of a Republican Government (1850) (SH 477): Brookes was a South Carolina Baptist minister who owned slave plantations in Georgia and South Carolina. In this pamphlet, Brookes rails against abolitionists and uses phrenology and other pseudoscientific methods to argue that the caste system of free white Americans and enslaved African Americans was necessary to preserve the United States. He also argues that the Constitution and the Bible are pro-slavery documents.

Josiah Priest, Bible Defence of Slavery (6th ed., 1853) (SH 2558): Priest was a New York leather maker who began writing in the 1820s. Although he claimed to be an authority on science and history, his works mix together myth, history, and fantasy. In Bible Defence of Slavery, Priest lists several racist origin stories for black skin before concluding that Africans descended from the biblical "Curse of Ham." He proceeds to claim that Africans and African Americans were innately inferior to Europeans and dismisses any social, cultural, or intellectual evidence to the contrary.  

John H. Van Evrie, White Supremacy and Negro Subordination (2nd ed., 1868) (CW 4558): Van Evrie was a pro-slavery physician who wrote several books intended to bring scientific racism to a general audience. Like his predecessors, Evrie uses psuedoscience to claim that African Americans are a distinct and inferior race to whites and that slavery is the "natural state" of African Americans. He also denounces Reconstruction and states that an abolitionist is "a traitor to his blood."

Sir George Campbell, White and Black: The Outcome of a Visit to the United States (1879) (SH 571): Sir George Campbell was a Scottish politician who served as the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal from 1871 to 1874. Campbell visited the United States and published White and Black as a chronicle of his observations in 1879. Campbell was a strong advocate of the caste system in India and approved of the racial hierarchy established by Jim Crow in the United States. His views on African Americans reflect the emergence of eugenics and scientific racism in the late-Nineteenth Century.     

Philip Alexander Bruce, The Plantation Negro as a Freeman; Observations on his Character, Condition, and Prospects in Virginia (1889) (CW 484): Bruce was an American historian who specialized in the history of Virginia. In The Plantation Negro, Bruce argues that slavery ruined the ability of African Americans to build strong marriages and families. Bruce also ignores the imposition of Jim Crow laws at this time and blames segregation on the "attitude" of African Americans. Although written as a history, the book reiterates the tenets of scientific racism and advocates for the disenfranchisement of black southerners.