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African-American History Survey, 1400-1860

Helpful Tips for Using Paper Collections

To access these paper collections, you will need to head to the 10th floor of the Library and head into the Special Collections Reading Room. Be sure to have your Archives Form with you during your visit. 

The primary sources that you have access to in the Reading Room will be either rare books or manuscript collections. Rare books will be very familiar to you but manuscript collections might not be as familiar. Manuscript collections are any set of unpublished materials that come from a family or an organization. The manuscript collections available to you for this paper will be family papers or papers from one person. 

If you want to get acquainted with the idea of how collections are organized or what other archival collections might work for you, be sure to check out our finding aids at

Rare Books for Your Paper

Memoirs and Poems of Phillis Wheatley: a native African and slave- Wheatley was brought to America as an enslaved person and was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston. The Wheatley family taught Phillis how to read and write English and she began to write her own poetry. This copy is a first-edition and has her signature as well. 

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano- This book serves as a religious narrative and freedom narrative of Olaudah Equiano, who was formerly enslaved by a Royal Navy Officer. The book covers his journey on a slave ship from Africa to the West Indies, Virginia, and Georgia. 

Narrative of Sojourner Truth- This freedom narrative highlights the story of Sojourner Truth and her escape with her infant daughter to freedom from her owner in New York State. Sojourner Truth became an iconic orator with the speech, "Ain't I A Woman?". 

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave- Frederick Douglass was a prolific abolitionist and orator who used his profile to push for the end of slavery. This book is a first-edition of his freedom narrative and it was a best-seller at the time of publication. 

Narrative of Lunsford Lane- This freedom narrative is told by Lunsford Lane, who was an enslaved man from Raleigh, North Carolina and tells the story of how he bought his freedom and his family's freedom from their owners. 

Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy- Moses Grandy was an enslaved man from Camden, North Carolina. His freedom narrative became popular in the United States as well as internationally in England and Ireland. 

Behind the Scenes: thirty years a slave and four years in the White House- This freedom narrative comes from Elizabeth Keckley, who bought her freedom and also worked as the dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln. 

Manuscript Collections for Your Paper

J. Walter Potts family papers- These papers cover three generations of a Steele Creek family. The papers include financial transactions, real estate materials, and materials regarding enslaved people. 

Peoples Family Papers- The Peoples Family Papers come from Richard Peoples, 1790-1870, who lived in Providence Township. The collection includes bills of sale for enslaved people, receipts, and possible insurance policies for enslaved people owned by Peoples. 

McCoy Family Papers- The McCoy Family papers are wide-ranging and range from 1796 to 2001. For your paper, this collection concerns the cemetery on the property that is the final resting place of enslaved people. 

William Tasse Alexander Family Papers- This collection comes from a family that were some of the earliest settlers in Mecklenburg County. 

Emma Echols Papers- The Emma Echols papers includes correspondence, wills, and materials regarding the enslaved people that were owned by her family. 

Patterson Family papers- Patterson Family papers include wills, receipts, and materials surrounding the enslaved people and freedman who lived on their property. 

Torrance and Banks Families papers- The Torrance and Banks families papers include various information regarding the family who settled in Cedar Grove. 

Pharr and Walker Families Papers- These family papers include correspondence, financial transactions, and deeds including correspondence that predominantly are addressed to the major recipient Jennie Walker Pharr from her father, brother, and grandfather encompassing the years 1847-1914. 

Jetton Family Papers- This collection are the papers of an early European family in the Mecklenburg area. A large amount of papers come from the Civil War ear and pertain to slavery as well as what occurred during the Reconstruction era through the land surveys, promissory notes, and tax receipts among correspondence.