Archive for June 3rd, 2014

Exploring the original American sin: Documents on slavery

June 3, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 4, 2014

The other day, I collected a number of passages from American history rebutting conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s unqualified assertion that the United States was “founded under the premise that we are all created by God and we’re all created equal.” That may have been the spirit that motivated our Founding Fathers, but when it came to wide swathes of American residents — say, the nation’s African-American slaves — the principle was honored more in the breach than in the observance.

I’m not a serious student of history, but it was not at all hard to find numerous resources on American slavery. I ultimately pulled all of the historical texts in last week’s post from this resource page for “Africans in America,” a Public Broadcasting Service project. The page features nearly 250 illustrations and documents about what has euphemistically been labeled the peculiar institution.

Here are some other pages that inquiring minds can visit if they wish to delve deeper into the American experience of slavery:

• “Slavery and the Making of America”: These resources, evidently compiled for a 2004 project created by PBS’s New York City affiliate, Thirteen/WNET, cover a variety of topics. There are links to books for students, the texts of slave narratives, and audio clips of reminiscences of former slaves that were recorded by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.

Primary source collections — slavery and abolition: This page, hosted by Newton Gresham Library at Sam Houston State University, links to about three dozen different archives. Some collections document slavery in a particular place, such as Delaware or Texas; others feature images related to slavery. One link leads to a map that uses Census data to show the spread of slavery in the United States from 1790 through 1860. An Emory University initiative linked to here contains information on more than 35,000 slave voyages between the 16th and 19th centuries, including the names, points of origin, and places of disembarkation for more than 91,000 captured Africans.

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