Emancipation and Reconstruction Eras

The material listed below touches on major themes from the period, including black mobility, political activity, the transition to wage and contract labor, white violence and black response are a few of the areas represented in the collections.

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Cornelia Augusta Gilman Baldwin diaries, 1868-1872.

Detailed diaries kept by affluent Washington, D.C. mother. Entries chronicle her daily activities, often focusing on the education (secular, musical, and religious) of her two children Ralph ("R") and Lillian May ("M"); household management; and social activities. She also provided details of her supervision of hired women (some of whom were African American).

James Chaplin Beecher papers, 1865-1866.

Collection contains the journal of James Beecher, Freedmen's Bureau agent in Charleston, South Carolina. Volume contains summaries of complaints brought to him by various freedmen. Material documents the transition from slave to wage labor undergone by many black southerners.

John Emory Bryant papers, 1851-1955.

Personal and political papers of John Emory Bryant. Correspondence from his tenure as a solider in the 8th Maine volunteers describes black religious practices and the organization of slaves during an owner's absence. In 1865, Bryant worked as an agent in the Freedmen's Bureau in Augusta, Georgia. His letterbook and his wife's journal of 1865-1866 outline the work of a bureau agent and speak to the chaos and destitution surrounding those ex-slaves who flooded Augusta in the wake of the war. Included in the collection are a series of letters from Henry McNeal Turner, black Republican later noted as a bishop of the African Methodist church and as a staunch emigrationist. Also included are the correspondence, letterbook, and scrapbook of William Anderson Pledger, a black Republican and educator.

Cronly Family papers, 1806-1944.

Personal and financial papers of the Cronly family of Wilmington, North Carolina. Jane M. Cronly's short stories and memoirs are devoted in large part to her family's relationship with their slaves, both before and after emancipation. Also included are two small volumes dealing with the 1898 Wilmington race riot.

Henry Daniels papers, 1865.

Records of Freedmen's Bureau in Brunswick County, Virginia, including lists of former slaves who worked on a government farm and drew federal assistance. The collection also contains contracts between black workers and white employers.

Kate Foster diary, 1863-1872

Diary of Kate Foster, Adams County, Mississippi. Approximately two-thirds of the entries date from the latter half of 1863 and concern the Civil War, with attention to the effect of the war on her home and on local blacks. The diary provides rich illustrations of slave desertion, many of the absconders being women with children

Samuel Fuqua papers, 1835-1866.

An executor's records of settlements of estates, household expenses, and labor. Includes a written agreement between a Virginia planter and his slaves regarding their continued service after the general emancipation. Briefly noted are former slaves -- both men and women -- who had "absented themselves" from the plantation without permission.

A - F | G - Z

George Gage papers, 1864-1903.

Letterbooks of George Gage and the journal of his wife Sarah Marshall Ely Gage. Sarah Gage's journal contains minutes of the Freedmen's Home Relief Association of Lambertville, New Jersey, for which Sarah was secretary in 1864. The journal also described Sarah's journey south to teach at a Freedmen's Bureau school in Beaufort, South Carolina (1866-1867).

Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick papers, 1848-1893.

Personal and business correspondence of Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick, professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1854-1856, and examiner in the U.S. Patent Office, Washington D.C., 1861-1886. University officials expelled Hedrick for his views on slavery and he was forced to leave the state in 1856. Included in the collection are the letters of Mary Ellen Thompson, Hedrick's wife, who writes to him describing the state of affairs in Chapel Hill following the Civil War. She notes the self-activity of black women and men as it concerned party politics, suffrage, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Edward W. Kinsley papers, 1862-1889.

Letters of a Boston businessman during and after the Civil War. Kinsley discusses black troops stationed in the South, particularly the 55th Massachusetts regiment in South Carolina and Georgia, but with mention of the 54th Massachusetts and the 35th. One item touches on reactions to a black public safety officer in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

William George Matton papers, 1859-1887.

Papers of English-born Methodist minister William George Matton. After the Civil War, Matton moved to North Carolina from New York to further the ministry of the Methodist Church North. Among other things, his detailed memoirs comment on relations between black and white church members, speak of a visit to Charlotte's black Calvary church, and describe the ordination of a black minister.

Jacob Mordecai papers, 1784-1936.

Former slave Sarah (Sally) Norral writes to Jacob Mordecai’s daughter Emma on November 23, 1867 from Richmond, Va. Norral inquires after Emma’s health and reports on her own well-being. Norral briefly discusses politics and hopes “not to put strangers to rule our people.” She refers to troubled times and having faith to keep up spirits.

Enoch Greenleafe Parrott papers, 1805-1935.

Naval officer born in Portsmouth, NH. Official and personal correspondence, primarily 1851-1874. Includes routing correspondence covering Parrott's involvement in a naval investigation with Joshua Ratoon Sands, his command of a ship on secret duty trying to limit the illegal importation of African slaves, his Civil War service commanding ships blockading the South Carolina shore, and his command of the Asiatic Squadron.

Person Family papers, 1754-1971.

The Person Papers includes one letter (December 28, 1862) from Fannie, a slave, to her husband, Norfleet Perry. Perry was a personal servant to Theophilus Perry, who served in the Confederate Army. It is unclear if this letter was actually written by Fannie or dictated to her mistress. Fannie expresses her longing and love for her husband and refers to her extended family with whom she lives.

Alexander Proctor papers, 1837-1895.

This collection consists of legal papers and correspondence relating to Alexander and Margaret Proctor and their children--tracing their history beginning as freedpeople in Virginia, their 1840s resettlement in Warren County, Ohio, a subsequent move to Canada around 1860, their emigration to Haiti in 1861, and their eventual return to Kalamazoo, Michigan

William C. Russel papers, 1861-1865.

Papers of a Massachusetts abolitionists. In 1864 Russel moved his family to Tennessee to manage a plantation run by former slaves. The letters of Russel's daughter Lucy describe her experiences teaching former slaves in her new home.

Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas diaries, 1848-1889.

Civil War-era journal of Ella Thomas, who lived with her husband on the Belmont plantation in Richmond County, Georgia. The Thomases owned ninety slaves and often went to a black church to hear black preachers. The diary comments on slave weddings and revivals, reviews Uncle Tom's Cabin, and discusses relationships among black women and white men. Of particular interest are two letters from a former Thomas slave dated the early 1900s.

Henry Watson papers, 1765-1983 (bulk 1828-1869). 

Personal and business papers of Greensboro, Alabama, lawyer and planter Henry Watson. Among them is information concerning the establishment of the Planter's Insurance Company, fear of a slave insurrection in 1860, slave impressment during the Civil War, and postwar labor contracts between blacks and their former masters. Volumes include plantation accounts, 1834-1866, and records of black laborers, slave and free, 1843-1866.

Manchester Ward Weld papers, 1847-[187?].

Volume contains a compendium of lawsuits and cases aired before agents of the Freedmen's Bureau, 1865-1868. Among the disputes are the suits of black men to recover their wives from ex-slaveholders who refused to set the women free.