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Special Collections and University Archives: African American History Resources

A guide to African American history resources held by Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives.

Slave Ownership and Manumission Records

Account Books 

Account books may have references to enslaved individuals doing work or errands for their owner or being hired out. Occasionally, there may also be references when their owners obtained shoes or clothes for them or paid for medical care.

Deeds and Legal Documents 

The Indenture Collection (17th-19th century) comprises deeds and legal documents concerning the purchase and sale of land and property. The records include sales of people held in bondage, as well as sales of property to formerly enslaved people. Access to the collection is through a card catalog in the reading room.

Family and Personal Papers 

Family and personal papers may include wills, legal documents, correspondence, and other papers concerning the purchase, transfer, and manumission of people held in bondage.

Local Government Records 

Piscataway Township records

  • Certificates of abandonment of negro children born to slave parents, 1805-1807

Middlesex County records

  • Manumission records, 1800-1825
  • Register of black children's births, 1804-1844


Manuscript Collections

African Association of New Brunswick minute book, 1817-1824

The minute book of the African Association of New Brunswick is in the process of being transcribed by the Scarlet and Black Digital Archive Project, partial transcription is provided. The book contains the association's constitution, list of subscribers, receipts, and certificates of owners permitting their slaves to join the association. The areas covered include New Brunswick, NJ and Middlesex County. 

New Brunswick Colonization Society records, 1838-1854

The New Brunswick Colonization Society was founded in 1825 as the local New Jersey chapter of the American Colonization Society and revitalized in 1838. The goal of the organization was to emancipate slaves and establish a colony of free blacks in Liberia, in order to Christianize Africa. The attempts of the Colonization Society, whose views are currently recognized as racist, ultimately failed due to the opposition from free blacks. The records include minutes, membership lists, and constitutions. 

Peter Still papers, 1850-1875 

Peter Still, who was born a slave in 1801, was able to buy his own freedom after forty years of enslavement. The collection consists of his manuscript letters and notebooks, which chronicle his efforts to purchase the freedom of his wife and family in Alabama. Peter Still was the older brother of William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Digital materials are available online in Rutgers Digital Library but more easily accessible at the website of Rutgers librarian Francesca Giannetti, including transcriptions. 


Printed Materials and Books


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