Indexes and Databases

Boston Marine Insurance Company Records
1797-1839. This collection consists of records of the Boston Marine Insurance Company, including correspondence, accounts, and 65 volumes of financial, legal, investment, and policy records, as well as letters by company presidents. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02215.

New York Slavery Records Index
Records of Enslaved Persons and Slave Holders in New York from 1525 though the Civil War.

Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has information on almost 36,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Shipindex.org
ShipIndex.org tells you which books, magazines, and online resources mention the vessels you’re researching. 153,649 entries in the free database, 3,159,372 entries available with premium access.

Freedomonthemove.org
“Freedom On The Move: Rediscovering the Stories of Self-Liberating People” is a searchable database of fugitives of American Slavery. It is a collaboration of Cornell University, along with the University of Alabama, University of New Orleans, University of Kentucky, and Ohio State University.

Indigenousslavery.org
The Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas (DISA), is a community-centered database project that seeks to document as many instances of indigenous enslavement in the Americas between 1492 and 1900 (and beyond, where relevant).

Book of Negroes
United States, Inspection Roll of Negroes. Search the records of Black Loyalists evacuated by the British from New York in 1783 after defeat in the American War of Independence.

Enslaved:  Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade
Explore the data and life stories on Enslaved.org and read articles on data-driven research about the lives of the enslaved in the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation.  Michigan State University and the University of Maryland

The Freedmen’s Bureau Online
Records from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. Searchable databases of the Bureau’s records from the War Department, 1865.

Lost Friends of New Orleans
Advertisements of the Southwestern Christian Advocate. This searchable database provides access to more than 2,500 advertisements that appeared in the Advocate between November 1879 and December 1900. 

Slave Societies Digital Archives
The Slave Societies Digital Archive (formerly Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies), hosted at Vanderbilt University, preserves endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to Africans and African-descended peoples in slave societies. (Note: This is not a searchable online database.)

The Prince Project
The Prince Project is a database of over 1700 people of color who were in Maine prior to 1800. It is not available online. For information, please contact Vana Carmona at vanacarmona@gmail.com.

1745 Massachusetts Slave Census
In 1754, Governor William Shirley had ordered that an enumeration of all slaves, both male and female, over the age of sixteen be completed by each town. This included Maine since it was still part of Massachusetts. 

Featured Regional Historical Recovery Projects

Cape Ann Slavery and Abolition
The Cape Ann Slavery and Abolition website aims to reveal the hidden history of enslaved people, slaveowners, slave traders and sea captains, business owners involved in, or benefitting from, the slave trade on Cape Ann, and to tell their stories. Using contemporary research and primary sources, we present evidence-based information that has been overlooked, suppressed, or erased from local historical narratives.

Witness Stones Project
Through research, education, and civic engagement, the Witness Stones Project, Inc. seeks to restore the history and to honor the humanity and contributions of the enslaved individuals who helped build our communities.

People Not Property: Stories of Slavery in the Colonial North
Despite the fact that slavery was crucial to the economic development of the American colonies, the history of enslaved people in the North has long been neglected. Historic Hudson Valley shares stories of family and separation, work and community, negotiation, resistance, and perseverance.

Sites to Visit

Royall House and Slave Quarters | In the eighteenth century, the Royall House and Slave Quarters was home to the largest slaveholding family in Massachusetts and the enslaved Africans who made their lavish way of life possible. Today, the Royall House and Slave Quarters is a museum whose architecture, household items, archaeological artifacts, and programs bear witness to intertwined stories of wealth and bondage, set against the backdrop of America’s quest for independence.

African American Heritage Sites in Salem, MA | Salem was founded as a port, and for its first two centuries, the economic prosperity of the town was tied to the slave culture of the British Atlantic, through transportation of slaves or support of the slave economy through the supply of dried cod as a protein source for the slaves on Caribbean plantations. As early as 1638, the first enslaved Africans were brought into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the Salem-owned vessel Desire.

Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire | From the docks of Portsmouth, where merchants engaged in the trans-Atlantic slave trade unloaded their cargo, to the northern border with Canada where many escaping captives found their first moment of freedom, the Granite State holds a multitude of stories that mark the milestones of its complex history.

Exhibitions

A Vanished Port: Middletown & the Caribbean, 1750-1824 | This exhibition portrays a major New England port during the heyday of the West Indies trade, from the luxurious life of Middletown’s merchants to the suffering of enslaved workers in the sugar monoculture of the English Caribbean.

New England Colleges & Universities Studying Slavery

Universities Studying Slavery
Universities Studying Slavery (USS) is dedicated to organizing multi-institutional collaboration as part of an effort to facilitate mutual support in the pursuit of common goals around the core theme of “Universities Studying Slavery.” USS additionally allows participating institutions to work together as they address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities as well as the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society. USS hosts semi-annual meetings to discuss strategies, collaborate on research, and learn from one another.

Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery
Announced by Harvard President Larry Bacow in November 2019, Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery is a presidential initiative which seeks to uncover and understand the history of Harvard University’s relationship to slavery, as well as slavery’s continuing legacy within the Harvard community today.

‘It was not expected’ that MIT Founder Owned Slaves in 1850
Living Lab Radio, By Heather Goldstone & Elsa Partan Feb 19, 2018

Centers

Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Brown University

Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University

Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, 600 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103

Archival Collections

Massachusetts Historical Society
Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is an invaluable resource for archives, documents, and artifacts.

Massachusetts Historical Society Antislavery Resources
Antislavery images, the case for ending slavery, Massachusetts in the Civil War 1861-62, Boston Abolitionists 1831-65, African Americans and the end of slavery in Massachusetts, the long road to freedom.

African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Historical Society brings together historical manuscripts and rare published works that serve as a window upon the lives of African Americans in Massachusetts from the late seventeenth century through the abolition of slavery under the Massachusetts Constitution in the 1780s.

Slave Births: Monmouth County (NJ) Records
Birth records between 1804-1848 from the country records. Searchable database.

Cape Cod Archival Collections

The Provincetown History Preservation Project
Assessing and digitizing documents in the town’s care to create greater access to valuable and significant historical information and to ensure that important documents related to Provincetown’s history will be preserved for informational and research purposes today and in the future.

Sturgis Library Town and Local History Collection
Sturgis Library’s special collections include materials in the Kittredge Maritime Collections, the Lothrop Genealogy & Local History Collections, and archival collections of maritime, genealogical, and historical importance. The Walter E. Babbitt Research Collection (1745-1977) contains Babbitt’s research materials relating to Brewster Sea Captains.

Truro Historical Society
Dedicated to the history of Truro, Massachusetts and the greater Outer Cape, the Truro Historical Society, Highland House Museum, and Cobb Archive maintain rotating exhibits and community enrichment programs. The organization has voiced its commitment to racial justice and decolonial museum practices, and many of the Cobb Archive records have been digitized through Digital Commonwealth.

In the Media

Forgotten History: How The New England Colonists Embraced The Slave Trade
NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and author Wendy Warren June 21, 2016

How Profits from Opium Shaped 19th-Century Boston (Part I)
WBUR By Martha Bebinger  

As the Opium Trade Boomed in the 1800s, Boston Doctors Raised Addiction Concerns (Part II)
WBUR By Martha Bebinger  

MassMoments
Mass Moments is a daily almanac of Massachusetts history. Subscribe to receive an email of the moment of the day.

Historical Recovery Projects Beyond New England

Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California | ACLU NorCal
The public education campaign Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California seeks to uncover and investigate the often under-reported history of slavery and abuses against Indigenous communities in California. In addition to exposing these threads in California state history, Gold Chains works to highlight the resilient, tenacious individual voices of African Americans and Native Americans who sought justice and equality.