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.
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 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.
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.
Local & Regional Digital Humanities Projects & Collections
- 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.
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.
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.
Local & Regional Archival Collections
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.
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.
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.
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.
Teaching Hard History
Schools are not adequately teaching the history of American slavery, educators are not sufficiently prepared to teach it, textbooks do not have enough material about it, and—as a result—students lack a basic knowledge of the important role it played in shaping the United States and the impact it continues to have on race relations in America. From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program, Teaching Hard History offers a wealth of resources for K-12 educators, parents, and community leaders, including a phenomenal podcast hosted by Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries.
How Do You Teach Slavery?
From NPR’s 1A. Slavery played a major role in America’s development, but a new study shows students don’t know much about it. One recent textbook referred to enslaved people as ‘workers’ … which suggests some schools still struggle to teach this topic. It’s hard history, but is there an easy fix? And what’s at stake if it’s not figured out?
MassMoments Teacher Resources
Mass Moments resources consist of three units for high school, two for the upper elementary and middle-school level, and suggestions for third-grade classrooms, where Massachusetts history appears in the state frameworks for history and social science.
The Case for Ending Slavery
This website features more than fifty primary sources from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Library of Congress that reveal how slavery, and debates about slavery, contributed to the formation of the United States. Lesson plans for teachers; Teaching with Primary Sources Grant Program; Slavery in Massachusetts and New England; The End of Slavery in Massachusetts; Massachusetts and the Debate over 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.
African American History of Boston in a Tour and Timeline
An article written by educator Lillie Marshall with images from the Black Boston Tour, led by President and Historian of the North End Historical Society, Alex Goldfeld. Included is Alex’s 2012 Black History Timeline from the tour, which highlights significant moments in Boston’s Black history from the city’s founding in 1630 through 1870.
New England Colonies’ Use of Slavery
A National Geographic lesson plan with language tailored for grades from 3-12+ that focuses on Colonial New England’s role in the history of American slavery.
How Slavery Persisted in New England Until the 19th Century
History article which details the integral role enslavement played in the creation of New England communities and their economies. Written in the wake of Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island’s acknowledgment of the state’s slave trade involvement and plantations, the article explains how slavery evolved in New England starting with early local statutes and through the expansion of maritime trade.
Racial Slavery in the Americas: Resistance, Freedom, and Legacies
Racial Slavery in the Americas: Resistance, Freedom, and Legacies from The Choices Program at Brown University provides the opportunity for students to consider how the past shapes the present, providing a wide-ranging overview of racial slavery in the Americas over many centuries. It provides a broad and illustrative survey of the development of the colonial systems that led to the creation of racial slavery. The focus throughout is on how enslaved people experienced and resisted these systems of oppression and how the legacies of racial slavery have shaped our world today.
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.
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 •
‘It was not expected’ that MIT Founder Owned Slaves in 1850
Living Lab Radio, By Heather Goldstone & Elsa Partan • Feb 19, 2018
- First Slaves Arrive in Massachusetts
- Angelina Grimke Addresses Legislature
- Indians in Mashpee Demand Self-Government
- Black History @ MassMoments
- Maritime History @ MassMoments
- Native Americans @ MassMoments
Articles & General Resources