The McCormick Library holds a small collection of documents and correspondence pertaining to Africans and their descendents in the Americas in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery materials from Rhode Island, Cape of Good Hope, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia include correspondence on the slave trade and slave cargos, assignments on chain gangs, bills of sale, manumission papers, and wills with bequests regarding slaves. Free African Americans in Maine, Maryland, and Massachusetts are represented by letters providing character references, reports on schools and the African American religious community in Baltimore, and an indenture between a printer and a new apprentice.
Unique files in this collection include several documents and correspondence related to abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1817?-1895): a bill of sale for Frederick Bailey (aka Frederick Douglass) from Thomas Auld to Hugh Auld, letters from Douglass to members of the Auld family regarding his past with them, and letters from the Auld family and Helen Douglass to J.C. Shaffer regarding the sale of these materials. J.C. Shaffer, a Northwestern University patron, donated these materials to the university library.
West Indies materials include a holograph manuscript in French of copies of the documents made by M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Mery (1750-1819) on Haiti, known as Saint-Domingue. “Archives des Colonies” includes correspondence, proclamations, memoirs, notes for a “memoire sur les Negres”, and an annotated index to related materials in the Biblioteque Nationale.
For other colonial era African American materials held by the McCormick Library, see the French manuscript of prison memoirs from 1802 by Haitian revolutionary Pierre Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture (1743-1803) accompanied by a letter to General Rochambeau (West. Ms. 6). The transcripts of Charleston County, South Carolina records from 1719-1763 contain inventory lists of property including slaves, records of manumission, indentures, and apprenticeships, as well as proceedings in the court of common pleas (series CXIX). See also leases, indentures, trusts, and a marriage settlement written in the West Indies in the latter part of the 18th century; these documents also outline slave ownership and plantation life (Wakefield Collection Box G).