HIS 390 - Atlantic Slave Trade

last modified 2019-06-24T10:02:06-04:00

This guide will help to find a primary source for your research paper. The primary source you select should be written by someone connected to either:

  1. Slave trading (e.g. a slave born in Africa who experienced the passage to the Americas, a slave ship captain or trader or auctioneer or financier or ship-surgeon or abolitionist working to end international slave trading, etc.) or
  2. African slavery outside the United States (e.g. Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados, Peru, Europe, African coasts, etc.).

However, you CANNOT analyze a source that is about slavery solely within North America. There MUST be an international component to it. 

The following describes what you can find in this guide:

  • "Suggested Resources" will provide you good options for primary sources and in many cases have direct links to the documents or where they can be found.
  • "Digital Archives" has locations and search strategies for finding your own primary sources. If you choose your own primary sources, talk with Professor Harper about their appropriateness for the assignment.
  • "Secondary Resources" contains recommended databases for other research on the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Suggested Resources

Full-text Online Memoirs or Autobiographies

  1. Gronniosaw, James Albert Ukawsaw, 1712-1775. A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince. Ed. Walter Shirley. Bath: S. Hazzard, 1770. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/gronniosaw/menu.html
  2. Smith, Venture, 1729-1805. A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America. Related by Himself. New London, CT: C. Holt at The Bee-office,1798. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/venture/venture.html
  3. Brinch, Boyrereau, fl. 1758-1810. The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-named Jeffrey Brace. Containing an Account of the Kingdom of Pow-Woo, in the Interior of Africa; with the Climate and Natural Productions, Laws, and Customs Peculiar to That Place. With an Account of His Captivity, Sufferings, Sales, Travels, Emancipation, Conversion to the Christian Religion, Knowledge of the Scriptures, &c. Interspersed with Strictures on Slavery, Speculative Observations on the Qualities of Human Nature, with Quotation from Scripture. Ed. Benjamin F. Prentiss. St. Albans, VT: Harry Whitney, 1810. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/brinch/brinch.html
  4. Cugoano, Ottobah. Narrative of the Enslavement of Ottobah Cugoano, a Native of Africa; Published by Himself on the Year 1787 in "The Negro's Memorial; or, Abolitionist's Catechism; by an Abolitionist." by Thomas Fisher, 1781?-1836. London: The Author, 1825. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/cugoano/cugoano.html
  5. 2 short narratives could be analyzed together:
    T. H. Gallaudet (Thomas Hopkins), 1787-1851, A Statement with Regard to the Moorish Prince, Abduhl Rahhahman. New York: D. Fanshaw, 1828 http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/gallaudet/gallaudet.html 
    Omar ibn Said, b. 1770? and J. Franklin Jameson (John Franklin), 1859-1937, edited by Autobiography of Omar ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831. Ed. John Franklin Jameson. From The American Historical Review, 30, No. 4. (July 1925), 787-795. http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/omarsaid/omarsaid.html
  6. Robert Norris, d. 1791. Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee, King of Dahomy, an Inland Country of Guiney. To Which Are Added, the Author's Journey to Abomey, the Capital; and a Short Account of the African Slave Trade. London: Printed for W. Lowndes, 1789. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/norris/norris.html
  7. The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe. (London: W. Reeve, G. Woodfall, and J. Barnes, 1750) http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/royal/menu.html
  8. Biography of Mahommah G. Baquaqua, a Native of Zoogoo, in the Interior of Africa. (A Convert to Christianity,) Detroit: Geo. E. Pomeroy & Co., 1854. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/baquaqua/baquaqua.html
  9. John Newton (1725-1807), Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade http://dlxs.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=mayantislavery;cc=mayantislavery;q1=john%20newton;rgn=full%20text;idno=21874801;didno=21874801;view=image;seq=1;node=21874801%3A1
    Dick Bohrer and John Newton, John Newton, Letters of a Slave Trader (Chicago: Moody Press,1983).
  10. Thomas Bluett, Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, the Son of Solomon(London, 1734). http://books.google.com/books?id=kwJcAAAAQAAJ&dq=thomas%20bluett&pg=PA7#v=onepage&q&f=false
  11. Alexander Falconbridge, An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa(London, 1788).
  12. Falconbridge, Anna Maria. Narrative of two voyages to the River Sierra Leone during the years 1791-1792-1793. http://books.google.com/books?id=KfoRAAAAYAAJ&dq=falconbridge%20anna%20maria&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false
  13. Memoirs, of the late Captain Hugh Crow, of Liverpool: comprising a narrative of his life, together with descriptive sketches of the western coast of Africa (Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green, 1830) http://books.google.com/books?id=4kTRAAAAMAAJ&dq=hugh%20crow&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
  14. Equiano, Olaudah, b. 1745 (pseud. Gustavus Vassa). The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself. 2 Vol. London: Author, [1789]. Vol. 1 http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano1/menu.html and Vol. 2 http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano2/menu.html

Primary Sources or Collections of Sources in Tarver Library

These books can be found in the Mercer University Library catalog. There is a mix of both physical and electronic books available.

  1. Canot, Theodore, and Brantz Mayer. Adventures of an African Slaver : Being a True Account of the Life of Captain Theodore Canot, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea : His Own Story as Told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer. Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1942. HathiTrust & Library Location
  2. Grant, Douglas. The Fortunate Slave: An Illustration of African Slavery in the Early Eighteenth Century. London, New York [etc.] Oxford U.P, 1968. Library Location
  3. Curtin, Philip D. Africa Remembered; Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1967. Library Location
  4. Eltis, D. Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2010. eBook & Library Location
  5. Winter, Kari J., Benjamin F. Prentiss, eds. The Blind African Slave, Or, Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffery Brace. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. eBook
  6. Walvin, J. The Black Presence; a Documentary History of the Negro in England, 1555-1860. New York, Schocken Books, 1972. Library Location
  7. Mouser, Bruce L. (ed.). A Slaving Voyage to Africa and Jamaica: The Log of the Sandown, 1793-1794. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. eBook
  8. Behrendt, Stephen D., et al. The diary of Antera Duke, an eighteenth-century African slave trader. New York: Oxford University Press, with the assistance of the International African Institute, 2010. eBook & Library Location

Primary Sources Available through Interlibrary Loan

You can request these resources by filling out the online form found HERE.


  1. Allan D Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: a Sourcebook (New York: Garland Pub., 1984).
  2. R. W Beachey, A Collection of Documents on the Slave Trade of Eastern Africa (London: Collings, 1976).
  3. Robert Edgar Conrad, Children of God’s Fire: a Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983).
  4. Paiewonsky, Isidore. Eyewitness accounts of slavery in the Danish West Indies : also graphic tales of other slave happenings on ships and plantations. New York : Fordham University Press, 1989, c1987.
  5. E.H. Hair, Adam Jones and Robin Law (eds.), Barbot on Guinea : the writings of Jean Barbot on West Africa 1678-1712. London : Hakluyt Society, 1992.
  6. Dick Bohrer and John Newton, John Newton, letters of a slave trader (Chicago: Moody Press,, 1983).
  7. Philip Drake, Revelations of a slave smuggler: being the autobiography of Capt. Rich’d [i.e. Philip] Drake, an African trader for fifty years--from 1807 to 1857; during which period he was concerned in the transportation of half a million Blacks from African coasts to America. (Northbrook, Ill., Metro Books, 1972.: Metro Books,, 1972).
  8. Nicholas Owen and Eveline C. (Eveline Christiana) Martin, Journal of a slave-dealer : “a view of some remarkable axcedents in the life of Nics. Owen on the coast of Africa and America from the year 1746 to the year 1757” (London, G. Routledge, 1930.: G. Routledge,, 1930).
  9. Leonora Sansay, Michael J Drexler, and Leonora Sansay, Secret history, or, The horrors of St. Domingo; and, Laura (Peterborough, Ont. ;Orchard Park, NY: Broadview,, 2007).
  10. Hugh Crow, Bodleian Library, and John R Pinfold, The Memoirs of Captain Hugh Crow : the Life and Times of a Slave Trade Captain (Oxford: Bodleian Library,, 2007).
  11. Philip Drake, Revelations of a Slave Smuggler: Being the Autobiography of Capt. Rich’d [i.e. Philip] Drake, an African Trader for Fifty Years--from 1807 to 1857; During Which Period He Was Concerned in the Transportation of Half a Million Blacks from African Coasts to America. (Northbrook, Ill., Metro Books, 1972.: Metro Books,, 1972).
  12. Nicholas Owen and Eveline C. (Eveline Christiana) Martin, Journal of a Slave-dealer : “a View of Some Remarkable Axcedents in the Life of Nics. Owen on the Coast of Africa and America from the Year 1746 to the Year 1757” (London, G. Routledge, 1930.: G. Routledge,, 1930).
Digital Archives

Online Collection of Documents

These online collections contain sets of documents related to slavery and the slave trade. Some contain modern day transcriptions, while others contain scans of the original objects. While you might have to search these collections to find a document that interests you, simply browsing these collections can help you find primary sources for your research paper.

  1. The Medford Slave Trade Letters -- 1759-1765 (Medford Historical Society)
  2. Slavery & Abolition in the US: Select Publications of the 1800s (Dicksinon College)
  3. The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record (University of Virginia)
  4. Slave Movement During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (University of Wisconsin Libraries)
  5. Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice Repository of Historical Documents 
  6. Voyage of the Slave Ship Sally (Brown University) 
  7. In Motion: African American Migration Experience (Schomburg Center) 
  8. SHADD Collection (Harriet Tubman Institute, York) 
  9. Gilder Lehrman Center
  10. New York Historical Society, Manuscript Collections Relating to Slavery
  11. Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection (Cornell University)

Databases and Digital Libraries

All of these digital libraries will require you to do keyword searches to find their resources. While they are all different, they do have many similarities and typically, using the "Advanced Search" option will allow you to target your search to the subject and time period that you are looking for. Each resource below contains suggestions for how to do this effectively. 

  1. HathiTrust 
    This digital library contains millions of scanned books and documents. A good option for searching would be to do a "Subject" search for "Slave Trade" (you want to use the quotation marks in the search) and then setting "Year of Publication" to be "Before or During 1865." The search can then be narrowed down further by location, language, and format and by adding other keywords. 
  2. Digital Public Library of America 
    The DPLA combines digital resources form many participating institutions, so there will be overlap with some of these other digital archives. Searching the DPLA can be done effectively with simple keywords and then using the sidebar filters to narrow it down. One suggestion would be to select different organizations, as their collections are often centered on a specific theme.
  3. New York Public Library Digital Collections - Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division 
    The NYPL Digital Collections is a contributor to the DPLA, but their website is particularly useful for browsing their subject specific collections and some items and documents are not found in other platforms. They have many relevant international records, from books and magazines to letters and plantation records. 
  4. Library of Congress American Memory
    The LOC has a search function, but it will also be helpful to browse the "African American History" collections first and then search within the chosen collection for primary resources. 
  5. EuroDocs 
    Organized by country and by date with its interface as in intermediate step to going to relevant digital archives. This means that the search will only search descriptions about the links, but not the documents themselves. Consequently, you want to find a country that was involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade that you are interested in and then browse the links to find archives with relevant documents. Many non-English documents will be in their original languages.
  6. The European Library
    Aggregates documents and books from national libraries from all over Europe. The database functions much like a typical library search, but they do pull up results for objects and documents that you will not be able to access. For readable documents use the filter for "Access Online" for and on the individual items, click on the link for "Access Online" to view them.
  7. Europeana 
    Similar to The European Library, except that they have a larger set of contributors from European countries, meaning that they have a more diverse set of items in their database, from works of art and artifacts to books and manuscripts. As with similar international databases, non-English materials will not be translated.
  8. The National Archives (UK)
    This website has more than just online documents, meaning that a search will find many materials which will be unavailable. To narrow this down, click on the "Find Online Collections." Additionally, they have created a research guide for finding "British transatlantic slave trade records" which will be extremely helpful for identifying relevant resources. 
  9. Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano
    Contains digitized materials from national libraries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. While you can search in English, this will only produce a portion of available resources as most of the primary resources will be in Spanish or Portuguese.
Secondary Resources

 Academic Databases

  1. The Bibliography of Slavery and World Slaving — The Bibliography of Slavery is a searchable database containing verified references (except as noted) to approximately 25,000 scholarly works in all academic disciplines and in all western European languages on slavery and slaving, worldwide and throughout human history, including modern times.
  2. JSTOR — Provides access to complete back files of core journals in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. 
  3. Academic Search Complete (EBSCO) — Provides abstracts and indexing for over 3,800, as well as full text for over 3,200 scholarly journals and general magazines. This database also has a number o relevant sub-databases:
    • America: History and Life (EBSCO) — Contains journal citations on the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present. It includes indexing for 1700 English language historical journals, including selected local history journals. The database also includes citations to dissertations and book reviews in American and Canadian history.
    • Historical Abstracts (EBSCO) — Covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present, including world history, military history, women's history, history of education, and more - essential for libraries supporting upper-division and graduate research.
  4. Project MUSE (Standard Collection) — This is an interdisciplinary collection of high quality, peer reviewed journals extensively in the humanities and social sciences.
  5. WorldCat [books and publications owned by libraries worldwide] (FirstSearch) — The world's most comprehensive bibliography with bibliographic records representing information spanning 4,000 years of knowledge. It is the OCLC Online Union Catalog of information contributed by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) member libraries worldwide.