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History of Slavery and Antislavery: Finding Primary Sources

Slavery-Antislavery Database

General Document Websites

The Library subscribes to several databases of primary source documents including historical newspapers, letters and diaries, and images. Additionally, many libraries, museums, and educational institutions provide free access to the historical materials included in their collections. The links on this page are only a small selection of what is available.


Key antislavery newspapers (available in microfilm through Interlibrary Loan)
Source:  Tim Sheehan,  Antislavery in the United States 1776-1865:A Pathfinder,    
Check availability through WorldCat


  • Anti-Slavery Bugle (New Lisbon, OH) 1845-1861.
The Western Anti-Slavery Society published this newspaper.
  • Douglass’ Monthly (Rochester, NY) 1859-1863.
A monthly paper by Frederick Douglas.
  • Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, NY) 1851-1860.
Frederick Douglass changed the North Star to this name in 1851.
  • Genius of Universal Emancipation (Mount Pleasant, OH; Greenville, TN; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD) 1821-1830.
Benjamin Lundy’s antislavery newspaper in which William Lloyd Garrison served as assistant editor from 1829-1830 in Baltimore.
  • The Liberator (Boston, MA) 1831-1865.
The infamous newspaper started by William Lloyd Garrison to persuade the public to oppose slavery.
  • National Anti-Slavery Standard (New York, NY) 1840-1870.
This paper is billed as the official organ of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
  • National Enquirer, and Constitutional Advocate of Universal Liberty (New York, NY) 1836-1838.
Benjamin Lundy published this paper for the Eastern District Executive Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Freeman continues the title.
  • North Star (Rochester, NY) 1847-1851.
The first paper started by Frederick Douglass to give himself a separate voice from the Garrisonians.
  • Pennsylvania Freeman (Philadelphia, PA) 1838-1854.
The Eastern District Executive Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society of Pennsylvania published this newspaper.

Early American Newspapers, 1690-1876 (REQUIRES AUTHENTICATION): Cover-to-cover reproductions of hundreds of historic newspapers. Provides more than one million pages as fully text-searchable facsimile images. For students and scholars of early America, this unique collection is based largely on Clarence Brigham's "History and Bibliography of American Newspapers,1690-1820."

Historical New York Times (REQUIRES AUTHENTICATION): If you want to find newspaper coverage of world events, this database includes every issue of the New York Times dating back to 1851.

Rare Books

Early American Imprints, Series 1, 1639-1800 (Evans): Full-text and full-image of works printed in America from 1639-1800. Provides information about every aspect of life in 17th and 18th Century America. Evans Digital Edition is based on the renowned American Bibliography by Charles Evans and enhanced by Roger Bristol's Supplement to Evans' American Bibliography, the collection was first published by Readex in cooperation with the American Antiquarian Society (AAS). Early American Imprints is a foundation set for research involving early American history, literature, philosophy, religion, and more. Series I. Evans is the definitive resource for information about every aspect of life in 17th- and 18th-century America, from agriculture and auctions through foreign affairs, diplomacy, literature, music, religion, the Revolutionary War, temperance, witchcraft, and just about any other topic imaginable.

Early American Imprints, Series 2, 1801-1819 (Shaw-Shoemaker): Full-text and full-image of works printed in America from 1801-1819. Provides access to the 36,000 American books, pamphlets and broadsides published in the first nineteen years of the nineteenth century. Shaw-Shoemaker is based on the renowned bibliography by Ralph B. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker and supplemented by thousands of new items. Offers fully searchable text and a browse feature with topical indexes.

Contemporary Periodicals

American Periodical Series : Contains over 1,100 periodicals that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines, and many other historically-significant periodicals.

Making of America: A digital library of primary sources in American social history. The scope includes the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The collection currently contains approximately 8,500 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints. The Making of America is a project of the University of Michigan.

Nineteenth Century Masterfile (REQUIRES AUTHENTICATION): General index to 19th Century periodical literature. Includes the following indexes: Poole's Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1906), Index to Legal Periodical Literature (Jones and Chipman)(1786-1922, Catalogue of Scientific Papers, Richardson's Index to Periodicals on Religion (1890-1899), Stead's (1890-1906), and the Psychological Index (1894-1905).