University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

New Database: Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law

April 17, 2017

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of HeinOnline, we have access to a new database, Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law. This is a collection of primary source materials about slavery, including laws, legal cases, Congressional debates, historic books & pamphlets, and modern histories and law reviews. HeinOnline is offering this database for free so everyone will be able to learn from the collection. Paul Finkelman, Editor-in-Chief of the database, describes its contents in detail:

This HeinOnline collection brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. Our cases go into the 20th century, because long after slavery was ended, there were still court cases based on issues emanating from slavery. To give one example, as late as 1901 Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had to decide if a man, both of whose parents had been slaves, could be the legitimate heir of his father, because under southern law, slaves could never be legally married. The library has hundreds of pamphlets and books written about slavery—defending it, attacking it or simply analyzing it. We have gathered every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920, which includes many essays and articles in obscure, hard-to-find journals in the United States and elsewhere. We have provided more than a thousand pamphlets and books on slavery from the 19th century. We provide word searchable access to all Congressional debates from the Continental Congress to 1880. We have also included many modern histories of slavery. Within this library is a section containing all modern law review articles on the subject. This library will continue to grow, not only from new scholarship but also from historical material that we continue to locate and add to the collection.

Much of the non-legal material in this collection is based on the magnificent holdings of the Buffalo Public Library. Its rare book collection contains hundreds of nineteenth century pamphlets and books on slavery. The cooperation of that library and its staff helped make this project possible.

I end this introduction on a personal note. In 1974 I began a doctoral dissertation on slavery and law. I spend months sitting in the University of Chicago Law Library looking at volumes of printed reports, trying to find every slave case decided by a northern court (there were hundreds and hundreds of them). I searched for obscure statutes from the 18th and early 19th centuries. I looked for law review articles in such long-forgotten journals as the Monthly Law Reporter and the Western Legal Observer. If only Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law had existed then! I would still have had to read and analyze everything. I would have had to frame my search questions carefully. But my search for source materials would have taken months instead of nearly two years. With this library, future scholars can spend more time reading and analyzing the sources, and much less time looking for them.

We have added Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law to our database list and to some relevant Libguides, and we are working on integrating it into LEO Search and the Journals list.