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Standing outside a candy store, v2008.013.20. Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, v2008.013, Brooklyn Historical Society.

This guide is intended as an aid to researchers interested in archival material at Brooklyn Historical Society that relates to African-American history. Materials range from the slavery era (i.e., colonial period through the Civil War) to the post-Civil War period and through the twentieth century. Most materials concern the four Long Island counties (Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk), but other New York areas are also represented, as are other states. For the nineteenth century and earlier, documents commonly found in the guide are bills of sales of slaves; wills and estate inventories that include slaves; account books recording transactions with African-Americans; and journals, correspondence, local historian notes, reminiscences, and the like with references to African-Americans. In the twentieth century, collections of records from specific African-Americans or organizations closely associated with African-Americans can be found.

Although this guide is extensive and is expected to satisfy many research needs in this subject, researchers should be aware that this guide is not necessarily comprehensive. The guide includes only those archival materials that were identified as relevant and were documented over time by archivists in the course of their work. Further, this guide includes only those materials that hold an explicit reference to African-Americans. Materials that do not have such a reference, even if they are associated with African-American history, are not included on this guide; for example, collections of Civil War papers that do not explicitly refer to African-Americans are not included here. Accordingly, researchers may wish to review finding aids from collections not found on the guide to identify other materials potentially useful to their research. Access to the “finding aid portal” for such searches is available here.

The emphasis of this guide is on the text-based archival material within collections that are, generally, held uniquely by BHS. In addition to the archival material detailed in this guide, there are many other resources at BHS useful to research in African-American history. First, you can search BHS’s online catalog, Bobcat, for other relevant material such as books, maps, and other printed matter available in the library: The principal subject heading to search is African Americans. You can search on this heading alone or narrow your results by using African Americans with sub-headings such as biography, history, churches, economic conditions, social conditions, civil rights, etc. Among other related subject headings are Free African Americans, Slaves, Slavery, and Antislavery.

In Bobcat, you can also search by name of specific locations, either alone or with African American or other subject heading. Examples of locations include: New York, Brooklyn, Weeksville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Kings County, Suffolk County, and Long Island. You can also search by personal or corporate name. For example: Jackie Robinson, Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church (you do not need to search on an entire name to generate a result), and NAACP.

Brew Bar Cocktails, v2008.013.79. Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, v2008.013, Brooklyn Historical Society.

BHS has several resources that are useful for many areas of research, including African-American history. These include city directories*, historical newspapers*, US census records*, Brooklyn city council records, atlases, maps, and almanacs. (Resources with an asterisk are on microfilm or fiche.) These resources include references to African-American individuals, institutions, neighborhoods, businesses, etc. As just one example, an 1855 almanac, the Brooklyn City and Kings County Record, includes information about the city’s Colored Political Association, an organization formed to advocate for equal rights for African-Americans.

BHS also has a collection on microfiche of slavery/anti-slavery-related pamphlets and other material. A guide to the microfiche has been published: Henry Barnard, ed. Slavery, Part I: A Bibliography and Union List of the Microform Collection. (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America) 1980. The guide is available in the library. This microfiched collection includes many documents held in physical form by BHS. These BHS-held documents are known as the Slavery Pamphlet Collection. The contents are cataloged individually in Bobcat and can be found by keyword searches or searching on the common call number root “PAMP.”

From 1939-1942, 1961-1969, and 1973-1982, BHS (then known as the Long Island Historical Society) published a periodic journal, called the Long Island Historical Society Quarterly in 1939-42 and, in the later years, The Journal of Long Island History. The journals include articles on historical topics concerning Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties. Some of these articles relate to African-American history. A list in PDF form of the articles in the journals can be found here; use search term African-American in the document to find the relevant material. The journals themselves are available in the library.

Finally, in addition to text-based material, you can search a database in BHS’s library for images (e.g., photographs, postcards, etc.), objects, and other non-textual material. The key search term in this regard is African Americans (and variant forms, such as the singular African American and the hyphenated African-Americans). Personal, corporate, and neighborhood names can also be used as search terms.

The following archival collections are available by appointment for viewing in the library. To schedule an appointment or for further information about these collections, please contact the library via email at [email protected]

Collections are presented in this guide in rough chronological order according to the earliest date of the relevant documents within the collection. The first section of the guide includes collections with material from the colonial period to the Civil War. The second section includes material from the Civil War period to the present.

Each entry follows the format:

Collection name, date range of the collection
Call number
Extent in linear feet of collection.
Link to finding aid (more information about collection).
Brief description of content in the collection relevant to African-American history.

Section 1: Colonial Period to Civil War (1600s to 1860)

Henry C. Murphy collection, circa 1700-1880
Call number: 1973.207
1.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Includes Murphy’s research notes and draft writings, with his translations, extracts, and transcriptions of historical sources concerning the European exploration and colonization of America. Most of these have not been closely examined by the archival staff for African-American references, but two have been observed. These include a brief reference to trading slaves and merchandise between Brazil, New Netherlands, Angola, and Amsterdam (in Murphy’s extracts of Dutch New Netherland and West India Company records, 1644-1664; see page 4-5 of Volume 4 in box 3, folder 3) and the inclusion of “Francisco the Negro” on a list of Bushwick residents and, it appears, on a list of soldiers (in Murphy’s translation of Bushwick records, 1660-1664; see box 2, folder 8).

Town of Gravesend record transcriptions (1646-1670), 1942
Call number: 1977.308
3 items.
Link to finding aid.

Transcriptions of early town records of Gravesend (1646-1670) and a 100 page historical sketch of the town, with reference to a slave sale, prepared by Works Progress Administration researchers in 1942.

Mid-Atlantic Early Manuscripts collection, 1648-1867
Call number:  1974.002
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Division of slaves in estate of John Park Custis of Virginia, 1796 (folder 10); bill of sale, Dutchess County, 1766 (folder 16); will manumitting a slave, Oyster Bay, 1685 (folder 17).

J.W. Huntting copy of records of the First Church of Christ, Southold, Long Island (1694-1853), 1853
Call number: 1973.182
0.10 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Copy of the records, 1694-1853, of the First Church of Christ in Southold, Suffolk County, with references to slaves and freemen (including communions, baptisms, marriages, and deaths; e.g. pages 185, 201, 235, 241, 265, 362).

Henry Lloyd ledgers, 1703-1744
Call number: 1974.117
2.4 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Account books with references to African-Americans (Queens and Long Island).

Henry Onderdonk papers, circa 1729-1895
Call number: ARC.045
10 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Henry Onderdonk was a 19th century historian of Queens County, which included what is now Nassau County. Focused principally on Queens/Nassau, this collection includes Onderdonk’s manuscript writings; transcriptions and notes he took from private journals, church and local government records, and newspapers; correspondence regarding local history and genealogy; and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. These materials refer at various points to African-Americans. Among the manuscripts (series 1) are: transcription of Quaker John Bowne’s account book with entries for slave purchases and sales (e.g., pages 62, 88) and clothing for African-Americans (e.g., page 76); list of marriages and baptisms at Huntington and Hempstead that includes at least three African-American couples (1820, 1821, 1822); “Supplement to Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings County” which includes notices of rewards for runaways and notices of slave sales; a historical sketch of agriculture in Hempstead with references to slaves (pages 14, 29); “Long Island in Olden Times” with index referring to “negroes” and “slaves.” The correspondence (series 2) includes references to slavery in letter from E.B. O’Callaghan (in set 2.1, bound correspondence, item numbers 63, 106), Rachel Hicks (in set 2.2), and William Potts (in set 2.3). The Miscellaneous series (series 3) includes a doctor’s daybook with entries for services rendered to African-Americans (1729-1731). All seven of the scrapbooks have some material related to African-Americans but these are scattered throughout; among the items are runaway notices (Vol. 1), announcements of camp meetings (e.g., Vol. 4), annual beach parties (Vol. 6 and 7), various accounts of crimes, accidents or deaths, and other material.

Daniel M. Tredwell papers, 1876-1917
Call number: ARC.188
1.5 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Local historian’s manuscript concerning Long Island, including Brooklyn, with some references to free and enslaved African-Americans.

Northrup collection on Brooklyn history, 1908-1955
Call number: 1986.008
0.20 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Includes a history of Newtown with a list of local slaveowners, published in a local newspaper.

B. H. Huntington manuscripts, 1856, 1864
Call number: 1973.097
0.02 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Journal of folklore concerning East Hampton, including narrative of an African-American girl buried at the site of a church.

Isaac Cortelyou family notebook, 1698-1824
Call number: 1974.137
1.1 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

In Dutch. Page [22v] includes the draft of a letter deposing of a “servant Neagro” “belonging to Jacques Cortelyou “if he Can gitt” another “Master.” Page [53r] lists important events in the year 1708, including the murder of a Willem Hallet along with his wife and five children by their slaves. Also, there is a list of births in 1796-1811 which, in its use of first names only, possibly refers to slaves.

Hulst family papers, 1702-circa 1950
Call number: ARC.135
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Tax document listing slaves, New Utrecht, 1709; bill of sale for slave, Kings County, 1728.

Lefferts family papers, circa 1650s-1970s
Call number: ARC.145
14.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Many items related to slavery; see Box 1, Folders 1, 7, 8, 9; Box 2, Folders 2, 4, 5; Box 3, Folder 9; Box 4, Folder 5; and Box 5, Folders 38, 40. Collection includes property lists that include slaves; letters concerning African-Americans in Charleston (1820s); wills both transferring and manumitting slaves (1808 and others); bills of sale for slaves (either 1711 or 1751-1818); slavery-related newspaper articles (late 19th and early 20th centuries); account books and other financial records with slave transactions (as well as payments to possibly free black men for manual labor); and manuscript of Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt’s writings on early Flatbush: “The New York Riots of 1863,” “The Pancake Roof” (includes description of an enslaved woman, Diana), and “Slavery Among the Dutch”; manuscript “It Would be Difficult to Find…,” which describes a “shanty” in the author’s district where a black woman and her aged mother lived, along with a mention of the draft riots.

Richard Lawrence estate inventory, 1717
Call number: 1974.206
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Inventory with reference to slaves, Suffolk County, 1717.

Samuel Jackson will, 1728
Call number: 1977.548
0.01 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Will with reference to a slave, Hempstead, 1728.

John Montgomerie broadside, circa 1730
Call number: 1977.129
0.01 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Proclamation calling for charitable aid in response to a house fire in which three slaves, among others, were killed, East Hampton, 1729-1730.

Stoothoff family papers, circa 1642-1796
Call number: ARC.150
0.75 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Various papers of Flatlands family: 1782 bill of sale by Elias Hubbard to Peter W. Stoothoff (folder 17); Wilhelmus Stoothoff 1783 estate inventory including values of slaves (folder 25); Gerritt Stoothoff wills, 1728/9 and 1722, that include conveyances of slaves (folders 32, 33); Wilhelmus Stoothoff / B. Lefferts 1763 bill of sale for slave (folder 59); account book entries, 1731-32 (folder 95); account book entries, 1676-1714 (folders 114, 115).

Newtown record extracts, 1734-1759
Call number: 1977.303
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Newspaper clippings of extracts from Newtown records 1734-1759, some with references to African-Americans.

Harriet Stryker-Rodda typescript of Peter Wyckoff recollections, 1828-1958
Call number: 1973.258
0.02 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Typescript transcription of reminiscences of Peter Wyckoff of Bushwick (1828-1910) with references to slaves.

Middagh family papers, 1654-circa 1840
Call number: 1974.179
0.17 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale (Brooklyn, 1737) and a (draft?) will (Flatbush, 1727) referencing enslaved African-Americans. Also, an arrest warrant concerning the unlicensed sale of liquor and illegal sale to African-Americans (1751).

Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt collection, 1737-1818
Call number: 1974.168
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Quit claim which includes deed for slaves, Flatbush, 1737 (folder 1); receipts referencing goods purchased for and by African-Americans on John Van der Bilt’s account, Flatbush, 1805-1818 (folder 4); estate appraisal with values of slaves, Brooklyn, 1792 (folder 5); bills of sale for a slave, New York, 1783 and 1816 (folder 6, 8).

Andrew J. Provost collection of Bushwick, N.Y., family papers, 1709-1859
Call number: 1977.180
1.6 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Certified 1859 copy of a 1739 will (folder 1) and a 1767 will (folder 2), both referring to African-Americans, Bushwick.

American colonies deeds collection, circa 1600-1700s
Call number: 1974.039
0.50 linear feet

The Virginia folder includes legal documents, 1746-1770, regarding complaints/suits about debts, inheritances, etc., involving land and/or slaves.

Queens County, N.Y. slave bills of sale, 1751-1793
Call number: 1978.010
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Six bills of sale for slaves: New Lots, Newtown, Jamaica, New York.

Martense family papers, 1675-circa 1944
Call number: ARC.285
0.33 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Eight bills of sale for slaves in folder 18 (1752-1812), principally Flatbush. Two letters relating, in part, an incident concerning an African-American arrested for theft and his multiple escapes from custody, Flatbush (1838).

Helen Zunser Wortis collection, 1600-1976
Call number: 1977.351
0.52 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Historian’s notes and copies of documents concerning Long Island slavery. Includes copy of a 1755 census of slaves in various New York counties.

Mrs. Milan Hulbert collection of colonial British America and early United States of America papers, 1698-1846
Call number: ARC.278
2.6 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Correspondence concerning delivery of a slave from New York to Philadelphia, 1756.

Long Island Early Manuscript collection, 1659-1861
Call number: 1974.003
0.25 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Will (1789) and sale receipt (1758) in folder 12.

Brigantine Sivan bill of lading, 1759
Call number: 1977.447
0.05 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

A bill of lading for one slave to be delivered to the Port of Monto Cristo by Captain John Waddell, Jr. leaving from New York.

Stryker-Rodda Southern history collection, 1710-1865
Call number: 1985.076
0.80 linear feet

A bill of sale, two deeds, and a will from Georgia & Virginia in folders 2 and 5 (1761-1836).

Pelletreau family papers, circa 1662-1921
Call number: ARC.142
1.0 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Papers of Southampton, Long Island family. Slave bill of sale, 1767; wills; account book of Southampton silversmith with references to African-Americans, 1766-1775.

Hubbard family papers, 1770-1864
Call number: 1974.044
0.80 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bills of slave sales (folders 6, 9, 11): Flatlands, 1811; New Utrecht, 1794; Somerset County, NJ, 1770; will granting slaves (folder 12): Flatlands (?), undated; will referring to manumission of slaves (folder 13): Monmouth County, NJ, 1840.

Gamaliel King account book, 1775-1786
Call number: 1977.089
0.10 linear feet

Account book with references to African-Americans, Philadelphia.

Charles A. Ditmas collection, 1687-circa 1935
Call number: ARC.196
0.42 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Local historian’s manuscript “Church and State in Flatlands, 1783-1843” with references to the extension and maintenance of an African burial ground, 1829-36.

Remsen and Schenk family papers, 1698-1837
Call number: 1985.017
0.30 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Three wills referring to slaves, Brooklyn 1785 and 1794 (folder 1) and one unspecified (folder 2).

Terhune and Wyckoff families papers, 1747-1932
Call number: ARC.279
0.8 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale for slave, Flatlands/Gravesend, 1794, and receipt for sale, 1798 (folder 1); will, Gravesend, 1797 (folder 2); receipt for sale, New Utrecht, 1812 (folder 4).

Conkling family papers, 1782-1798
Call number: ARC.284
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Account book with reference to African-Americans, Southold, Suffolk County (1784-1797).

Kings County census of 1786
Call number: 1981.012
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Contains information regarding the number of families, males and females in various age groups, number of male and female slaves, and total number of white persons and slaves in Kings County. The data is also broken down by various townships. Compiled by Peter Vandervoort, Sheriff.

Peter Lowe correspondence, 1782-1818
Call number: 1974.008
0.20 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

This collection of correspondence of the pastor of the Dutch Church of Flatbush includes an unsent 1788 letter in which Lowe lays out the church members’ objection to admitting African-Americans and his answers to those objections (in folder “Unidentified”).

Nicholas Cowenhoven papers, circa 1775-circa 1805
Call number: ARC.283
0.33 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Receipt for sale of slave, 1792 (unspecified place).

Mixed manuscript collection, 1666-1889
Call number: 1974.037
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale for slave, 1793.

Teunis G. Bergen collection of Van Brunt family genealogy papers, 1716-1881
Call number: 1978.157
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Documentation of sales of slaves, New Utrecht, 1794-1819

Anita Lott Cruikshank collection of Kings County, N.Y., family papers, circa 1677-1892
Call number: ARC.281
2.4 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Estate sale of slaves (Jacobus Lott, 1759); two bills of sale for slaves: to Van Brunt Magaw of Gravesend (1796) and to Jeremiah Lott of Flatbush (1806); sale of land in Flatlands to an African-American (1827); correspondence from E. Croswell in Albany to John A. Lott concerning slavery in the territories (1849).

Ditmas family papers, 1647-1900
Call number: 1986.054
1.34 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bills of sale for slaves, Flatbush, 1798 and 1816.

John R. Couwenhoven papers, 1783-1820
Call number: 1973.167
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The papers include an account book listing monetary transactions for goods and services dated 1783 to 1789, which includes an entry crediting an African-American’s labor as settlement against goods bought. The account book and other papers also include the records of the sale of Couwenhoven’s estate, including the sale at auction of five enslaved African-Americans (Brooklyn, 1798).

Augustus Griffin papers, 1792-1902
Call number: ARC.198
0.42 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Journal (1792-1843) of Southold, Suffolk County resident with references to African-Americans, including a free African-American’s purchase of a relative’s freedom.

Frederick and Hetty Marquand scrapbook, 1761-1882
Call number: 1977.219
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Scrapbook of Brooklyn residents with bill of sale for slave, Fairfield, Conn/Bergen County, 1799.

Susannah Bassett Book of Common Prayer, circa 1800
Call number: 1974.108
0.30 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Family Book of Common Prayer with record of five slave births, 1799-1808.

Queens County Court of General Sessions of the Peace record, 1799
Call number: 1977.106
0.10 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Decision concerning slave manumission, North Hempstead.

Conover and Cowenhoven family papers, 1801-1831
Call number: 1974.141
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bond for sale of a slave, 1801 or 1808; bill of sale for a slave, 1826.

Joseph Sprague papers, 1810-1842
Call number: ARC.099
0.02 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale for slave, Bushwick/Brooklyn, 1802.

Robert Doty deeds, 1803, 1805
Call number: ARC.221
0.03 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Three land deeds, dated 1803 and 1805, between Robert Doty, an African American of Jericho in the town of Oyster Bay, Queens County, and George and Jeremiah Tappin, also of Oyster Bay.

Nehemiah Denton papers, 1785-1844
Call number: 1977.171
0.5 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale for slave, Brooklyn/Gowanus, 1808 (folder 7).

Autograph manuscript collection, 1656-1868
Call number: ARC.206
0.30 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Thomas Jefferson correspondence concerning imprisonment of a slave trader.

Brower v. Miller court decision, 1811
Call number: 1977.617
0.06 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Court decision concerning daughter indentured by enslaved father, New York, 1811.

Bennet and Ryder families collection, 1670-2006
Call number: ARC.001
2.5 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Includes an 1812 indenture of a 10-year old African-American in Brooklyn.

William F. Wyckoff papers, circa 1735-1942
Call number: 1978.002
3.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Wills and estate inventories referring to African-Americans: Jamaica, Queens (circa 1770, 1809), including one granting freedom to the enslaved (1746), New Lotts (1782), and Flatbush (1814); slave sale documents, Flatbush (1779, 1781, 1806, 1813, 1814); authorization for support payments to a free African-American, Flatbush (1807); invoice for doctor’s treatment of an African-American (1777) and other miscellaneous references (all in Eldert folder).

Merchant account book, 1813-1815
Call number: 1973.300
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Unidentified merchant’s account book with some transactions with at least one African-American, Huntington, L.I

Seaman family papers, 1752-1838
Call number: 1974.005
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale for an enslaved African-American and the agreement in which the owner set out his conditions for granting eventual manumission, New York, 1815.

Rutgert A. Van Brunt estate papers, 1788-1830
Call number: 1978.156
0.1 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The documents include the probated last will and testament of Van Brunt (1818) and an inventory of the estate, which included enslaved African-Americans

Battle of Long Island, Maryland soldiers memorial collection, 1869-1957
Call number: 1973.232
0.04 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Correspondence of 1869 includes a recollection from childhood of an African-American burial ground near Third Avenue, Brooklyn.

John and Garret S. Baxter papers, 1790-1836
Call number: ARC.257
2.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Journals with references to slavery in Flatlands. (Access to the documents in this collection is restricted because they are in exceptionally fragile condition. Researchers are requested to use the typescript transcriptions available in the library.)

Brooklyn certificate collection, 1809-1962
Call number: 1977.307
3.31 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Slave sale receipt from Virginia.

John Ditmars and Jacob Duryee slave bill of sale, 1825
Call number: 1977.583
0.01 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Bill of sale for slave, Flatbush, 1825.

Flatlands Overseers of the Poor account book, 1807-1831
Call number: 2005.001
0.04 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Receipts and expenditures of poor fund, 1807-1831, includes some entries for payments on behalf of African-Americans, 1829-30.

Art and Artifacts Collection
4 flat boxes of individual documents. Available via object database in the library.

Bill of sale for slave, Albany, 1763 (item M1975.1138). Anti-Andrew Jackson broadside, directed especially to Quakers, with reference to, among other things, Jackson’s slave holdings, Queens County. (item M1975.837). Playbill for a play based on the Battle of Long Island, with an African-American servant among the cast (item M1975,1114). Runaway ad in newspaper “The Corrector” of Sag Harbor, 1825 (M1975.1391). Recruitment poster for 20th Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops (item M1975.387).

St. Peter’s Church certificates of incorporation, 1832
Call number: 1974.150
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Articles of incorporation of African-American Episcopal church, Brooklyn, 1832.

Gabriel Furman papers, 1725-1913
Call number: ARC.190
2.8 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Journals of a Brooklyn resident with references to free and enslaved African-Americans, slavery, and to Henry Ward Beecher’s sermons concerning abolition. Furman letter book includes reference to an African Society seeking a charter from the New York state legislature (1824).

John C. Bergen papers, 1827-1894
Call number: 1974.114
1 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Diary of farmer with references to African-American farmhand, Flatlands, circa 1840s-1850s.

Landon Family papers, 1665-1864
Call number: 1977.025
2.5 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

This collection includes the papers of two lawyers/ judges from Cutchogue (Southold, Suffolk County). References to African-Americans appear throughout the collection, including in account books, wills, estate debtor records, as members of Cutchogue’s religious society, and records of court cases. Also included are articles of incorporation of the Suffolk County Anti-Slavery Society.

Town of Southampton School District No. 11 proceedings and census records, 1819-1862
Call number: 1977.063
0.19 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Some of the periodic district censuses include reference to African-American children.

North Hempstead tax assessment roll, 1846
Call number: 1973.107
0.02 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The roll includes lists of non-residents and resident African Americans.

Colonization Society of the State of New-York membership certificate to A. Hamilton Bishop, 1849
Call number: 1985.029
1 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Certificate recognizing the donation and life membership of Rev. A. Hamilton Bishop of the Reformed Dutch Church, Astoria.

Jack Harris letter to Robert Haviland, 1850
Call number: 1974.253
0.01 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Letter from slave in Georgia to his owner in New York seeking to buy his freedom, 1850.

Francis V. Morrell’s Recollections of Old Williamsburgh, 1915
Call number: 1973.084
0.10 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Recollections of circa 1850s Williamsburgh with reference to specific African-Americans.

Brooklyn correspondence and miscellaneous documents collection, 1757-1968
Call number: 1977.321
0.35 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Pass from Brooklyn Navy Yard commandant for transport to a steamer in North Carolina that includes an African-American intended as a servant to that steamer’s commander, 1862 (Dawson folder); correspondence from Newton, Mass to Joseph Sprague, former mayor of Brooklyn, with political commentary, including on slavery, 1850 (Sprague folder).

Brooklyn Brush Manufacturing Association articles of incorporation, 1855
Call number: 1978.191
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Rules for Association of African-American owned business, Brooklyn, 1855.

Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims and Henry Ward Beecher Collection, 1847-1980
Call number: ARC.212
28 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The collection includes much material on Beecher, the abolitionist preacher, and his Brooklyn church, including hate mail directed at Beecher and documentation of his staged auction of Sally Maria Diggs (“Pinky,” who took the name Rose Ward, later Rose Ward Hunt). The collection includes documentation of Hunt’s 1927 visit to Plymouth Church, including a brief audio cylinder recording of her greetings to the Plymouth congregation (available in the library on CD). Other items include an 1819 tax return of Charlotte Collins of Charleston, South Carolina reporting slaves as taxable property and an 1895 reminiscence of Beecher from Irene H. Ovington referring to the Underground Railroad (Series 1, Section 10, Box 14)..

Henry F. Minton scrapbook, 1847-1887
Call number: 1977.271
0.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Scrapbook concerning Henry Ward Beecher and Plymouth Church.

Joseph Arthur Burr, Jr. composition book, 1860-1866
Call number: 1973.108
0.08 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Composition book with brief reference to African-American children attending a school event, Williamsburg, 1860.

Henry J. Van Dyke sermon, 1860-1861
Call number: 2005.010
1 item.
Link to finding aid.

1860 pro-slavery sermon of Rev. Henry J. Van Dyke, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, entitled “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism.”

Henry Reed Stiles papers, circa 1855-1884
Call number: ARC.218
0.13 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Correspondence concerning “Public Schools for Colored Children” from William J. Wilson, principal of Brooklyn’s Colored School 1, to Stiles.

Edwin Warriner papers and photographs, 1790-1958
Call number: 1977.255
6.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Notes on Long Island’s Methodist Episcopal churches, including those of African-Americans.

Section 2: Civil War to Present

C. B. Nichols scrapbooks, circa 1860 to 1896
Call number: 1974.134
2.4 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The collection includes five scrapbooks of Civil War era artifacts, including a “Colored men to arms!” recruitment handbill in volume 2.

Union Army Light Artillery, 5th New York Independent Battery records, 1861-1865
Call number: 1978.008
3 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The Union Army Light Artillery, 5th New York Independent Battery records consist mainly of muster rolls listing the names and activities of soldiers in the Battery throughout the period 1861 to 1865. The October 1863 muster documents the presence in camp of African-Americans as servants to the battery’s officers.

First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn records, 1790-1970s
Call number: ARC.109
50.5  linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Trustee minutes/reports of 1865-1966 refer to the congregation’s donations to the Freedmen’s Association. The collection also includes the records of Second Unitarian Church, which was led in the 1850s to 1860 by anti-slavery minister Samuel Longfellow; the collection includes at least one of his anti-slavery sermons and correspondence from a congregant declining to renew his pew rental because of Longfellow’s stance.

Secor, Flint, and Cousins families papers, 1840-1971
Call number: ARC.192
1 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Pass for a family, with an African-American, to proceed from New Orleans to New York, 1862.

Lefferts family papers, circa 1650s-1970s
Call number: ARC.145
14.25 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Includes manuscript of Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt’s on “The New York Riots of 1863,” and “It Would be Difficult to Find…,” which describes a “shanty” in the author’s district where a black woman and her aged mother lived, along with a mention of the draft riots. (This collection also includes many items related to slavery; see reference to the collection in Section 1 above.)

Emancipation Proclamation, Leland-Boker Authorized Edition, 1864
Call number: M1986.257
1 item, available via object database in the library.

Folio broadside of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and John G. Nicolay, Private Secretary to the President. One from an edition of 48, it was offered for sale as a souvenir at the Great Central Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, June 1864.

Collection of Brooklyn, N.Y., Civil War relief associations records, ephemera and other material, circa 1798 to 1964
Call number: ARC.245
4 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Series 5 of the collection includes information concerning the Brooklyn bureau of the American Freedmen’s Friend Society, led by prominent African-Americans including James N. Gloucester and William J. Wilson.

Civil War collection, 1804-1865
Call number: 1977.200
0.63 linear foot.
Link to finding aid.

Includes broadsides and other print matter related to the Colored Regiments, the National Freedmen’s Relief Association, and the American Freedmen’s Friend Society (New York).

Brooklyn ephemera collection, 1814-1998
Call number: ARC.272
Series 10, Miscellaneous.
Link to finding aid.

Includes one folder of material related to African-Americans that holds a circa 1865 handbill for the American Freedmen’s Friend Society of Brooklyn (James N. Gloucester, President).

Autograph manuscript collection, 1700-1945
Call number: ARC 206
1.5 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Pass for agent of National Freedmen’s Relief Association to Norfolk, Charleston and Savannah, 1865.

Conklin and Bedell families papers, 1839-1917
Call number: 2005.021
1.0 linear foot
Link to finding aid.

Correspondence (1865) from a soldier in the 173rd Regiment, New York Volunteers, based in Georgia, expressing objections to attempts to grant suffrage to African-Americans.

Alden Spooner family papers, 1810-1867
Call number: ARC.098
0.71 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Ballot from Georgetown, Virginia with correspondence presenting it as having been cast by an African-American in the first election held under universal suffrage, 1867.

Kings County Commission for Collecting Evidence of Fraud and Outrages affidavit book, 1871
Call number: 1977.019
0.18 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Testimony concerning electoral fraud committed by Democrats against Republicans, including African-Americans.

Francis Skillman papers, 1769-1896
Call number: ARC.280
2.8 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The collection includes a journal maintained by Skillman, which is principally a record of farmhands and household help, with occasional other entries, 1853-1896. At least one of the farmhands, from 1873-1878, was African-American.

Charles E. Scriven collection on Brooklyn history, circa 1875-1914
Call number: 1973.254
0.84 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Materials compiled by an early 20th century local historian relate to Flatbush generally, with some reference to African-Americans, including transcription of an article from the “Rural” concerning an investigation into an 1872 murder of an African-American.

Epher Whitaker papers, 1864-1900
Call number: ARC.286
0.13 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Recollections concerning African-American preachers at the Presbyterian Church of Southold, Long Island, in the late 19th century.

Brooklyn Republican Party scrapbook, 1881-1883
Call number: 1977.077
0.42 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Scrapbook with First Ward voter registry, including African-American voters.

J.R. and Orrin Dayton papers, 1867-1902
Call number: ARC.240
0.04 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Note with reference to African-Americans in connection with a vote taken on naming the town of Speonk (Southampton, Long Island), circa 1890s.

Charles H. Hall letter of invitation from the American Colonization Society, 1886
Call number: 1978.097
0.01 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Letter requesting Reverend Hall of Brooklyn to speak at the 70th meeting of the American Colonization Society, Washington, D.C., 1886.

New York State 1892 Census returns for Brooklyn’s 15th election district, 1892
Call number: 1973.231
0.02 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Brooklyn election district enumerator’s blotters with demographic data, including “color.”

Brooklyn charitable organizations for the aged publications, 1883-1948
Call number: 1985.105
0.2 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Includes annual reports (1892-1897, 1916) for the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People.

Brooklyn charitable organizations for children publications, 1871-1968
Call number: 1985.106
0.8 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Annual reports (1906-1913) for the Brooklyn Howard Colored Orphan Asylum.

Brooklyn Armstrong Association and Brooklyn Hampton Association records, 1906-1943
Call number: 1981.001
0.33 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

The collection contains records of the Brooklyn organization devoted to promoting African-American and Native American education and the Hampton Institute. The collection includes minutes, 1906-1944; correspondence; and scrapbooks containing flyers, clippings, brochures, and circulars.

Brooklyn Historical Pageant records, 1914-1915
Call number: 1977.143
0.20 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Performances including depictions of African-Americans, and the pageant benefited Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, among other organizations.

Gates Avenue Association records, 1922-1944
Call number: 1977.177
0.05 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Records of the organization concerned, in part, with movement of African-Americans into the neighborhood.

Richetta Randolph Wallace papers, 1906-1971
Call number: 1978.137
3 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

The collection consists of the personal and business papers of Richetta Randolph Wallace (1884-circa 1971), an African-American woman having a longstanding engagement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem (New York City), African-American literary and arts culture, and matters of race relations, racial justice and civil rights. Documents include correspondence, pamphlets and other published print matter, event programs and other ephemera, photographs, receipts, manuscripts, and newspaper clippings.

Charles Henry Wenman papers, 1832-1951
Call number: ARC.104
8.5 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Correspondence in Series 4, Sub-series 2 illuminates the transformation of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with the arrival of new ethnic groups, particularly European immigrants and African Americans.

Methodist Churches of Brooklyn collection, 1856-1978
Call number:  1986.027
0.73 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

Includes programs for services (circa 1950s) from Bridge Street African Wesleyan (Methodist) Church and the tenth anniversary program (1952) for First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Baptist Churches of Brooklyn publications and ephemera, 1840-1957
Call number: 1986.013
0.42 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Includes two programs (1957, 1977) from the Concord Baptist Church of Christ.

John Howard Melish, William Howard Melish and Protestant Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity collection, 1904-1985
Call number: ARC.050
8.0 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Reel-to-reel audio tapes of a memorial service held in Ghana in 1963 for W. E. B. Du Bois at which William Howard Melish spoke, a transcript of Melish’s remarks concerning Du Bois (possibly those delivered in Ghana), and Melish’s 1960 remarks concerning civil rights activism in the South. A digital version of the tapes can be listened to in the library.

Mary DeSaussure Sobers papers, 1945-2002
Call number: 2005.053
0.42 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Materials concerning the track career of an African-American athlete from Brooklyn who later became coach and adviser to the Queens Trailblazers Track Club.

Arnold Goldwag / Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) collection, 1943-2007
Call number: ARC.002
13.75 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Collection consists principally of the subject files concerning 1960s civil rights activism maintained by Arnie Goldwag, an officer of Brooklyn CORE during the first half of the 1960s. These files include correspondence, newsletters, event announcements (e.g., fliers), directions for demonstrators, photographs, press releases, clippings, and other documents related to many of the actions conducted by Brooklyn CORE, particularly for the period 1961-1965. Actions represented in the collection include those protesting discrimination in employment, housing, schools, and the like, including the controversial initiative to block traffic in connection with the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair. The collection also includes reminiscences by Goldwag and other CORE members looking back from the 1990s and 2000s.

Amote Sias papers, 1945-1993
Call number: 2008.017
3 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

Papers of Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens) African-American activist. The majority of the collection focuses on the political environment in Brooklyn from the mid 1970s and 1980s through newspapers, magazines and other publications. The collection is rich with programs, bulletins and manuals from Sias’s involvement in various political organizations focusing on social justice, women’s rights and Black Nationalism. The collection also documents Sias’s political campaign for a seat on the New York City Council in 1989 and her involvement in the Committee to Elect Jesse Jackson for President.

Eastern Parkway Coalition records, circa 1965-2000
Call number: 2007.016
12.5 linear feet.
Link to finding aid.

These records are primarily composed of subject files, which document many issues which affected the Crown Heights and Prospect Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn. These issues include community gardens, housing/tenant rights, mass transit, summer youth programs, drug abuse, environmentalism, mental health, public parks, and urban renewal.

Brooklyn ephemera collection, 1814-1998
Call number: ARC.272
Series 10, Miscellaneous
Link to finding aid.

Includes one folder of material related to African-Americans, principally programs and other like material from 1970s-1990s arts and other cultural programs. Includes a booklet, “An Introduction to the History of Black Physicians, Dentists, and Pharmacists in Brooklyn, 1850-1985,” by Irma Watkins-Owen, produced by the Provident Clinical Society.

West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records, 1993-1996
Call number: 2010.019
5.0 linear feet
Link to finding aid.

The collection includes photographs and other material related to Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade/Carnival.

Crown Heights Oral History – Bridging Eastern Parkway, 1993-1994
Call number: 1994.006
24 interviews.
Link to oral history portal, link to finding aid.

In 1993-1994, the Brooklyn Historical Society collected interviews with residents of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Thirty-three interviews were conducted by Craig Wilder, Jill Vexler, and Aviva Segall. The subtitle, Bridging Eastern Parkway, refers to racial tensions expressed during the 1991 Crown Heights riots. Narrators are of African American, Caribbean, Jewish, Polish, and Russian descent and include members of the Lubavitch community. Transcripts of 24 interviews from this collection may be read in the library. Recordings are not currently available to researchers.

Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Oral History, 2007-2008
Call number: 2008.030
56 interviews.
Link to oral history portal, link to finding aid.

Brooklyn Historical Society and Restoration partnered on the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Oral History project in 2007-2008 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Restoration’s founding as the first community development corporation (CDC) in the United States. 56 interviews were conducted with founding Board members, supporters, activists, artists, tenants, and other community members. Many of the interviewees were involved with Weeksville and Ocean Hill-Brownsville, and civil rights, black power, and other African-American movements. There are no transcripts of the interviews, but recordings of the interviews can be heard in the BHS library.

Crown Heights Oral History – Listen To This, 2010
Call number: 2010.020
43 interviews.
Link to oral history portal, link to finding aid.

This collection of 43 oral history interviews with Crown Heights residents was donated to the Brooklyn Historical Society by project director Alex Kelly. The interviews were conducted in 2010 with the help of the Crow Hill Community Association and five students from Paul Robeson High School who came to the project through the Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP). Recordings of these interviews and an accompanying guide are available in the library.


This guide was developed, in part, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program. The guide was initially compiled in September 2010 by Project Archivist Larry Weimer in connection with In Pursuit of Freedom, a multi-faceted project memorializing the history of abolitionism, anti-slavery and the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn. In Pursuit of Freedom is a partnership among three Brooklyn cultural institutions: Brooklyn Historical Society, Irondale Ensemble Project, and Weeksville Heritage Center. Since the initial compilation, updates to the guide have been made, and will continue to be made, from time to time by BHS archivists. Much of the material related to slavery was identified and originally compiled by archivist Leilani Dawson in 2005-2008.