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AHMC of the Month: Peter, born of Lilly
May 11, 2016

This post was written by Julita Braxton, AHMC Cataloger. One collection within the American Historical Manuscript Collection (AHMC) is composed of four birth certificates for children born to enslaved mothers, following the passage of “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” in New York in July, 1799. This is a birth certificate for a…

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AHMC of the Month: Benjamin Smith affidavit of freedom
February 9, 2016

  This post was written by Matthew Murphy, Head of Cataloging and Metadata. One of the many interesting aspects of the American Historical Manuscript Collection is the opportunity for new research it provides. One such item that would benefit from a deeper investigation is the June 16, 1821, affidavit of freedom for Benjamin Smith. Little is…

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AHMC of the Month: Frederick Douglass letters, 1851-1894
October 14, 2015

This post was written by Matthew Murphy, Head of Cataloging and Metadata One of the jewels of our American Historical Manuscript Collection (which is a “collection of collections” consisting of 12,000 small and unique manuscript collections) is the Frederick Douglass letters, which consists of ten letters sent and received by Frederick Douglass between 1851 and 1894. In…

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Horatio Gates, Samuel Washington, and America’s Original Sin
July 28, 2015

This post was written by Julia Lipkins, Reference Archivist, Manuscript Department. Archival collections from the Revolutionary War period are thick with stories of soldiers and generals, their battles won and lost. Although less evident, collections of this era also contain documentation of what President Obama recently described as the “nation’s original sin,”[i] i.e. the institution of slavery….

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American emancipation or African colonization: Juneteenth, Paul Cuffe and “the society of people of colour”
June 17, 2015

This post was written by Julita Braxton, AHMC Cataloger. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after Lincoln granted freedom to all persons enslaved within rebellious states through the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, word finally reached Galveston, Texas. It was on this date that Union soldiers brought news that the war had…

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“Little Ethiopians:” 19th Century Photography of African Americans
February 4, 2015

To kick off Black History Month, here is a cabinet card that has fascinated me ever since I stumbled across it in our Portrait File. Titled “Little Ethiopians,” it’s a composite of 21 portraits of African-American babies. The cabinet card was issued by Smith’s Studio of Photography in Chicago, Illinois, and bears an 1881 copyright…

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Doris Ulmann’s Portraits: “The Marks of Living Intensely”
February 5, 2014

In honor of the death of Pete Seeger last week, this week’s blog will highlight the work of another champion of American folk music and crafts: the photographer Doris Ulmann (1882-1934). Like Seeger, Ulmann was born in Manhattan, and seemed an unlikely candidate to work in the rural South. The eldest daughter of a prosperous…

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Generations a Slave: Unlawful Bondage and Charles Carroll of Carrollton
January 15, 2014

This post was written by Julita Braxton, EBSCO Project Cataloger Challenges to the legality of bondage, shown in acclaimed director Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave—which won the Best Picture for Drama at the Golden Globes on Sunday night—are not without precedence, as evidenced by a document held in the manuscript collections of the…

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“A Real Santa:” the portrait photography of Theron W. Kilmer
December 24, 2013

Long before SantaCon, Theron W. Kilmer found — and photographed — “A Real Santa” in New York City. Although largely forgotten now, in his own time Theron W. Kilmer was aptly described as “an amazing person.”   He was a distinguished physician, an associate professor of pediatrics, a writer, a lecturer, an honorary police chief,…

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