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African American Digital Archives

The purpose of this guide is to recommend electronic digital collections for researching African American history.

Massachusetts (MA)

Long Road To Justice: The African American Experience in the Massachusetts Courts

African Americans have sought racial justice in the Massachusetts courts. In examining this history, we see that victories have been won only through perseverance, courage and the willingness—often with blacks and whites joining forces—to take substantial risks. For African Americans in Massachusetts, the road to justice has been marked by high drama, agonizing frustration, great success, and tragic disappointment. Subjects include slavery in the courts, education in the courts, and participation in the court system in Massachusetts. 

Slaves and Courts

Slaves and the Courts

Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860, consists of 105 library items, totaling approximately 8,700 pages. The items are drawn principally from the Law Library and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, with a few from the General Collections. The selection was guided in large part by the entries in Slavery in the Courtroom: An Annotated Bibliography of American Cases by Paul Finkelman (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1985), which was based on research in the Library collections.

The documents comprise an assortment of trials and cases, reports, arguments, accounts, examinations of cases and decisions, proceedings, journals, a letter, and other works of historical importance. Most of the items date from the nineteenth century and include materials associated with the Dred Scott case and the abolitionist activities of John Brown, John Quincy Adams, and William Lloyd Garrison. Eighteenth-century cases include Somerset v. Stewart, decided in England a few years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which "underscored the great tension created by slavery in Anglo-American law.