Tuesday 30 July 2013

Reading list for AMER30021 American Slavery

Summer Reading for AMER 30021: American Slavery


Any American history text book will have a chapter on slavery and southern society in the antebellum era – which will act as a useful and accessible guide to this module as a whole and introduce you to the core themes (you will also find a bibliography of key readings at the end of the textbook chapter). Perhaps the best – certainly the most immediate -- way to begin preparing for this module is to read the words of the slaves themselves. Many slaves recorded their life stories, usually after escaping from bondage during the antebellum period (1800-1861) or after slavery was formally ended in 1865. The most famous slave narratives are those written by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, but there are many, many others. You can find a selection in the library at class mark 326.973, or online at:


The relevant sections of the African American Experience database provide a useful narrative of slavery, and links to a number of additional resources, as part of its extensive coverage of black history in North America. It gives you instant access to books and articles, maps and photos, further links and much more. The site is organised chronologically into specific historical periods -- see especially the era entitled “African Americans during the Antebellum.” The African American Experience is found on two sites, which should be accessed from the JRULM database page at

 ·  African American Experience (this site is divided into chronological sections or “Eras,” with useful essays by scholars on key themes and people, primary sources, biographical information, images, and much more). At the top of any page in the database, simply click on “Eras” and then the relevant chronological period, or theme within that period. 
username: manchesteruniv 
password: library

 ·  ABC Clio e-book collection (contains a large collection of titles about African-American history and culture, including encyclopaedias and other bibliographical guides to further reading) 
username: manchesteruniv 
password: library

Those of you wishing to really hit the ground running should consult the Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice database, a fantastic resource containing a wealth of primary sources from archives in North America. It provides excellent introductory essays to many different aspects of slave life, and not just in the American context. I would suggest you read the introductory essays and then dip into the archival collections that interest you. These primary sources are those from which historians build their interpretations of slavery and slave life, as well as many other aspects of society in the Old South.

You should connect to this from the library database page:

Select UK Access Management Federation on the login page, which will take you to university login where you input your user name and password.


Some Suggested Preparatory Reading:

Ira Berlin, “American Slavery in History and Memory and the Search for Social Justice,” Journal of American History 90 (March 2004), pp.1251-1268.


Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003). See especially chapter 4.


David Brown and Clive Webb, Race in the American South: From Slavery to Civil Rights (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007). Chapters 1-6.


Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999).


Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877 (London: Penguin Books, 1993).


James Walvin, Questioning Slavery (London: Routledge, 1996).



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