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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1278

Houghton Library collection on the domestic slave trade


Documents concerning sale of enslaved people and other materials related to slavery in North America, particularly the United States.


  • 1803-1863 and undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.2 linear feet (1 box)
Primarily manuscript bills of sale for enslaved people in Charleston (S.C.) and New Orleans (La.), with a few printed and other documents pertaining to slavery in North America, particularly in the United States.

Biographical / Historical

Interstate domestic slave trading in the United States was well established by 1808 when the importation of slaves from other countries was abolished. Interstate slave trading was erratically controlled by the states and by 1850 completely unregulated. Traders in the Upper South maintained agencies and representatives in the Lower South. The seaboard and border states exported an estimated 25,000 slaves a year, with Virginia the largest source. Water transport was occasionally used, but more often slaves were marched overland to markets such as New Orleans and Natchez (the two largest markets), where they commanded prices that at least quadrupled between 1800 and 1860.


Arranged alphabetically.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts and purchases from various sources at various times. Acquisition information is given with items.

Processing Information

Processed by: Melanie Wisner. Edited in 2021 by Dorothy Berry.
Processing Information This finding aid was revised in 2021 to address racist and harmful descriptive language. During that revision, description was changed in all file-level titles, with contextual notes added for most. If you have questions or comments about these revisions, please contact Houghton Library. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.
Link to catalog
Houghton Library, collector. Houghton Library collection on the domestic slave trade, 1803-1863: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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