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Voices of the Enslaved in Wilson Special Collections Library: Home

What is in this guide?

Handwritten letter from Wilson Library's Rice Ballard Papers, Folder 217: 21-28 October 1854, Scan 1This guide is designed to assist researchers interested in the writings of people who were enslaved in the Southern United States. The primary focus is on handwritten materials held in the special collections at UNC-Chapel Hill, but also lists print and published material of interest. All of the included manuscripts can be found at Wilson Special Collections Library, mostly in the Southern Historical Collection. Some resources, both print and manuscript, can be found across collections at Wilson and other institutions, for example, Duke University and the Library of Congress. This guide may not include all of the materials reflecting enslaved voices from the collections at Wilson Library, but is intended to serve as a starting point for research.

Subjects covered by this guide:

  • Multi-Letter Collections - this section lists collections with multiple writings by enslaved people, offering a short summary of the letters and collection contents.
  • Single-Letter Collections -  this section lists collections with single letters by enslaved people, offering a short summary of the letters and collection contents.
  • Poetry & Other Writing - this section includes materials found in our collections, plus outside resources that focus on poetry and other narratives of enslavement. 
  • Additional Resources - this section lists opportunities for further research.
  • Registering and Requesting Materials - this page provides details about visiting Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC-Chapel Hill.         

Please note: in this research guide we are using language to describe slavery that is not necessarily the language reflected in the descriptions in our Finding Aids. The language used in this research guide reflects what is recommended by senior slavery scholars. Please see P. Gabrielle Foreman, et al, "Writing about Slavery/Teaching About Slavery: This Might Help," community-sourced document, accessed April 2019. 

This guide was created in January 2019 by Samantha Awad and Lydia Neuroth, and subsequently updated by Sarah Carrier.

Sarah Carrier

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Sarah Carrier
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