Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law


Included in HeinOnline’s Social Justice Suite*, free to HeinOnline Core subscribers and any interested organizations.


Title List:

This HeinOnline collection brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. Our case coverage extends into the 20th century because long after slavery ended courts were still resolving issues emanating from slavery. To give one example, as late as 1901 Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had to decide if a man, both of whose parents had been slaves, could be the legitimate heir of his father, because under southern law, slaves could never be legally married. The library has hundreds of pamphlets and books written about slavery—defending it, attacking it or simply analyzing it, including an expansive slavery collection from Buffalo Erie County Public Library. The cooperation of this institution was central to developing this collection. We have also gathered every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920, which includes many essays and articles in obscure, hard-to-find journals in the United States and elsewhere. We have provided more than a thousand pamphlets and books on slavery from the 19th century. We have also included many modern histories of slavery. Within this library is a section containing all modern law review articles on the subject. This library will continue to grow, not only from new scholarship but also from historical material that we continue to locate and add to the collection.

-Paul Finkelman, General Editor

RUSA’s Annual List of Best Historical Materials

Slavery in America and the World was named on the annual list of Best Historical Materials during the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Book and Media Awards Ceremony at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. The list recognizes the evaluation and effectiveness of coverage of historical resources in all fields of history and promotes the enhanced availability of historical works and information. The sources are selected by the Historical Materials committee of the History Section of RUSA, and seek to improve the usefulness of bibliographies and indexes in the field of history and shared among bibliographers, indexers, publishers and professional associations.


Overview of the Collection

For the last half century, scholars in the United States and elsewhere have focused enormous attention on the impact of slavery on the development of the modern world. Scholars in many disciplines agree that, to a greater or lesser extent, the modern industrial economy was in part (some would say a large part) a result of the system of Atlantic slavery that began in the 1450s and ended in the 1880s. Historians have of course long been interested in slavery. But today slavery scholars are found in law schools, business schools, public policy schools, and medical schools. In universities we find slavery scholars (and courses on slavery) in various departments including economics, political science, literature, sociology, anthropology, fine arts, art history, and archeology. Movies, television programs, best-selling novels, and museum exhibits illustrate how slavery has become a fixture in American popular culture. Universities have sponsored scholarly investigations into whether their history was tied to human bondage. Slavery comes up in political debate over issues of flying the Confederate flag, building monuments, and reparations.

Features of the Collection

Editor’s Picks

While browsing Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law, you’ll notice gold stars next to some of the titles. These are known as “Editor’s Picks”. Paul Finkelman, the general editor of this collection has chosen what he thinks are the most important titles that are found in this collection.

Some Editor’s Picks:

  • Address on Secession: Delivered in South Carolina in the Year 1851
  • Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans
  • Black Code of the District of Columbia, in Force September 1st, 1848
  • Constitution: A Pro-Slavery Compact: Selections from the Madison Papers, &c.
  • Extracts from the American Slave Code
  • Historical Sketch of Slavery from the Earliest Periods
  • Judicial Cases concerning American Slavery and the Negro
  • And more!

Slavery Quick Finder Tool

Use the Slavery Quick Finder Tool to locate sources based on their position, document type, jurisdiction and topic.

Categorizations in the Collection

You can browse this collection by Periodicals, Slavery Statutes, Bibliography, Judicial Cases, UNC Press Publications and Scholarly Articles & Other Relevant Documents.

UNC Publications

Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law features publications from the University of North Carolina Press’s slavery collection.

Featured Title:

Black Abolitionist Papers

Edited by: C. Peter Ripley, et al.

The Black Abolitionist Papers Project began in 1976 with the mission to collection and publish the documentary record of black Americans involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States from 1830 to 1865. The project was conceived from an understanding that broad spans of Afro-American history have eluded scholarly attention because the necessary research materials are not readily available.

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Publications

This collection includes more than 650 titles related to slavery and the law from the Buffalo Erie County Publications.

Titles included:

  • Appeal from the Judgments of Great Britain respecting the United States of America (1819)
  • Documentary History of Slavery in the United States (1851)
  • Free Speech (1861)
  • History of Abraham Lincoln, and the Overthrow of Slavery (1866)
  • Lincoln, the Constitutional Lawyer (1932)
  • Political History of Secession to the Beginning of the American Civil War (1914)
  • And more!


Slavery Statutes

Sorted by state, and including the United States as a whole, this section includes slavery acts back to the 1600’s. In the future this will include all of the free states as well. States include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana

Judicial Cases

This subcollection includes Judicial Cases concerning American Slavery and the Negro (1926-1937) as well as all slavery cases from 1800-1879 derived from Federal Cases Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Federal Reporter, Arranged Alphabetically by the Titles of the Cases, and Numbered Consecutively (1894-1897). Also includes U.S. Supreme Court Slavery Cases from 1786 to 1880.

  • Special Thank You

    We would like to send a special thank you to the following organizations/institutions for their significant contribution to the content of Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law:

    • Buffalo Erie County Public Library
    • College of Charleston, Addlestone Library
    • Maryland State Law Library
    • University at Buffalo
  • About the Editor

    Paul Finkelman is a specialist in American legal history, constitutional law, and race and the law. He is the author of more than 150 scholarly articles and over 30 books and his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and on the Huffington Post.

    He is an expert on topics such as constitutional history and constitutional law, freedom of religion, the law of slavery, civil liberties, and has written extensively on Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

    Finkelman has been cited by the Supreme Court for his scholarship on religious monuments in public spaces and for his scholarship on the Second Amendment and he appeared as the chief expert witness in the Alabama Ten Commandments monument case.

  • A Special Note from the Editor

    In 1974, I began a doctoral dissertation on slavery and law. I spent months sitting in the University of Chicago Law Library looking at volumes of printed reports, trying to find every slave case decided by a northern court (there were hundreds and hundreds of them). I searched for obscure statutes from the 18th and early 19th centuries. I looked for law review articles in such long-forgotten journals as the Monthly Law Reporter and the Western Legal Observer. If only Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law had existed then! I would still have had to read and analyze everything. I would have had to frame my search questions carefully. But my search for source materials would have taken months instead of nearly two years. With this library, future scholars can spend more time reading and analyzing the sources, and much less time looking for them.

    -Paul Finkelman, General Editor

  • The Proslavery Origins of the Electoral College

    Our editor, Paul Finkleman, has authored an article titled The Proslavery Origins of the Electoral College, 23 Cardozo L. Rev. 1145 (2001-2002). The article discusses the influence of slaves and slavery upon the creation of the Electoral College in the United States. Professor Finkleman has generously made this article available everyone through the link above.


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