Website Wednesday: Women Slaves Wrote Our History

I discovered Duke University’s Special Collections Library. This web site was rated among the top humanities websites by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  It is chocked full of information about African American women. I found this site interesting because it has a wealth of information written by former women slaves. Their writings (unusual in the day in and of itself) were eloquent and informing. Here is a preview:

Elizabeth Johnson Harris: Life Story
Elizabeth Johnson Harris was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1867 to parents who had been slaves. Her 85 page handwritten memoir provides glimpses of her early childhood, of race relations, of her own ambivalence about her place as an African-American in society, and of the importance of religion and education in her life. This on-line collection includes full text of her memoirs as well as several of her poems and vignettes that were published in various newspapers during her lifetime.

Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson: Slave Letters
Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson were house slaves at Montcalm, the family home of David and Mary Campbell, located in Abingdon, Virginia. During the years David Campbell served as Governor of Virginia (1847-1850), he and his family moved into the Governor’s mansion in Richmond, taking several of their slaves with them but leaving Hannah and Lethe to care for the homestead. These letters were written by Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson to their mistresses and other slave family members during this time period. The letters provide a rare firsthand glimpse into the lives of slaves and the relationships they had with their owners.

Vilet Lester Letter
Slave letters are very rare documents. This letter from Vilet Lester is one of less than a dozen such letters we have been able to identify among the vast amount of plantation records held at the Duke Special Collections Library. In this particular case, Vilet’s letter stands alone with virtually no other documents – no slave lists, work records, or owner’s letters – to give us further information about her. Although many of the facts of Vilet Lester’s life may be elusive, she still gives us a rare and precious view into slave life through this letter.

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