Slavery

A first edition of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), written while the poet was enslaved to John Wheatley of Boston. The book has a brown leather cover, the original Morocco spine label and a frontispiece featuring a portrait of Phillis by Scipio Morehead.


 

Women Who Shaped History

How Phillis Wheatley Beat All Expectations

The Revolution-era Boston establishment couldn't believe that the young African American woman wrote the exquisite book of poetry

Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye will lead design of the new Heritage District, a center dedicated to teaching about the history and impact of the transatlantic slave trade.

History of Now

After Breaking Ties With Britain, Barbados Announces Heritage District Tracing Slavery's Toll

The four-phase project will include a museum, global research center and memorial

Barbados officially became a republic early Tuesday morning, casting off Elizabeth II as head of state and swearing in Sandra Mason as the country's new president.

History of Now

Barbados Breaks With Elizabeth II to Become the World's Newest Republic

The Caribbean island removed the British monarch as head of state but will remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations

Dozens of Smithsonian Institution professionals share their favorite reads from this year.

The Best Books of 2021

Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2021

The writings of many fine authors support the research and ambitious undertakings of an Institution rising to the challenges ahead

David Allan, Edinburgh Milkmaid With Butter Churn, circa 1780–90

See a Rare Watercolor of a Black Woman Living in Edinburgh in the Late 18th Century

Staff at the National Galleries of Scotland, which recently acquired the David Allan painting, hope to uncover more information about the sitter's identity

The room's sparse furnishings led archaeologists to suspect it served as housing for enslaved people.

Quarters for Enslaved People Discovered at Pompeiian Villa

The plainly furnished room contained three wooden beds, a chamber pot and a chest

In the aftermath of the Civil War, more than four million newly freed Blacks sought fulfillment of the promises laid out in the U.S. Constitution. Says Kinshasha Holman Conwill, NMAAHC's deputy director: "The shadow of Reconstruction is a long shadow." (Above: Lewis "Big June" Marshall carries the flag during the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965.)

America Is Still Reckoning With the Failures of Reconstruction

A new NMAAHC book and exhibition examine the reverberating legacies of the post-Civil War era

Yale's namesake sits at the center of this group portrait, Elihu Yale With Members of His Family and an Enslaved Child (circa 1719, attributed to John Verelst).

Who Is the Enslaved Child in This Portrait of Yale University's Namesake?

Scholars have yet to identify the young boy, but new research offers insights on his age and likely background

Photo of 1982 excavation at North Shore site

Race in America

Before Rhode Island Built Its State House, a Racist Mob Destroyed the Community That Lived There

In 1831, a group of white rioters razed the Providence neighborhood of Snowtown. Now, archaeologists are excavating its legacy

The former tavern now serves as a local history museum.

Archaeologists Discover Trove of Artifacts at Site of 19th-Century Alabama Tavern

During the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies used the building as a hospital and command center

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the sculpture last summer, but a lawsuit filed by locals delayed the process until this week.

History of Now

Richmond Removes Robert E. Lee Statue, Largest Confederate Sculpture in the U.S.

Workers sawed the controversial monument into pieces before transporting it to an undisclosed Virginia storage facility

Two original slave cabins, as well as the 1790 Big House, 1790 barn and 19th-century kitchen, survived the storm. But Ida destroyed at least several structures on the historic plantation.

Hurricane Ida Damages Whitney Plantation, Only Louisiana Museum to Focus on the Enslaved

The historic site will remain closed indefinitely as staff assess the destruction and make repairs

Ellen disguised herself as a sickly white man, while William played the part of her enslaved valet.

Follow a Couple's Daring Escape From Slavery in the Antebellum South

A new short film from SCAD chronicles the lives of Ellen and William Craft, who disguised themselves to find freedom in 1848

Through the Freedmen's Bureau, formerly enslaved people were able to obtain formal legal recognition of their marriages.

Innovation for Good

Newly Digitized Freedmen's Bureau Records Help Black Americans Trace Their Ancestry

Genealogists, historians and researchers can now peruse more than 3.5 million documents from the Reconstruction-era agency

The sign states, “The use of enslaved labor to build the home of the President of the United States—often seen as a symbol of democracy—illuminates our country’s conflicted relationship with the institution of slavery and the ideals of freedom and equality promised in America’s founding documents.”

New Plaque Tells Story of Enslaved People Who Helped Build the White House

A marker in Lafayette Square is the first public work to acknowledge these individuals' roles in constructing the presidential mansion

Users play as Kendra Turner, an intern who uncovers the dark past—and present—of the fictional Blackhaven Hall Historical Society.

Innovation for Good

New Video Game Confronts Slavery's Legacy Through a Historical Mystery

"Blackhaven" finds a fictional intern working to uncover a colonial estate's hidden history while facing present-day racism

Enslavers pocketed the majority of the money earned by enslaved individuals hired out as part-time laborers. But in some cases, enslaved people managed to save a fraction of their earnings in hopes of purchasing freedom for themselves or their families.

This Rare Copper Badge Tells a Story of Slavery in 19th-Century Charleston

The South Carolina city used the metal tags to identify enslaved people hired out as part-time laborers by their enslavers

In 1921, Ruth Middleton embroidered this cotton sack with a powerful family story.

History of Now

A Simple Cotton Sack Tells an Intergenerational Story of Separation Under Slavery

Historian Tiya Miles' new book traces the lives of three Black women through an embroidered family heirloom known as "Ashley's sack"

Early Juneteenth celebrations featured picnics, rodeos, horseback riding and other festivities.

Juneteenth, the U.S.' Second Independence Day, Is Now a Federal Holiday

June 19, 1865, marked the end of slavery in Texas and, by extension, the Confederate states

Photograph of ten people and a dog at a picnic table, 1919–1925

Commemorate Juneteenth With Free Virtual Programs From the Smithsonian

On June 19, NMAAHC will honor the end of slavery in the U.S. with events featuring Annette Gordon-Reed, Adrian Miller and more

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