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Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation at Lauinger Library

This guide highlights the primary source documents at Lauinger Library that supports the goals of Georgetown University's Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation Initiative.

Manuscripts Collections -- Introduction

The Manuscripts unit of the Booth Family Center for Special Collections holds diverse collections that address broad themes in United States history, which can be used to understand slavery and racism. Most of these collections were not intended for such study. We are currently assessing our collections to determine how our collections can contribute to the Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation Initiative. The selections below suggest the possibilities within the manuscript collection. They include collections that document the Atlantic and regional slave trade, the commercial relations in the tobacco economy during the eighteenth century, and the management of plantations in Southern Maryland by Jesuit missionaries. In addition, Booth has recently acquired a journal of a slave ship Mary and the papers of Margaret Bonds, a noted African-American musical composer of the twentieth-century.

Atlantic and Regional Slave Trade

James Carroll Daybook

Dates: 1717-1721

Extent: 1 vol.

Finding aid: James Carroll Daybook, Maryland Province Archives

Although commonly called a daybook, this folio-sized volume is a chronological record of commercial accounts maintained by an innovative planter-merchant James Carroll (born in Ireland in approximately 1680; emigrated to Maryland approximately 1703; and died 1729). A zealously devout Catholic, he worked as a factor for London merchants, lent money to his Catholic neighbors, established three plantations amassing a total of 5,000 acres, and ultimately bequeathed White Marsh, a 2,000-acre plantation along the boundary of Prince George's and Ann Arundel Counties, to the Jesuits. 

Like many planters of early eighteenth century Maryland, he transitioned from a labor force that included some indentured servants to a force composed entirely of enslaved labor. In this records book, Carroll recorded the purchases of at least some of these people, the accounts of his overseers, and the costs of the provisions for the enslaved people whom he owned.  For London merchant Samuel Bonham, he managed the sale of 105 Africans transported from Sierra Leone on the ship Margaret, which landed in Annapolis on August 23, 1718. 


Journal of the Slave Ship Mary

Dates: 1795-1796

Extent: 1.5 linear feet (1 bound volume)

Finding aid: Journal of the Slave Ship Mary

Digital Georgetown: Journal of the Slave Ship Mary

This journal, a rare manuscript log book of the daily activities of a slave ship, is a detailed record one of the last slave voyages undertaken by Cyprian Sterry, the wealthiest ship owner and most active slave trader based in Providence, Rhode Island. The 232-ton slaver Mary set sail on November 22, 1795 and arrived on the west coast of Africa on December 24, 1795. Under the command of Captain Nathan Sterry, the crew acquired and then subdued African men, women, and children at several ports along the Senegambia, the Windward Coast, and Gold Coast. The ship departed the coast of Africa with 142 African men, women, and children on June 17, 1796, and arrived in Georgia on August 19, 1796. 

The writer of the journal, whose name is unclear, meticulously recorded the commercial transactions at the West African ports, the work performed on the ship, and the health of the crew and captive Africans. By the end of the voyage, 38 enslaved people had died from causes including suicide, injuries sustained from harsh discipline, and infectious diseases such as dysentery. The writer also described a mutiny by crew members on March 21 and a rebellion of four enslaved men who had escaped from their shackles and their subsequent execution by Captain Sterry on June 10.


Robert Fergusson Papers

Dates: 1717-1810 (Bulk: 1784-1810)

Extent: 1.75 lin. ft. 

Finding aids: Robert Fergusson part 1; Robert Fergusson part 2

Robert Fergusson (d. 1811) was a factor who established a Georgetown store for the John Glassford Company, a Scottish mercantile firm based in Glasgow that, during its most prosperous years before the American Revolution, controlled a major portion of the Chesapeake tobacco trade. The Robert Fergusson Papers consists mostly of business papers created after the Revolution, principally the correspondence between Fergusson and Alexander Hamilton (d. 1799), a tobacco factor who represented Glassford Company at a Piscataway store. Both of these factors concentrated their efforts on debts collection, as most tobacco planters extended their credit as far as possible during the lean years of the Revolution.  Other papers with local planters and merchants and his Scottish partners demonstrate Fergusson's efforts to collect debts and conduct other business. In addition, this collection also includes some papers related to Glassford's business before the Revolution.

Jesuit Plantations

Joseph Mosley, SJ Papers

Dates: 1757-1787

Extent: 0.25 cubic feet

Finding aid: Joseph Mosley, SJ Papers

Digital Georgetown: Joseph Mosley, SJ Papers

This collection consists of sixteen manuscript letters written by Joseph Mosley, SJ (1731-1787), an English missionary who built St. Joseph's Church in Tuckahoe (later Cordova, near Easton in Talbot County) on the Maryland Eastern Shore in 1764, to his brother and sister. The letters provide a rich description of settlement of a colonial outpost and particularly the work undertaken by the enslaved people under his management to clear the lands, construct a residence and church, and raise crops. He describes the isolation of working as an itinerant preacher in the sparsely populated Eastern Shore, the suitability of its environment for agriculture, the illnesses contracted by himself and other priests, and his racist judgments of Native Americans and enslaved people. Sacramental records maintained by him and found within the Maryland Province Archives indicate that Mosley included enslaved people in his ministry.


Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers

Dates: 1815-1827

Extent: 0.5 linear feet

Finding aid: Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers

Digital Georgetown: Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers

Between 1805 and 1820, Joseph P. Mobberly (1779-1827) worked as the manager of the plantation of St. Inigoes, with some interruptions to study and teach at Georgetown College; after 1820, he devoted himself exclusively to teaching at Georgetown. The Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers consist of written remembrances, observations, and expositions related to his experiences with agricultural management, including the discipline and punishment of enslaved people. In a memoranda book (dated approximately 1823), Mobberly recalled the attempts of the British to plunder St. Inigoes and the measures that the Jesuits took to protect their human property; detailed the agricultural production of St. Inigoes; and argued that slavery was not profitable for the Jesuits. In another set of volumes, entitled "Treatise on Slavery -- Cham," Mobberly presented a Biblical justification of race, arguing that African peoples descended from Noah's son Cham. Other volumes include other observations on slavery, agricultural production in the area around Georgetown, student life, and spiritual phenomena. 

20th Century Manuscripts

Margaret Bond Papers

Bulk Dates: 1930-1970

Extent: 8.3 linear feet

Finding aid: Margaret Bonds Papers

Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) was an award-winning musical composer best known as a friend and collaborator of Langston Hughes, one of the leading writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Their work together began in 1936, when Bonds set several of Hughes' poems to music, including "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "Love's Runnin' Riot," and "Winter Moon." They went on to collaborate on innumerable large and small projects, including “Ballad of the Brown King” and “Shakespeare in Harlem.” The bulk of the collection consists of her correspondence with Hughes and other associates, musical manuscripts, typescript lyrics, and ephemera.

David Rankin Barbee Papers

Dates: 1886-1956

Bulk Dates: 1928-1956

Extent: 18 cubic feet

Finding Aid: David Rankin Barbee Papers

The David Rankin Barbee Papers (born 1874 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; died 1958 in Orange, Texas) consist of the correspondence, research papers, and publications of a journalist and federal public relations officer who wrote essays on Civil War and Reconstruction for newspapers, magazines, and journals published by genealogical and local history societies. Barbee regarded himself as an "unreconstructed" Southerner and accepted the prevalent interpretation that Black suffrage and military occupation led to unrepresentative and corrupt state governments throughout the South during Reconstruction. His belief that the Lincoln assassination was the most important event in U.S. history led him to explore the connections of the Maryland Catholic community to Mary Surratt and John Wilkes Booth and to explore assassination conspiracy theories. His racism led him to publicly dispute the authorship of Behind the Scenes, a memoir written by Elizabeth Keckley, the free Black seamstress with a close relationship to Mary Lincoln. The Washington black community harshly and authoritatively debunked his claims. 

  • See The Lincoln Assassination Research Guide for other manuscript collections related to the Lincoln assassination. John Washington responded to Barbee's false claims about Keckly by writing They Knew Lincoln, first published in 1942, which was republished with an introduction by Kate Masur (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

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