Skip to Main Content

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.

Digital Projects -- Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Civil War Washington

The District of Columbia's role as nation's capital and the distinctive development of Black life in the city set a unique course for emancipation and the unfolding drama of the Civil War. This site brings together a collection of datasets, images, texts, and maps to help researchers visualize the complex changes of the city of Washington between 1860 and 1865. Most notably, Civil War Washington includes digitized and transcribed versions of the following documents that are searchable by name. keyword, place, and events:

  • Petitions filed by slave owners to the Board of Emancipation under the terms of the Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862
  • Letters from Washington from correspondents of the Anglo-African (New York), 1863
  • Medical and Surgical cases extracted from The Medical and Surgical History of the War and Rebellion (1861-1865)
  • Newspapers:
    • Armory Square Hospital Gazette, January 6-August 21, 1865
    • The Cripple, October 8, 1864-April 29, 1865
    • The Soldier's Journal, February 17, 1864-August 2, 1865

Civil War Washington is directed by Susan C. Lawrence, Elizabeth Lorang, Kenneth M. Price, and Kenneth J. Winkle and is published by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln.

  • For a historical monograph based on this project, see Kenneth J. Winkle, Lincoln’s Citadel : the Civil War in Washington, DC (catalog record).  

The Enslaved Children of George Mason

The Enslaved Children of George Mason (ECGM) project is examining public, family, and and personal papers to learn more about the enslaved people owned by George Mason IV for whom George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia, is named. Gunston Hall, the mansion built by George Mason and site of a tobacco plantation where he enslaved more than 100 people, is a few miles from GMU. ECGM began as a project as a student project at George Mason University led by faculty Dr. Benedict Carton, professor of History, and Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott, professor of Integrative Studies and History, who sought to redress the silence regarding Mason's slaveholding. The project has worked closely with the Gunston Hall Library and Archives.

Escaping Slavery, Building Diverse Communities

Escaping Slavery explores the communities built by the thousands of Black people who fled their owners to seek their freedom in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas during the Civil War. This site brings together 15 illustrated narrative histories of refugee camps and present-day neighborhoods, a timeline, and maps. Georgetown University students taking History 396, a course taught by Dr. Chandra Manning, professor of History, composed this site during the fall 2019 term.

Legacy of Slavery in Maryland

First established by the Maryland State Archives in 2001, this project originated as an attempt to uncover the stories of freedom seekers. In addition to composing biographies, the project staff created a database that includes records of more than 40,000 individual enslaved, free, and freed Blacks from a census, court records, newspapers and other sources. In addition to this searchable database, the project staff has digitized key documents, composed case studies, created interactive maps, and created research guides for genealogists and others interested in slavery and emancipation in Maryland.

O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C., Law and Family 

O Say Can You See explores hundreds of legal suits brought by enslaved people to secure their freedom in the courts of Maryland and the District of Columbia between 1790 and 1862. These cases reveal extensive kinship networks of the enslaved and Free Black litigants, their relationships to enslavers and lawyers, and the often dire conditions that prompted their legal actions. Several of the petitioners brought suit against Catholic families connected to Georgetown College and the Maryland Province. The site includes digitized and indexed reproductions of all petitions for freedom and supporting case papers, an 1822 map of free Black residences in Washington, D.C., and several interpretive essays on the petitions for freedom.

Dr. William Thomas, Professor of History and John and Catherine Angle Chair of the Humanities at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, is the lead investigator of O Say Can You See; its institutional partners are The Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Nebraska and the Maryland Institute for Digital Research and the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland were the institutional partners.

  • See William G. Thomas, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War (catalog record) on the suits brought by members of the Queen family who were enslaved by the Jesuits. The family succeeded in securing the freedom of some family members, but several of the Queens were sold by the Jesuits in 1838. 

Slave Streets, Free Streets

This site recreates the landscape of Baltimore between 1815 and 1820, where approximately 4,300 enslaved and 10,300 free Blacks lived and worked. It uses city directories, census, and maps to create a three-dimensional visualization of their everyday lives in addition to the sites connected to the slave trade and freedom seekers. Dr. Anne Sarah Rubin, professor of History at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, is working with the Imaging Research Center at UMBC.

Slavery in the President's Neighborhood

The White House Historical Association (WHHA) has created a site that provides information on the enslaved people who lived and worked at the White House, including its construction. The site also provides a virtual tour of the slave quarters of Decatur House, which the WHHA now owns, and a timeline that depicts the exploitation of enslaved individuals in the White House.

Creative Commons   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License. | Details of our policy