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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento
CSUS launches California slavery archive
little-known history of slavery will be a click away when California State
University, Sacramento’s Underground Railroad Digital Archive project
goes online on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
Launched as part of the University’s celebration of Black History
Month, the archive will use high-quality digital images of letters, journals,
photographs, documents, newspapers and more to tell the often-overlooked
experiences of African-American slaves in California and the new state’s
involvement in the Underground Railroad. Beginning Tuesday it can be found
The collection brings together materials collected from around the state
and includes a bibliography of more than 1,000 documents related to 19th-century
African-American history in California and the West Coast.
“It’s a growing process and this is just the beginnings of it,” Joe
Moore, organizer of the archive project, said. “We’ll be adding to
Although California was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1850, slavery
was winked at in the early years. Slave owners openly held blacks in bondage
and at least one city—Sacramento—held public auctions where African-Americans
were bought and sold. The state, however, also attracted abolitionists, both
black and white, who worked to free enslaved blacks, often sending them north
to British Columbia.
In one well known case, Archy Lee, a slave from Mississippi, successfully sued
for his freedom when his master threatened to send him back. Moore said that
visitors to the digital archive will be able to see how the trial was reported
in local newspapers.
“You’ll be able to track how the trial progressed and what took place
here in Sacramento,” Moore said.
The CSUS Library archive is one part of the National Park Service’s Underground
Railroad Network to Freedom Program, an interpretive program that looks at how
blacks and some whites worked together to help Southern slaves escape to freedom
in the North and West as well as Canada, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean. The
University’s archive will be linked to similar projects across the nation
and is funded through a $132,000 federal grant administered by the California
For more information, contact Moore at (916) 278-7302. Media assistance is available
from CSUS public affairs at (916) 278-6156.
California State University, Sacramento Public Affairs
6000 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 (916) 278-6156