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Researching African Americans in Colonial and Revolutionary Virginia

A Bibliography of Materials from the Rockefeller Library

In 1619 a Dutch ship brought the first "20 and odd Negroes" to Virginia. During the next 150 years, Africans and African Americans contributed greatly to the development of the colony, while slavery became more entrenched within Virginia's legal and economic structure. The resources listed below document this history. For a short overview see:

  • Finkelman, Paul. Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 3, p. 285. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. Ref. E 185.E545.
  • Paquette, Robert L. and Mark M. Smith, eds. Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010. HT 1048 .O94 2010.

Guides and Bibliographies

  • Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks,, eds. The Harvard Guide to African-American History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard. Press, 2001. Ref. Z 1361.N39 H37 2001. [See section 26.2.43 for sources related to Virginia.]
  • Hodges, F. Holly, compiler. Guide to African American Manuscripts in the Collection of Virginia Historical Society. Richmond, VA: Virginia Historical Society, 2002. Z 1361 .N39 V57 2002.
  • Plunkett, Michael. Afro-American Sources in Virginia: A Guide to Manuscripts. Charlottesville, VA: UVA Press, 1990. Z 1361 .N39 P496 1990.

General Sources

  • Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1998. E446.B47 1998.
  • Davis, David Brion. Slavery in the Colonial Chesapeake. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1986. E445 .V8 D38 1986.
  • Enslaving Virginia: Becoming Americans: Our Struggle To Be Both Free and Equal. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1998. E 445.V8 E57 1998.
  • McCartney, Martha W. A Study of the Africans and African Americans on Jamestown Island and at Green Springs, 1619–1803 (PDF). Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2003. F 234 .J3 M334 2003.
  • Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003. E 445 .V8 M67 2003.
  • Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Chapel Hill: UNC Press for OIEAHC, Williamsburg, VA, 1998. F232 .C43 M67 1998.
  • Nicholls, Michael L. Aspects of the African American Experience in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg and Norfolk. CWF Research Report, RR-330. F 234 .W7 N52 1990.
  • Parent, Anthony S. Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660–1740. Chapel Hill: UNC Press for OIEAHC, Williamsburg, VA. 2003. 445 .V8 P37 2003.
  • Tate, Thad W. The Negro in Eighteenth-Century Virginia. Williamsburg, VA: UVA Press, 1965. F234.W7 T3 1985. Also, CWF Research Report, RR 121.

Primary Sources

The Library owns a variety of original documents regarding the history of African Americans in Virginia. Papers and account books of plantation owners and merchants, such as those listed below, may be of particular interest:




  • Catterall, Helen Tunnicliff, ed. Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro: Volume 1: Cases from the Courts of England, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. New York, NY: Octagon Books, 1968. KF 4545.S5 C3 1968.
  • Guild, June Purcell. Black Laws of Virginia: A Summary of the Legislative Acts of Virginia Concerning Negroes from Earliest Times to the Present. Lovettsville, VA: Willow Bend Books, 1996. Ref. E185.93 V8 G9.
  • Schwarz, Philip J. Slave Laws in Virginia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. KFV2801.6 S55 S386.
  • Willis, Anne. "The Masters' Mercy: Slave Prosecutions and Punishments in York County, Virginia 1700 to 1780." Master's thesis, William & Mary, 1995. KFV 2801.6 S55 W54.

Lists/Censuses of Slave Names

  • Barden, John Randolph. "'Flushed With Notions of Freedom': The Growth and Emancipation of a Virginia Slave Community, 1732–1812." Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1993. E 445.V8 B24 1993a. [Includes lists of slaves owned by the Carter family. Appendix 20 (p. 486) lists the emancipated slaves of Robert Carter III as well as their descendants.]
  • Heinegg, Paul. Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia: Including the Family Histories of More Than 80% of Those Counted as "All Other Free Persons" in the 1790 and 1800 Census, Third Edition. Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Co., 1997. E 185.96 H48 1997. [For corrections and updates, see]
  • McCartney, Martha. Kingston Parish Register: Mathews, Gloucester and Middlesex Counties, Virginia Slaves and Slaveholders, 1746–1827. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2014. Ref. F 232 .K54 M126 2014.
  • Reed, B. Bernetiae. The Slave Families of Thomas Jefferson. Greensboro, NC: Sylvest-Sarah, 2007. Ref. E 332.2R443 2007. [See also the Monticello Plantation Database.]
  • Vogt, John, ed. Register for Bruton Parish, Virginia, 1662–1797. Athens, GA: New Papyrus Publishing Co., 2004. F 232.J15 R44 2004. [Includes baptismal records for slaves in the Williamsburg community.]
  • "Williamsburg Area Resident (W.A.R.) Files." Data on Williamsburg residents compiled from house histories and Query files.
  • "York County Records Project." Abstracts of York County records from 1633–1815, includes an index of slave names. M 1797.1–151.

Material Culture


  • Frey, Sylvia. Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830. Chapel Hill: UNCPress, 1998. BR 563 .N4 F74 1998.
  • Jackson, Luther Porter. Religious Development of the Negro in Virginia from 1760–1860. {Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 197-} Reprinted from The Journal of Negro History, Vol. XVI, No. 2, April 1931. E 185 .B6 pt.4.
  • Scully, Randolph Ferguson. Religion and the Making of Nat Turner's Virginia: Baptist Community and Conflict, 1740–1840. Charlottesville, VA: UVA Press, 2008. BX6248 .V8 S296 2008.
  • Semple, Robert B. A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia. Richmond, VA: Pitt and Dickinson, 1894. BX 6248 .V8 S4 1894.
  • Sidbury, James. Ploughshares into Swords: Race, Rebellion, and Identity in Gabriel's Virginia, 1730–1810. New York, NY: Cambridge UP, 1997. F 234 .R59 N477 1997.

The Revolutionary War

  • Grundset, Eric, ed. Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War: A Guide to Service, Sources, and Studies. Washington, D.C.: National Society DAR, 2008. Ref. E 269 .N3 G78 2008. [See the extensive bibliography of Virginia sources on pp. 536–548.]
  • Frey, Sylvia R. Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U P, 1991. E 269 .N3F74 1991.
  • Gilbert, Alan. Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2012. E 269 .N3 G55 2012.
  • Jackson, Luther Porter. Virginia Negro Soldiers and Seamen in the Revolutionary War. Norfolk, VA: Guide Quality Press, 1944. Ref. E 269.A35 J33.
  • Holton, Woody. Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1999. E 210 .H695 1999.
  • Moss, Bobby G. and Michael C. Scoggins. African American Patriots in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. Blacksburg, SC: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 2004. E 269.N3 M67 2004.
  • Moss, Bobby G. and Michael C. Scoggins. African American Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. Blacksburg, SC: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 2005. E 269 .N3 M66 2005.
  • Nash, Gary B. The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U P, 2006. E269 .N3 N36 2006.
  • Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the American Revolution. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1996. E 269.N3 Q3 1996.
  • United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. Sir Guy Carleton Branch., Ruch, John E. and Kipp, Elizabeth E. Carleton's Loyalist Index: Also: The Book of Negroes. Ottawa: United Empire Loyalists' Asssociation of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton Branch, 1996. Ref. E 277.C37 1996. [This is an index to the following set: The British Headquarters Papers, commonly referred to as the Carleton or Dorchester Papers, contain records of successive British Commanders-in-Chief in America during the American Revolution. Sir Guy Carleton, the last British Commander-in-Chief, had the difficult and unpleasant duty of supervising the evacuation of all military personnel and civilian Loyalists from New York City. (Microfilm of the Carleton Papers is available as M-154.1–30. Also, 104 photocopied manuscript volumes in Special Collections, PH/02/01.) A transcription of The Book of Negroes is also available from the Black Loyalists website.]

Runaway Ads

  • Costa, Tom and The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. The Geography of Slavery in Virginia.
  • Windley, Lathan A. A Profile of Runaway Slaves in Virginia and South Carolina from 1730 through 1787. New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc, 1995. E445.V8 W593 1995.
  • Virginia Gazette, 1736–1780. Williamsburg, VA. [Search for: "Slaves, Runaway."]

Slave Trade

  • Donnan, Elizabeth. Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America. New York, NY: Octagon Books, 1965. E 441.D69.
  • Eltis, David. Atlas of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2010. Ref. G 2446 .E625 E48.
  • O'Malley, Gregory E. Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619–1807. Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, by the University of North Carolina Press, 2014. HT 1162 .O58 2014.
  • Walvin, James. Crossings: Africa, the Americas and the Atlantic Slave Trade. London: Reaktion Books, 2013. HT 1322 .W2493 2013.


  • Patrick, Vanessa E. "As Good a Joiner as any in Virginia": African-Americans in the Eighteenth-Century Building Trades. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Research Report, RR 363, 1995. E 185.93 V8 A8 1995.
  • Virginia Gazette, 1736–1780. Williamsburg, VA. [Search for: "Slaves, as curriers, as dairymaids, as ferrymen, as fiddle makers," etc.]

Subjects in the Library Catalog

Note: Books and manuscripts from the Rockefeller Library are included in the Library Catalog.

  • Slave Trade
  • Slavery Virginia
  • Slaves' Writings, American
  • Plantation Life
  • Freedmen
  • Women Slaves

Updated 4/2018.