This slave manifest for the brig Orleans, which includes Solomon Northup listed as Plat Hamilton on line 33, is now on display at the National Archives.
In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free-born African American from New York, was kidnapped by two white men and enslaved for 12 years in the deep South before he could prove his legal right to freedom. He later wrote about his ordeal in his book “12 Years A Slave” which was made into a movie.
Abducting free blacks for sale into slavery was outlawed in most of the United States. However uneven law enforcement, the marginal rights of free blacks, and mounting demand for slaves after the end of the transatlantic slave trade made kidnapping an attractive and potentially profitable prospect that encouraged the creation of a reverse underground railroad.
Kidnappers gave their victims aliases to hide their true identities. Northup recounted that he first heard the name he would be known by as a slave, “Plat Hamilton,” in New Orleans when it was called from this slave manifest (line 33) for the brig Orleans. Victims who insisted that they were free often faced severe beatings or even death. Northup accepted his identity as “Plat” because “[He] was too costly a chattel to be lost … [and] knew well enough the slightest knowledge of [his] real character would consign [him] at once to the remotest depths of Slavery.”
Vera Williams, a direct descendent of Solomon Northup works at the National Archives. You can read her personal story or learn how she walked in the footsteps of her great-great-great-grandfather.
The Emancipation Proclamation will be on display for just three days this month: February 15, 16, and 17 as part of the National Archives’ celebration of Black History Month.
Due to its fragile condition, it can only be displayed for a limited time each year. The document will be on display in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
"TO THE WOMEN OF THE REPUBLIC:
We ask you to sign and circulate this petition for the entire abolition of Slavery. We have now one hundred thousand signatures, but we want a million before Congress adjourns. Remember the President’s Proclamation reaches only the Slaves of Rebels. The jails of LOYAL Kentucky are to-day “crammed” with Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama slaves, advertised to be sold for their jail fees “according to LAW,” precisely as before the war!!! While slavery exists anywhere there can be freedom nowhere.”
"To the Women of the Republic," Address from the Women’s Loyal National League supporting the abolition of slavery, 01/25/1864
From the Records of the U.S. Senate
Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued one year earlier, it applied only to slaves in rebel states. Slaves held in states still in the Union were unaffected. Slavery would not be completely abolished until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865.
(Note: A full transcription of this document is available at Wikisource.)
Store for Freedmen
Union troops successfully occupied the area around Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1862. Even though the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or Freedman’s Bureau, was not created until March 3, 1865, Union victories along the coast offered newly freed slaves support from the Federal Government. This photograph, taken by Sam A. Cooley on December 18, 1864, shows a store for freedmen in Beaufort.
Photograph of Store for Freedmen in Beaufort, South Carolina, 12/13/1864
This map accompanied President James K. Polk’s annual message to Congress in December 1848. It represented Polk’s conception as a Southern Democrat of how to divide up the new territory acquired through the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. It became the starting point of debates in Congress over slavery and westward expansion.
Map of the United States Including Western Territories (2127339), 12/1848, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Learn more about this map in Cartography, Politics—and Mischief: Ephraim Gilman’s 1848 Map of the United States, Now Expanded Coast to Coast from the National Archives’ Prologue Magazine.
The movie “12 Years A Slave” tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped. His journey into slavery can be found in our records.
In the slave manifest for the brig Orleans, Solomon Northup is gone, but Plat Hamilton is present.
A ban on federal slavery legislation was written into the Constitution in 1787. But an 1807 Act of Congress outlawed foreign importation of slaves. Slave manifests that documented each slave’s name, sex, age, and color were then required.
When slaves were forced into the haul of the Orleans on April 27, 1841, the Port of Richmond collector Thomas Nelson approved the slave manifest. When the ship docked in New Orleans on May 24, 1841, the inspector matched Solomon Northup’s description to the name Plat Hamilton. And Solomon Northup the free man of color ceased to exist.
Northup was transported on the Orleans with approximately forty other slaves to New Orleans where he was later sold to Edwin Epps, who owned a cotton plantation in the Louisiana Red River area. Northup was enslaved for the next twelve years. All rights and privileges that come with freedom, beginning with his given name, were stripped away from him.
To see more documents related to the life of Solomon Northup, go to the National Archives Education blog: http://go.usa.gov/WBjw
Image: Slave Manifest for the Brig Orleans, including Solomon Northup, listed as Plat Hamilton (#33)
Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing
Designed to separate cotton fiber from seed, Whitney’s cotton gin, for which he applied for a patent on October 28, 1793, and received a patent on March 14, 1794, introduced a new, profitable technology to agricultural production in America, but also led to an increased dependence on the plantation system and slavery.
"To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department"
The Confederacy depended on enslaved people to build fortifications, cook, drive supply wagons, work in hospitals, and produce munitions. Slave labor also planted and harvested many Southern crops, especially when white males were away fighting. The Union’s decision to emancipate, enlist, and arm black men was an enormous threat to Southern independence. This broadside urged owners to move their slaves away from the advancing Union Army and contribute their “servants” to the cause.
Broadside “To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department”, 09/15/1863. From the War Department Collection of Confederate Records
FREEDOM, Protection, Pay, and a Call to Military Duty!
After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the U.S. Army began recruiting black men in earnest to fight for the Union Army. The Confederate government regarded captured black soldiers as fugitive slaves, not prisoners of war. It threatened to execute or sell them into slavery. This broadside reassured potential black recruits that the U.S. Government would treat all of its troops as soldiers and retaliate in the event of Confederate mistreatment of black U.S. soldiers, as detailed in Lincoln’s General Order 233, issued July 30, 1863:
"It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.
The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession. It is, therefore ordered, for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.”
Lincoln may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but for the enslaved men and women in Texas, emancipation did not reach them until June 19, 1865.
Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with more than 2,000 Union troops. He announced General Order No. 3, which began “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The 250,000 former slaves celebrated the news, and over the years it became an annual tradition with singing, barbeques, rodeos, and other festivities. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.
This photograph was taken during this year’s 11 annual Juneteenth celebration at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Texas. The community event featured Elizabeth Kahura as the featured story teller.
-from the US National Archives
"…I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion, with reference to the emancipation of slaves…”
This oath was James Hicks’s first step to reclaiming his land that was held by the Freedmen’s Bureau. One of the major activities of the Bureau was the leasing of abandoned and confiscated property. Although their numbers were small, freedmen who had means were allowed to lease land ranging from 10 to 100 acres.
Oath and Allegiance of James Hicks, 6/5/1865
From the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands
From May 22 to 31, the digital collection of the USCT Service Records will be free on www.Fold3.com.
On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as United States Colored Troops (USCT).
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the USCT, and the National Archives is pleased to announce the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project. In partnership with Fold3, the project provides online access to all service records—more than 3.8 million images—of Union volunteers in USCT units.
Remember: All National Archives collections on Fold3.com can always be viewed for free at a computer at any National Archives facility nationwide.
The photo and paperwork above come from the compiled military service records of former slave Edmund Delaney. Read his story on the Prologue blog.
Happy DC Emancipation Day!
DC Emancipation Act (by usnationalarchives)
Predating the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862, freeing enslaved persons in Washington, DC and ending “the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital. Unlike the later terms of the Emancipation Proclamation, slave owners in DC were compensated by the U.S. Treasury Department.
In this Inside the Vaults video short, Documentary Archivist Damani Davis discusses the petitions filed by owners and slaves under the Act and the details they reveal about the enslaved African-American community at the time. Archivist Robert Ellis explains how the process worked.
Learn more about the DC Emancipation Act and the journey to Emancipation in the new free eBook from the National Archives: The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, in ePub, iBook and Scribd formats.
“‘Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer.’
The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture.”
Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 4/2/1863
This 1863 photograph of “Peter,” a former slave displaying scars from his overseer’s whippings, was widely reproduced as evidence of slavery’s cruelty. The image was sometimes paired with a photo or drawing of “Peter” after his enlistment in the U.S. Army. “Peter” was sometimes identified as “Gordon.”
Letter from Brigadier General W. Sooy Smith to the Commander of the 1st Division of the 16th Army Corps. 3/27/1863
After the Emancipation Proclamation, the stream of slaves running to freedom swelled to a flood. Gen. W. Sooy Smith, who commanded Union troops in Tennessee, faced a dilemma. Men loyal to the Union wanted their property returned. But Smith’s orders were to refuse such requests. This letter asks how to avoid “the charge of furnishing Asylum to the Servants of loyal men.” The War Department usually advised that runaways be employed by the Army.