Resource Highlight: HeinOnline’s Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, and Law

In case you haven’t read the news, scholarly research into slavery’s influence on our legal system is highly relevant to many ongoing debates. The law library can help with your research in many ways, but today I’m going to highlight HeinOnline’s Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, and Law. Whether you are doing legal research that relates to slavery, or interdisciplinary research on other aspects of slavery that touches upon the law, this rich collection gathers a wide range of useful primary and secondary sources that might otherwise be cumbersome to identify and locate.

When it comes to primary legal sources, Slavery in America and the World aims to be comprehensive. It includes:

  • Every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery;
  • Every federal statute dealing with slavery; and
  • All reported state and federal cases.

The way the collection organizes these sources by jurisdiction and then presents them chronologically is obviously a great match for a research project focused on historical developments; however, even if the historical timeline itself is not a major focus of your research, this organization still provides some valuable context. It’s quite useful.

This database also cuts a wide swath when it comes to gathering primary historical sources (i.e., contemporary accounts of slavery). HeinOnline says it includes every pre-1920 English-language legal commentary on slavery, including many obscure articles and journals that are otherwise difficult to find. It supplements those legal commentaries with hundreds of newspapers and pamphlets discussing slavery from a variety of perspectives.

A photograph of former slaves in the time period following the Emancipation Proclamation.
Via wikimedia.

Slavery in America and the World also helps to contextualize this impressive range of primary sources with useful secondary materials. It includes a fairly thorough and relatively up-to-date collection of modern legal scholarship on slavery, as well as an extensive bibliography of books on the topic.

Slavery looms large over American history and American law, and there is no shortage of sources on the topic, which can make research feel overwhelming, even for the experienced researcher. Slavery in America and the World helps to make it more manageable by gathering so many of the most important resources in a single place and organizing them in an intuitive and approachable manner. If you are just getting started, the collection has a clear and easy-to-navigate LibGuide to help point you in the right direction. Of course, as with any of the GSU Law Library’s many resources, librarians are also here to help you use them effectively in your research.    

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