Afri-Quest, The People’s Archive

I have not seen this site before, but it claims to be a collaborative free genealogical information site.  From the website:

Welcome to Afriquest, the free online database for records of African American genealogy and history. Afriquest is a place to share and preserve documents, images and family oral history. Every document, image or story you add to Afriquest will be preserved and will remain free to access, for generations to come.

Everything you share here belongs to you – you may edit your content or remove it at any time. Welcome to YOUR Afriquest: The People’s Archive!

I thought the initial concept was like a wiki, but it appears that the site reviews what is submitted for publication prior to posting.

Has anyone used this site?  I like the basic premise.  Check it out for yourself at

Black Abolitionist Papers Now Online

According to the American Library Association’s African American Studies Librarians Section:  Covering the time period between 1830 and 1865, this collection of primary source records “…is the first to comprehensively detail the extensive work of African Americans to abolish slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War.”

The record set, put online by ProQuest, covers about 15,000 works of approximately 300 Black abolitionists in the U.S., Canada, the British Isles, France, and Germany.  It does not appear that one would be able to access this at home without going through a public library access account or visiting your local library, but it is a great collection and one worth perusing if you have a chance.

The urls are: and is part of the Black Studies Center at


1906 Newspaper Article Describes Possible Slave Quarters in New York

Stephen Girard - Slave Dealer or Not?

Stephen Girard - Slave Dealer or Not?

Sometimes when you are looking for something, you find something else entirely.  Many times what you stumble across is better.  Take, for example, a bit of information gleaned from the New York Daily Tribune, Sunday, October 21, 1906, entitled Slave Cells Exhumed:

“The charge that Stephen Girard, philanthropist, was a slave dealer, is being forced upon the unwilling attention of the world by the recent discovery, in demolishing his old house at No. 22 North Water street, Philadelphia, of three tiers of underground cells that seem to have been used for the purpose of incarcerating human beings.  The dungeons are entered through a narrow corridor, the windows of which are heavily barred.  This corridor has all the appearance of being constructed for the prison patrol.  The barred windows of the cells look upon this corridor, and here.  If prisoners were kept in the rooms, the jailors could pass to give them food.  The walls at this part of the house are a foot and a half thick, of solid stone, and any unfortunate thrown into one of these dungeons would be unable to make his cries heard beyond the corridor outside the cells.  Whether they were the prisons for the old philanthropist’s rebellious slaves, whether he punished refractory seamen from his ships by giving them a course of bread and water in a dark dungeon, or whether the gloomy vaults were the temporary abiding place of slaves that Girard had bought to sell again, it seems impossible to decide.  But the cells are there as mute evidence that some queer work was done in the old Girard house and how to explain away their existence is taxing the ingenuity of more than one admirer of the patriot who lent his money to finance the war with Great Britain.”

Interestingly enough, Mr. Girard was one of the richest men in America by the time he died – behind Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Astor.  He created the Girard Bank which merged with Mellon Bank in 1993 (yes, that is not a typo) according to Wikipedia.   It appears that he all but financed the War of 1812 as well.  No wonder the good folks of Philadelphia did not want to think of him as a slave dealer.  Although Wikipedia does not mention anything about this finding, it does mention that Girard did extensive works with orphans.

In any event, it is a story worthy of follow-up for this blog and I will see what I can dig up…no pun intended. 

July/August Issue of AAHGS News Out

The July/August 2008 issue of AAHGS Newsis at the printer.  Featured in this issue, available to AAHGS members or by purchasing an issue at the website, is our annual conference promotion and schedule. 

The conference will be held on the 6-9 November 2008 at Marriott Inn and Conference Center on the University of Maryland campus in Adelphi, Maryland.  The luncheons at the conference will be hosted by local authors including Thomas Battle, Donna Wells, Bertie Bowman, Ta-Nehisi Coates, C.R. Gibbs, Rohulamin Quander, and Psyche Williams-Forson.   

Registration should be postmarked no later than September 15th to get the discounted rate of $325 (members) or $365 (non-members) for all three days including all meals on Friday and Saturday, snacks, and Sunday brunch.  Registrations for the full conference after the deadline will be $400 (members) or $435 (non-members).  If you cannot attend the entire conference, a day rate is offered for members and non-members with a choice of meals/no meals. 

See the website at for more details.

Forgotten Patriots

July Fourth is Independence Day in the United States.  A celebration of the freedom fought for and won by those escaping religious persecution in another country.  If you are like most people, July 4th brings forth images of Paul Revere, Minutemen, fifes, drums, and British in red uniforms.  It also brings forth thoughts of fireworks, barbecues, and family celebrations.  But what about those freedom fighters who were forcibly brought to this country and enslaved by the very people who professed freedom for all mankind?  What about those who fought for freedom in their own land alongside those who took it and slaughtered them in the name of colonization? 

This Fourth of July, I challenge you to remember these forgotten patriots.  If you think that they were few and far between, you would be wrong.  The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has produced a prodigious work, 854 pages to be exact, listing names of those African Americans and Native Americans that fought in the War for Independence.  Entitled Forgotten Patriots African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War, A Guide to Service, Sources and Studies, (ISBN 978-1-892237-10-1) this book is a wealth of information about those forgotten patriots who fought for freedom in this country. 

Who were the forgotten patriots in your communities?  If you do not know, maybe it is about time you found out.  This Fourth of July, I will remember Cato Wood, a black man from what is now Arlington, Massachusetts, a man remembered by barely a one sentence notation in the history of that town.  I will also remember Cuff Dole.  I came across his name while researching colonial records in Essex County.  Again, one sentence mentioning a sluice he dug for an area mill and no mention of his service to this country.  And of course, I will remember Prince Estabrook.  Commemorated in a speech by AAHGS-NE member Charles Price a re-enactor who has portrayed Estabrook in the Lexington, Massachusetts Battle on Lexington Green for over 30 years, his dignified portrayal resulted in a monument being erected this year in memory of Estabrook’s service to this country – over 230 years after the fact. 

Regardless of their own situations, these men fought for the freedoms that we hold dear.  They fought for something bigger than themselves, for a dream that they had for the future – an American dream.  They had a dream that “…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.””  One hundred and eighty-seven years before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave that famous speech in Washington, D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial; these men were working towards a dream.  I think they deserve to be remembered, don’t you?