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MSU Libraries participate in creating digital exhibit focusing on enslaved people in the Southeast

November 7, 2019
This document, issues by the Board of Police of Adams County, enabled the recipient, a free man of color named Joe Cornish, to remain in the county. The document provides a physical description of Mr. Cornish, and attests to his good character. The importance of the document is in part conveyed by the materials used to create it: thick vellum, and the official seal of the Adams County Board of Police.

Mississippi State University Libraries is one of 37 libraries participating in The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) new digital exhibit created and curated by the ASERL Special Collections Interest Group. This collaborative online exhibit recognizes the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans sold into bondage in the English Colonies. This date, in 1619, is regarded as the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in North America.

The exhibit documents the history of the enslaved in the Southeast and includes material related to the many varied aspects of enslavement, including paper documents and records as well as images. These provide valuable information about the entire infrastructure and system of enslavement as well as the individual and group experiences of enslaved people. Items submitted include photos, letters, bills of sale, emancipation documents, insurance and taxation documents, and maps indicating segregation zones. The exhibit will also explore the legacies of slavery by including documents and images related to convict lease labor and Jim Crow in the 20th century.

Designed to illustrate the social complexity as well as the economic and human impact of the American 'peculiar institution,' in all its ugliness, these materials can guide the researchers in accurately depicting the institution of slavery in the Southeastern United States. The goal is to learn from our past and make our resources available to students, researchers, other institutions, and the public.

MSU Libraries' University Archivist and co-chair of the ASERL Special Collections Interest Group Jessica Perkins-Smith and MSU Libraries' Coordinator of Manuscripts Jennifer McGillan assisted in curating the exhibit. Visit the online exhibit at