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Slavery & Freedom in Maryland

A guide to the history of slavery in Maryland leading up to the Civil War, using materials from the University of Maryland Special Collections in Hornbake Library.

About Slave Narratives

Slave narratives are a rich source of information about the personal experiences of individual African Americans in early American society.  Special Collections at the University of Maryland is home to a wide variety of slave narrative and oral histories that document the individual experiences of slaves within the state. 

"Twenty-Eight Fugitives Escaping from the Eastern Shore of Maryland."  From: Still, William, The Underground Rail Road... (Philadelphia: Wm. Still, 1883).

Because detailed information is not always available about how these narratives were compiled or published, it is important to examine them carefully as primary sources.  The following are important analytical questions to consider when looking at personal narratives:

  • When was the source written and/or published? Is it an account from the time period or a later recollection?
  • Where was the source produced?
  • Who created the source?  Is it a first-hand account?  Was it recorded or written down by another person?
  • What is the source?  Is it a diary, published narrative, oral history interview, or something else?   

For more information about how to use sources for your research, visit the interpreting primary and secondary sources guide from the University of Maryland Libraries.

"Crossing the River on Horseback in the Night."  From: Still, William, The Underground Rail Road... (Philadelphia: Wm. Still, 1883).

Slave narratives and oral histories are searchable in the University of Maryland Libraries' online catalog.  Use the list on the right to browse a selection of narratives available in the Maryland Room, or refer to the searching the catalog section of this guide for more information about searching the UMD online catalog. 

Notable Marylanders

Frederick Douglass and Josiah Henson are two notable African-Americans in Maryland History.  Below is a list of narratives documenting their lives as slaves.  Click on the title to view the full catalog record.

You can also locate additional slave narratives using the "Slavery -- United States -- Personal narratives" subject heading when searching the UM online catalog.

Additional Slave Narratives

Listed below is a selection of additional slave narratives and oral histories, arranged alphabetically, that are available in the Maryland Room.  Click on the title to view the full catalog record.

You can also locate additional slave narratives using the "Slavery -- United States -- Personal narratives" subject heading when searching the UM online catalog.