Digital Library on American Slavery
People Not Property - Slave Deeds of North Carolina
The People Not Property project is a collaborative endeavor between the UNCG University Libraries, North Carolina Division of Archives and Records, and North Carolina Registers of Deeds among others. Working as an addition to and evolution of the Digital Library on American Slavery, the project is leading towards a unique, centralized database of bills of sales indexing the names of enslaved people from across North Carolina.
When complete, People Not Property - Slave Deeds of North Carolina will include robust metadata, high resolution images, and full-text searchable transcripts. We hope to open the project to states beyond North Carolina, creating a central location for accessing and researching slave deeds from across the Southern United States.
What are Slave Deeds?
"Slave deeds" are property deeds - bills of sale, deeds of trust, divisions of property - registered with county courts and registers of deeds that contain information about enslaved individuals. Sometimes these individuals are listed only by number, but more often they are listed by name and age, providing invaluable historical information for historians and genealogists.
The slave deed shown below from Buncombe County records the sale of
a negroe woman named Rachal About twenty six years old for $375 on January 24, 1816. Rachal was sold by William Moore to Ann Ashworth. Documents like this one, along with the other components of the Digital Library on American Slavery documents like these will help to restore personal details to the history of slavery and to trace the movements of enslaved peoples over time. For genealogists, even small details like first names and approximate ages can be precious leads in reconstructing family histories.
UNC Greensboro University Libraries has received a three-year, $294,603 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize nearly 10,000 North Carolina slave deeds and bills of sale, create a comprehensive database for the digitized records and transcribe the full text of these documents.
Grant funding and project development began on October 1, 2018
The ultimate goal of the project is to digitize slave deeds across the state of North Carolina. In the first phase, we are working with twenty-six counties. Surveys about participation were sent to all 100 counties in the state, and the twenty-six listed above responded favorably to the survey and have relevant records. Other counties either did not respond to the survey or do not have records going back that far. This may be due to the destruction of records by flooding/fire or, in the case of Western counties especially, the late date of establishment as counties.
- The First "Virtual Stop" on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education; March 11, 2020)
- NC's Slave Deeds Tell Stories Of 'People, Not Property' (WUNC The State Of Things; March 10, 2020)
- Once a Plantation, Stagville Helps Families Find Enslaved Ancestors (IndyWeek; Feb 26, 2020)
- 'People Not Property' Aims to Create Statewide Database of Slave Deeds in North Carolina (Next City; Jan 22, 2020)
- University researchers to digitize Beaufort County slave deeds, local volunteers welcome (Washington Daily News; Aug 05, 2019)
- Elon Law to assist with 'People Not Property' project (Elon University; June 26, 2019)
- Researchers helping people find ancestors, learn history of families (Fox 8 News; Sep 26, 2018)
- UNCG Slave Name Database Ensures The Past Is Not Forgotten (WUNC The State Of Things; Aug 21, 2018)
- Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Aim to Preserve Slave Records (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education; August 06, 2018)
- UNCG libraries working to compile slave deeds from North Carolina counties (Spectrum News; August 01, 2018)
- Documenting slavery (Greensboro News & Record; July 30, 2018)
- UNCG To Digitize Slave Deed Records From Across The State (WFMY News 2; July 28, 2018)
- UNCG To Digitize Slave Deeds (NPR; July 26, 2018)
- Grant to help digitize North Carolina slave records (Chicago Tribune; July 23, 2018)
- Grant backs project to digitally preserve slave deeds across North Carolina (Asheville Citizen Times; July 23, 2018)