The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino recently announced its acquisition of two collections related to abolition and slavery in 19-century America, including a rare account book from the Underground Railroad.
“These new materials provide compelling windows into the lives of those who were enslaved and those who escaped slavery and also shed light on the politics of the times before, during and after the Civil War,” said Sandra Ludig Brooker, avery director of the library at The Huntington.
“They are a vivid complement to The Huntington’s rich collections documenting American slavery, abolitionist movements and the history of the American South.”
The first group of materials includes the papers of Zachariah Taylor Shugart (1805 – 1881), a Quaker abolitionist who operated an Underground Railroad stop at his farm in Cass County, Mich. The centerpiece of the collection is an account ledger which contains the names of 137 men and women who passed through his farm while trying to reach freedom in Canada.
The second collection is the archive of some 2,000 letters and accounts documenting the history of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works in West Virginia. This industry relied heavily on slave labor and the papers provide insights into the lives of enslaved and free Black Virginians, including the family of Booker T. Washington.
“These two important acquisitions highlight the complexities of documenting America’s history of slavery,” said Olga Tsapina, the Norris Foundation curator of American History at The Huntington.
The two collections were purchased recently at an auction and are currently being cataloged. They will be made available to scholars in the near future. Some materials, including Shugart’s ledger, will be digitized.
Shugart’s papers also include listings of legal expenses likely incurred during lawsuits over the 1847 failed “Kentucky Raid,” when slave catchers from Kentucky attempted unsuccessfully to seize runaways hiding on Michigan farms, including Shugart’s.
For more information, visit www.huntington.org, or call (626) 405-2100.