The Black Abolitionist Papers Project began in 1976 with the mission to collect and publish the documentary record of African Americans involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States. The project originated from an understanding that broad spans of African American history have eluded scholarly attention because the necessary research materials are not readily available. Except for several small manuscript collections of better-known black leaders (usually those who continued their careers after emancipation), the personal papers, business records, speeches, essays, letters, and other documentary sources of black abolitionists have not survived or been systematically identified and made available to scholars. The same holds true for antebellum black newspapers.
During its first phase, the Black Abolitionist Papers Project conducted an international search for documents. A four-year collection process took the project to thousands of manuscript collections and newspapers in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Canada as well as in the United States. This effort netted nearly 14,000 letters, speeches, essays, pamphlets, and newspaper editorials from over 200 libraries and 110 newspapers. What resulted is the documentary record of hundreds of black men and women and their efforts to end American slavery.
The Black Abolitionist Papers were microfilmed during the second phase of the project. The microfilmed edition includes all the primary documents gathered during the collection phase on seventeen reels of film with a published guide and index ( New York, N.Y.: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1981-83; Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1984- ). The guide contains a detailed description of the collection procedures.
The third and final phase of the project was the publication of a five- volume series of edited and annotated representative documents in The Black Abolitionist Papers ( Chapel Hill, N.C., 1985-92). The five volumes treat the history of African American involvement in an international reform movement that spanned thirty-five years in the United States, the British