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Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law

This HeinOnline collection brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world.

About Slavery in America and the World

Included in HeinOnline's Social Justice Suite*, free to HeinOnline Core subscribers and any interested organizations.


For the last half century, scholars in the United States and elsewhere have focused enormous attention on the impact of slavery on the development of the modern world. Scholars in many disciplines agree that to a greater or lesser extent, the modern industrial economy was in part a result of the system of Atlantic slavery that began in the 1450s and ended in the 1800s. Historians have of course long been interested in slavery. But today, slavery scholars are found in law schools, business schools, public policy schools, and medical schools. In universities we find slavery scholars (and courses on slavery) in various departments, including economics, political science, literature, sociology, anthropology, fine arts, art history, and archeology. Movies, television programs, best-selling novels, and museum exhibits illustrate how slavery has become a fixture in American popular culture. Universities have sponsored scholarly investigations into whether their history was tied to human bondage. Slavery comes up in political debate over issues of flying the Confederate flag, building monuments, and reparations. Analogies to slavery are part of modern legal debates. 

Slavery is one of the oldest social institutions in human society, and as such, is still relevant today.

About the Database

Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, and Law brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. Our case coverage extends into the 20th century because long after slavery ended, courts were still resolving issues emanating from the practice. To give one example, as late as 1901, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had to decide if a man, both of whose parents had been slaves, could be the legitimate heir of his father—under southern law, slaves could never be legally married. 

This library has hundreds of pamphlets and books written about slavery—defending it, attacking it, or simply analyzing it—including an expansive slavery collection from Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. The cooperation of this institution was central to developing this collection. We have also gathered every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920, which includes many essays and articles in obscure, hard-to-find journals in the United States and elsewhere. We have provided more than a thousand pamphlets and books on slavery from the 19th century. We have also included many modern histories of slavery. Within this library is a section containing all modern law review articles on the subject, as well.

This library will continue to grow, not only from new scholarship but also from historical material that we continue to locate and add to the collection.

- Paul Finkelman, General Editor


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RUSA's Annual List of Best Historical Materials

In 2016, this database was named on the annual list of Best Historical materials during the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Book and Media Awards Ceremony at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting. The list recognizes the evaluation and effectiveness of coverage of historical resources in all fields of history and promotes the enhanced availability of historical works and information. The sources are selected by the Historical Materials Committee of the History Section of RUSA, which seeks to improve the usefulness of bibliographies and indexes in the field of history and shared among bibliographers, indexers, publishers, and professional associations.

About the Editor

Paul Finkelman is a specialist in American legal history, constitutional law, and race and the law. He is the author more than 200 scholarly articles and 40 books, and his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and Huffington Post. His book Slavery in the Courtroom received the Joseph L. Andrews Award from the American Association of Law Libraries in 1986. 

He is an expert in topics such as constitutional history and constitutional law, the legal history of slavery, civil liberties, freedom of religion, the law of slavery civil liberties, and has written extensively on Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. 

Finkelman has been cited by the Supreme Court for his scholarship on racial equality and affirmative action, religious monuments in public spaces, public prayer, and the Second Amendment, and he appeared as the chief expert witness in the Alabama Ten Commandments monument case and the lawsuit over the ownership of Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball.


Editor's Note

"In 1974, I began a doctoral dissertation on slavery and law. I spent months sitting in the University of Chicago Law Library looking at volumes of printed reports, trying to find every slave case decided by a northern court (there were hundreds and hundreds of them). I searched for obscure statutes from the 18th and early 19th centuries. I looked for law review articles in such long-forgotten journals as the Monthly Law Reporter and the Western Legal Observer. If only Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law had existed then! I would still have had to read and analyze everything. I would have had to frame my search questions carefully. But my search for source materials would have taken months instead of nearly two years. With this library, future scholars can spend more time reading and analyzing the sources, and much less time looking for them."

- Paul Finkelman, General Editor

About HeinOnline's Social Justice Suite

Free of charge to HeinOnline Core subscribers and any interested organizations.

To honor our core value of corporate citizenship, Hein offers five of its databases free of charge to its core American and international subscribers, and to the libraries of any other interested organizations or institutions. This Social Justice Suite consists of the following resources:

Registering for free access to any one of these databases will provide complimentary access to the entire suite. We hope that in making these materials accessible to all, we can help foster knowledge, facilitate civil discourse, and encourage action for the betterment of our nation.


From the Pages of The Charleston Advisor:

The SJS (Social Justice Suite) databases contain very timely content on issues regarding civil and human rights, the right to bear arms, and gun violence ... Very relevant and comprehensive content per respective topical areas.
- Winward, Kyle D. "Social Justice Suite." The Charleston Advisor 24, no. 3 (January 2023): 53-57. Advisor Reviews—Standard Review.