The '10 Million Names' project: A reading list

The project goal: ID every person enslaved before 1865 in the present-day U.S.

ByABC News
February 29, 2024, 7:22 PM

ABC News reporter Alex Presha sits down with "10 Million Names" historians Dr. Kendra Field and Dr. Vincent Brown to discuss the impact of first-hand accounts, exploring the legacy of slavery through rare and historic audio interviews with formerly enslaved individuals that were recorded in previous decades. With the help of "10 Million Names" genealogists, Presha tracks down and meets one of the ancestor’s living descendants.

In an effort to break down what some genealogists refer to as the "brick wall" – a phrase that describes the difficult task of recovering ancestral documents for Black Americans before 1870 – the historic "10 Million Names" project is working to identify every individual enslaved before 1865 in the present-day United States.

ABC News is an exclusive media partner of the historic "10 Million Names" project, and offers here a recommended reading list curated by Kendra Taira Field, Ph.D.; Vincent Brown, Ph.D.; and Kerri Greenidge, Ph.D., of the 10 Million Names Scholars’ Council. The list includes the book title, authors, editors and the publisher’s note.


The Classic Slave Narratives

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (Editor, Introduction)

A seminal volume of four classic slave narratives, including Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The History of Mary Price: A West Indian Slave, Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl, and The Life of Olaudah Equiano.

The Bondwoman’s Narrative

Hannah Crafts (Author); Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Gregg Hecimovich (Editors)

Possibly the first novel written by a black woman slave, this work is both a historically important literary event and a gripping autobiographical story in its own right.

Pioneers of the Black Atlantic: Five Slave Narratives, 1772-1815

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Author), William L. Andrews (Editor)

Pioneers of the Black Atlantic is the first anthology to include the complete texts of the five most important and influential narratives of the 18th century. Included here are the writings of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, John Marrant, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and John Jea. Their stories, resonant still in our racially divided world, are landmarks in the history of autobiography and human rights.


Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation

Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau and Steven Miller (Editors); with a new foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed

No group of people better understood the power of slavery’s legacies than the last generation of American people who had lived as slaves. Little-known before the first publication of Remembering Slavery over two decades ago, their memories were recorded on paper, and in some cases on primitive recording devices, by WPA workers in the 1930s. A major publishing event, Remembering Slavery captured these extraordinary voices in a single volume for the first time, presenting them as an unprecedented, first-person history of slavery in America.

Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies

John W. Blassingame (Editor)

Between the covers of Slave Testimony readers will find the largest collection of annotated and authenticated accounts of slaves ever published in one volume. In them, the slaves of Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Henry Clay, and others speak for themselves about their culture, plantation life, the adequacy of their food, clothing, and shelter, the sexual exploitation of black women, and the psychological response to bondage. The views given are those of house servants and field hands, docile slaves and rebels, urban slaves and rural slaves, slaves with kind masters and those with cruel ones. These wide-ranging documents, together with annotations, notes, an index, dozens of illustrations, and an incisive introduction, form a volume of unusual scope and character.


The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative

John Ernest (Author)

Given the rise of new interdisciplinary and methodological approaches to African American and Black Atlantic studies, The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative will offer a fresh, wide-ranging assessment of this major American literary genre. The volume will begin with articles that consider the fundamental concerns of gender, sexuality, community, and the Christian ethos of suffering and redemption that are central to any understanding of slave narratives.

Long Past Slavery: Representing Race in the Federal Writers’ Project

Catherine A. Stewart (Author)

From 1936 to 1939, the New Deal's Federal Writers' Project collected life stories from more than 2,300 former African American slaves. These narratives are now widely used as a source to understand the lived experience of those who made the transition from slavery to freedom.

Library of Congress: Limitations of the Slave Narrative Collection

Before the resurgence of interest in slavery generated by the Black Protest Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, few historians or social scientists sought to mine the riches of the ex-slave testimonies. One major reason for this neglect was that until 1972 the entire collection was relatively inaccessible. Although the original transcripts were available for reference in the Rare Book Division of the Library of Congress, the collection does not circulate, and its sheer bulk (more than 10,000 unindexed pages) undoubtedly discouraged efforts to use it more widely and effectively. Since the early 1970s, however, both the entire Slave Narrative Collection and selections from it have been widely reprinted, and the present effort by the Library of Congress to make the collection available through the Internet now renders that limitation moot.

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