African American Resources for Pennsylvania

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Online Resources

A potential source for information about individuals is Pennsylvania Abolition Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Manumissions and Indentures, ca. 1780-1840, Arranged by Name of Master or Slaveholder FHL films 1731983 (first of 7 films). Records are from various eastern states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Georgia, and Virginia.

Documenting our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive Project

Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries; Freedom Papers

Research Strategy


An important history is Edward Raymond Turner, The Negro in Pennsylvania: Slavery-Servitude-Freedom, 1639-1861 (New York, NY: Negro Universities Press, 1969; FHL book 974.8 F2t. It includes an extensive bibliography.

See also:

Charles L. Blockson, African Americans in Pennsylvania: A History and Guide(Baltimore, Maryland.: A DuForcel book published by Black Classic Press, 1994); FHL book 974.8 F2bL.

Blockson, Charles L. African Americans in Pennsylvania: Above ground and underground, an illustrated guide. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania : RB Books; Seitz and Seitz, Inc., c 2001 FHL 974.8F2bl 2001

Blockson, Charles L.ed. by Louise D. Stone. Pennsylvania's Black History. Philadelphia: portfolio Associates, 1975. E185.93.P41 B56




Census Records

The "septennial" census (see Pennsylvania Census), beginning in 1800, often listed the name, age, and sex of slaves and the names of slave owners.

Church Records

Emancipation Records

Funeral Homes


Land and Property


Oral Histories

Other Records

Military Records


Probate Records

Reconstruction Records

Freedman’s Bank

Freedman's Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers may list a person's former masters, birth date, birthplace, occupation, residences, death information, parents, children, spouses, or siblings. Pennsylvania had one branch of this bank at Philadelphia from 1870 to 1874.

The signature registers for this branch are listed as Freedman's Savings and Trust Company (Washington, D.C.), 1865-1874, Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1969; FHL film 928571 (first of 20 films). Depositors are in order by account number.

The separate Freedman's Bureau records do not normally name relatives or give genealogical information. They can be found in the Subject Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under FREEDMEN - PENNSYLVANIA.

Freedmen's Bureau

School Records

Slavery Records

Pennsylvania began the gradual emancipation of slaves in 1780. Slaves are sometimes mentioned in deeds, in wills, in tax records, and in court order books. A few parish registers (Pennsylvania Church Records) list slaves who attended church with their masters.

At the taking of the 1790 Census, ironmasters were the largest slave owners in Pennsylvania counties where charcoal and iron were produced: Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Lancaster, Dauphin and York.[1]

The "septennial" census (see Pennsylvania Census), beginning in 1800, often listed the name, age, and sex of slaves and the names of slave owners.

Vital Records





Voting Registers

Archives and Libraries

Pennsylvania State Archives
A brief but helpful reference to sources at the State Archives is David McBride, The Afro-American in Pennsylvania: A Critical Guide to Sources in the Pennsylvania State Archives (Harrisburg, PA.: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1979); FHL book 974.8 A1, no. 199.



  1. Joseph E. Walker, "Negro Labor in Charcoal Iron Industry of Southeastern Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 93, No. 4 (Oct. 1969):467. For free online access, see WeRelate.