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Luisa de Abrego: Marriage, Bigamy, and the Spanish Inquisition

The NHPRC is delighted to support "La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archives of the Americas" housed at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg through a Major Initiatives grant. The funds will support “Europeans, Indians, and Africans: Lost Voices from America’s Oldest Parish Archive, 1594-1821,” which is designed to make St. Augustine’s diocesan archives accessible to a global audience. These ecclesiastical records, which number around 9,000 handwritten documents, provide rare insight into the daily lives and relationships of the multi-ethnic population of Europeans, Africans and Native American residents that comprised the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental U.S.

The work from this collaborative initiative will be featured on the La Florida digital platform (, allowing teachers, students, scholars and the general public to view, conduct detailed searches on individuals and demographic changes and create custom infographics from the entire collection. For more on this grant, go to

La Florida is already using historical records in creative ways, including a video chronicling the story of Luisa de Abrego, a free black domestic servant from Seville. In 1565, Abrego secretly boarded a Spanish vessel bound for Florida, where she was one of roughly eight hundred settlers who established the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine. Within months of her arrival, Abrego married a Segovian soldier by the name of Miguel Rodriguez. To date, their marriage is the first known and recorded Christian marriage anywhere in the continental United States, an interracial union between a free black woman and a Spanish conquistador.

You can check it out at

This video chronicles the story of Luisa de Abrego, a free black domestic servant from Seville. In 1565, Abrego secretly boarded a Spanish vessel bound for F...

An NHPRC grant to WNET in New York went to support the creation of the "American Masters" Digital Archives with 40 full-...

An NHPRC grant to WNET in New York went to support the creation of the "American Masters" Digital Archives with 40 full-length documentaries, transcriptions, and 1,500 hours of full interviews from those biographical programs of America’s writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, filmmakers and other artists.

Launched in 1986, the series has set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. Awards include 75 Emmy nominations and 28 awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 13 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series.

In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive ( features previously unreleased interviews filmed for American Masters documentaries. Watch short-form videos showcasing interviews with David Bowie, Gloria Steinem, Herbie Hancock, Bernadette Peters, Mike Nichols and other luminaries discussing America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. Listen to long-form interviews from the archive on the American Masters Podcast, hosted by series executive producer Michael Kantor, like this one by jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald:

The NHPRC is proud to support the Lantern Project, a collaborative effort which focuses on the records that illuminate t...

The NHPRC is proud to support the Lantern Project, a collaborative effort which focuses on the records that illuminate the experience of persons sold “down river” as part of the slave trade conducted on the Mississippi River. The project which will identify, digitize, transcribe and index legal records of enslaved persons held by Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, Delta State University, Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, the Natchez Historical Foundation, and the Montgomery County (AL) Archives. The Lantern Project will coordinate the process of digitizing, transcribing and indexing these records in an online database that will be full-text searchable and provide digital images of the original records.

“It was as if their relatives had vanished into darkness, never to be seen again. This was primarily because nearly all enslaved persons were forbidden to learn to read or write, so it was extremely difficult to reconnect families after they were separated,” project director Jennifer McGillan said. “The Lantern Project hopes to turn on the lights, illuminate the paper trail and reconnect individuals with their families.” (Photo by Megan Bean)

See more at

Ellen Craft and William Craft were born into slavery in Georgia and escaped north in 1848 by traveling openly by train a...

Ellen Craft and William Craft were born into slavery in Georgia and escaped north in 1848 by traveling openly by train and steamboat, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. Because she was light skinned, Ellen passed as a white male planter and William pretended to be her personal servant. Reports of their escape made them famous, and abolitionists shared their story to gain support.

After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Crafts feared for their safety and emigrated to England. In 1860 they published "Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom," and their account reached wide audiences in Great Britain and the United States. Some critics claimed that they did not like living abroad and that Ellen would prefer to return to her former master.

She replied to the claim:

"So I write these few lines merely to say that the statement is entirely unfounded, for I have never had the slightest inclination whatever of returning to bondage; and God forbid that I should ever be so false to liberty as to prefer slavery in its stead. In fact, since my escape from slavery, I have gotten much better in every respect than I could have possibly anticipated. Though, had it been to the contrary, my feelings in regard to this would have been just the same, for I had much rather starve in England, a free woman, than be a slave for the best man that ever breathed upon the American continent."

Their story is featured in The Black Abolitionist Papers, a five-volume documentary collection culled from an international archival search that turned up over 14,000 letters, speeches, pamphlets, essays, and newspaper editorials by nearly 300 black men and women. The first two volumes consider black abolitionists in the British Isles and Canada (the home of some 60,000 black Americans on the eve of the Civil War), and the remaining volumes examine the activities and opinions of black abolitionists in the United States from 1830 until the end of the Civil War. In particular, these volumes focus on their reactions to African colonization and the idea of gradual emancipation, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the promise brought by emancipation during the war.

The Black Abolitionist Papers was supported with grants from the NHPRC. Additional information at for the documentary edition and for an online database.

Happy Valentine's Day!Shown here from Valentine’s Day in 1950 is Jackie Thompson peeking at Johnnie Gorman delivering va...

Happy Valentine's Day!

Shown here from Valentine’s Day in 1950 is Jackie Thompson peeking at Johnnie Gorman delivering valentine to her house. This charming image is from the John C. Wyatt Lexington Herald-Leader photographs (LHL) collection that consists of an estimated 2 million unique photographic negatives spanning the years 1939-2001.

You can read more about it in the February Issue of the NHPRC News -- with stories on new grants and opportunities, the Digital Edition Publishing Cooperative, Wilma Rudolph and other Black Champions, Jefferson's Weather Diaries, Blackbeard at the North Carolina Digital Archive, and Valentine's Day.

“Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative” project ( at the Library of Virgini...

“Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative” project ( at the Library of Virginia will receive $175,392 this year to enhance the online Virginia Untold project by adding digitized Registers of
Free Blacks (1793–1865) from 19 localities in the commonwealth, along with three additional registers held by Arlington County. In addition, the project will arrange, describe, and digitize records relating to free people of color from the City of Richmond.

Once completed, the records and data will join the 15,000 records and 200,000 names of enslaved people
and free people of color currently found in the database.
Documents recording the pre–Civil War experiences of African Americans, enslaved or free, either do not exist or have
been mostly inaccessible. The Virginia Untold project, created in 2013, provides greater accessibility to pre-1865 African
American history and genealogy found in the rich primary sources stored at the Library of Virginia, helping the public
break through the roadblock that has long impeded African American history research.

In some instances, these materials contain the only written account of a narrative told from the point of view of the free
or enslaved person mentioned in the document. The Virginia Untold project reveals stories such as that of Rachel
Findley, who won freedom for herself and more than 35 of her descendants in a Powhatan County court in 1820.

Frederick Douglass on Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration:"In the evening of the day of the inauguration, another new ...

Frederick Douglass on Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration:

"In the evening of the day of the inauguration, another new experience awaited me. The usual reception was given at the executive mansion, and though no colored persons had ever ventured to present themselves on such occasions, it seemed, now that freedom had become the law of the republic, and colored men were on the battle-field mingling their blood with that of white men in one common effort to save the country, that it was not too great an assumption for a colored man to offer his congratulations to the President with those of other citizens. I decided to go, and sought in vain for some one of my own color to accompany me.

It is never an agreeable experience to go where there can be any doubt of welcome, and my colored friends had too often realized discomfiture from this cause to be willing to subject themselves to such unhappiness; they wished me to go, as my New England colored friends in the long-ago liked very well to have me take passage on the first-class cars, and be hauled out and pounded by rough-handed brakemen, to make way for them. It was plain, then, that some one must lead the way, and that if the colored man would have his rights, he must take them; and now, though it was plainly quite the thing for me to attend President Lincoln’s reception, “they all with one accord began to make excuse.”

It was finally arranged that Mrs. Dorsey should bear me company, so together we joined in the grand procession of citizens from all parts of the country, and moved slowly towards the executive mansion. I had for some time looked upon myself as a man, but now in this multitude of the élite of the land, I felt myself a man among men. I regret to be obliged to say, however, that this comfortable assurance was not of long duration, for on reaching the door, two policemen stationed there took me rudely by the arm and ordered me to stand back, for their directions were to admit no persons of my color. The reader need not be told that this was a disagreeable set-back. But once in the battle, I did not think it well to submit to repulse.

I told the officers I was quite sure there must be some mistake, for no such order could have emanated from President Lincoln; and that if he knew I was at the door he would desire my admission. They then, to put an end to the parley, as I suppose, for we were obstructing the doorway, and were not easily pushed aside, assumed an air of politeness, and offered to conduct me in. We followed their lead, and soon found ourselves walking some planks out of a window, which had been arranged as a temporary passage for the exit of visitors. We halted so soon as we saw the trick, and I said to the officers: “You have deceived me. I shall not go out of this building till I see President Lincoln.”

At this moment a gentleman who was passing in recognized me, and I said to him: “Be so kind as to say to Mr. Lincoln that Frederick Douglass is detained by officers at the door.” It was not long before Mrs. Dorsey and I walked into the spacious East Room, amid a scene of elegance such as in this country I had never before witnessed. Like a mountain pine high above all others, Mr. Lincoln stood, in his grand simplicity, and home-like beauty.

Recognizing me, even before I reached him, he exclaimed. so that all around could hear him, “Here comes my friend Douglass.” Taking me by the hand, he said, “I am glad to see you. I saw you in the crowd to-day, listening to my inaugural address; how did you like it?” I said, “Mr. Lincoln, I must not detain you with my poor opinion, when there are thousands waiting to shake hands with you.” “No, no,” he said, “you must stop a little, Douglass; there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what you think of it?” I replied, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” “I am glad you liked it!” he said; and I passed on, feeling that any man, however distinguished, might well regard himself honored by such expressions, from such a man."

From The Papers of Frederick Douglass, supported by the NHPRC. More info at

Photo of President Lincoln delivering his inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1865, courtesy Library of Congress

In 1958, Quincy Jones (class of '51) presented Berklee College of Music's founder and President Lawrence Berk a check es...

In 1958, Quincy Jones (class of '51) presented Berklee College of Music's founder and President Lawrence Berk a check establishing the Quincy Jones Scholarship, which still exists today, providing aid for composers and arrangers at the Boston-based school. Quincy Jones, of course, would go on to a remarkable career as a composer, arranger, and record producer.

A grant from the NHPRC helped Berklee establish its archives. Founded in 1945, Berklee employs a demanding and pragmatic educational approach that includes jazz, R&B, pop, rock, gospel, and other forms of music. Alumni include jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, songwriter Melissa Etheridge, and film composer Alan Silvestri. Berklee offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a master's program in Valencia, Spain.

The Archives is located in the Stan Getz Library at 150 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston, but you can check it out at

Theodore “Ted” Berry (1905-2000) was the first African American mayor in Cincinnati, served the Lyndon Baines Johnson pr...

Theodore “Ted” Berry (1905-2000) was the first African American mayor in Cincinnati, served the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential administration in civil rights programs, and was an active attorney for the NAACP.

He paid his way through the University of Cincinnati by working at steel mills in Newport, Kentucky and later attended law school. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1932. He served as president of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP from 1932 to 1946. In 1938 he was appointed the first black assistant prosecuting attorney for Hamilton County.

During WW II, Berry worked in the Office of War Information as a morale officer. In 1945, Berry defended three black Army Air Force officers, members of the Tuskegee Airmen who had protested a segregated officer's club in Indiana. He won acquittal for two of the men. In 1995, the Air Force pardoned the third who had been convicted.

Three decades ago, Berry donated his papers to the University of Cincinnati where they are housed in the Archives and Rare Books Library. In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives to fully process Theodore Berry’s papers and to create modern finding aids. For the first time, these significant materials would be readily available to scholars, journalists, teachers, and students.

The project to process his papers is now complete and the Theodore Berry Papers are available for use in the Archives and Rare Books Library. You can see an exhibit on Berry's remarkable life at

From 2015 to 2017, the College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL) and the Avery Research Center for Afric...

From 2015 to 2017, the College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL) and the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture partnered on a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to digitize a select number of documents from thirteen (13) of Avery’s collections, that documented Charleston, South Carolina, and the surrounding Lowcountry region in the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement. The collections are fully accessible online through the LCDL website

Shown here is Esau Jenkins (1910-1972). Bborn and raised on Johns Island, South Carolina, he became a businessman and civil rights leader. Jenkins founded the Progressive Club in 1948, which encouraged local African Americans to register to vote, through the aid of Citizenship Schools, a topic he was educated in by his attendance at Highlander Folk Center in Tennessee. In 1959, he organized the Citizens’ Committee of Charleston County dedicated to the economic, cultural and political improvement of local African Americans.

You can find more at


700 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington D.C., DC

General information

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