Cast of the opera "Omar" on stage, with Arabic script on the stage backdrop.

‘Tell Your Story, Omar’

A new, Pulitzer Prize–winning opera adapts the memoir of Omar ibn Said, an African Muslim who spent much of his life enslaved in North Carolina.
Nicholas Said.

The Epic Life of Nicholas Said, from Africa to Russia to the Civil War

Dean Calbreath’s biography, “The Sergeant,” relates the improbable adventures of a brilliant 19th-century Black man.
Diorama of a cluster of houses and people along a waterfront, with a ship in the foreground.

On the Rich, Hidden History of the Banjo

The banjo did not exist before it was created by the hands of enslaved people in the New World.
Lithograph entitled "A View of the Pearl Fishery" depicting enslaved persons rowing in water next to tents on the shore.

African Swimmers in American Waters

Although most enslaved people worked in the fields, captive workers with strong swimming and diving skills were also exploited by plantation owners.
Group portrait, "Elihu Yale With Members of His Family and an Enslaved Child," 1719.

Who Is the Enslaved Child in This Portrait of Yale University's Namesake?

Scholars have yet to identify the young boy, but new research offers insights on his age and likely background.
Artist's rendition of Omar ibn Said

A Quest for the True Identity of Omar ibn Said, a Muslim Man Enslaved in the Carolinas

Omar ibn Said was captured in Senegal at 37 and enslaved in Charleston. A devout Muslim, he later converted to the Christian faith of his enslavers. Or did he?
Sunrise over Sapelo Island, Georgia.

Before 1619, There Was 1526: The Mystery of the First Enslaved Africans in What Became the United States

Nearly one hundred years before enslaved African arrived in Jamestown, the Spanish brought 100 slaves to the coast of what is now Georgia or South Carolina.

How We Think About the Term 'Enslaved' Matters

The first Africans who came to America in 1619 were not ‘enslaved’, they were indentured – and this is a crucial difference.

A Symbol of Slavery — and Survival

Angela’s arrival in Jamestown in 1619 marked the beginning of a subjugation that left millions in chains.

Conversion and Race in Colonial Slavery

To convert was not just a matter of belief, but also a claim to power.

The Last Slave

In 1931, Zora Neale Hurston recorded the story of Cudjo Lewis, the last living slave-ship survivor. It languished in a vault... until now.
Thomas Jefferson's two-volume personal copy of George Sale's 1734 translation of the Qur'an. Library of Congress.

Why Thomas Jefferson Owned a Qur’an

Islam in America dates to the founding fathers, says Smithsonian’s religion curator Peter Manseau.

Slave Consumption in the Old South: A Double-Edged Sword

Buying goods in the Old South revealed the fragile politics at the heart of master-slave relation.
Olauda Equiano.

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano, native of Africa, survivor of the Middle Passage and enslavement, tells his story.
Two elderly Black women.

How the Memory of a Song Reunited Two Women Separated by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

In 1990, scholars found a Sierra Leonean woman who remembered a nearly identical version of a tune passed down by a Georgia woman’s enslaved ancestors
A first edition of the book "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral", by Phillis Wheatley.

Presidents Day, Meet Black History Month

Remembering an exchange between George Washington and the poet Phillis Wheatley.
Enslaved people working on South Carolina Plantation.

A Historian Complicates the Racial Divide

"African Founders" corrects some of the ideological uses of Black American history.
Collage of plantation logbooks superimposed over photos of enslaved people.

A Racist Scientist Commissioned Photos of Enslaved People. One Descendant Wants to Reclaim Them.

There's no clear system in place to repatriate remains of captive Africans or objects associated with them.
Painting of the english surgeon Edward Jenner inoculating a child.

How Far Back Were Africans Inoculating Against Smallpox? Really Far Back.

When I looked at the archives, I found a history hidden in plain sight.
Sea Captains drinking alcohol

Ships Going Out

In "American Slavers," Sean M. Kelley surveys the relatively unknown history of Americans who traded in slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.