Chicago Public Library recently digitized over 200 items documenting the African American experience. You can see these items in our Philip David Sang Digital Collection.
The Sang collection, acquired by CPL in the late 1970s and housed in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection at Woodson Regional Library, consists of a range of materials and subjects. Among the oldest items in the collection is a mid-18th century map of western Africa.
Most of the digitized items pertain to slavery in the United States. Materials derived from the domestic slave trade cast a long shadow over our shared history. However, there’s an obvious theme of resistance that shines through the stories represented in runaway slave advertisements. There are also documents and published works created during the abolition and Civil War eras, as well as several items from the 20th century.
Some of the more noteworthy items in the collection are a "Negro Passport," which was a document issued during the Civil War by the Confederate Army and carried by enslaved men forced into providing military services for slave owners. There’s also a Certificate of Freedom issued in 1814; a trio of letters from Frederick Douglass and a signature book from an 1886 reunion of abolitionists.
Controversially, the collection contains a 1906 children’s book, published here in Chicago, in which African Americans are portrayed as stereotypical caricatures. The book’s not-so-subtle racism serves as testament to the uphill battles faced by African Americans long after the Civil War ended.
To learn more, check out the Philip David Sang Collection finding aid. Materials that are not available digitally, such as an autographed copy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1964 Time magazine cover, will be made available electronically in person at the Harsh Collection.
We’re pleased to bring this collection to life and make it accessible to everyone online. You can see additional materials from CPL's special collections in our Digital Collections or by visiting us in person.