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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Researching the Early History of Black Lives in the Connecticut River Valley


Newspapers are a valuable source of historic narratives. As the “first draft of history,” news sources can show the evolution of public thought, document events, and provide insight into historical contexts.  Advertising columns can be particularly valuable in documenting the flow of consumer goods (many of them also artifacts of the Atlantic slave economy), and also the changing shape of labor, as notices seeking apprentices, wet nurses, and other forms of assistance appear here regularly.  In the documentation of African American history, researchers have often used advertisements placed by enslavers seeking to recover runaways to understand many aspects of enslavement.

Newspapers, like any source, have biases. A bias is not necessarily good or bad: it is a part of the perspective of its authors. This is more relevant still in early America, as the idea that newspapers or journalists should report “objectively” had not yet emerged in that industry or profession. Most newspapers actively represented a distinct point of view. Abolitionist newspapers opposed enslavement and published the words of African Americans;  White dominated newspapers that advertised rewards for escaped slaves and supported the institution of slavery through these interactions. Researchers should be sure to understand the orientation of any newspaper as part of assessing its perspective.'

Newspapers can be located in local libraries' collections as well as online. Resources like AncestryFamilySearchNewsbank, and even GenealogyBank have newspapers digitized. You can use these resources to search through many newspapers or use the resources below to search a specific newspaper. 

Selected Materials in the W.E.B. DuBois Library Collection


Hartford        The Connecticut Courant and Hartford Weekly Intelligencer       1774- 1791               UM Microprint 60

                     The Hartford Courant                                                                   1764-1990                ProQuest Historical Newspapers

                     The American Mercury                                                                 1784-1833                UM Microprint 40

New Haven   New Haven Chronicle                                                                  1786-1787                UM Microprint 13

                      New Haven Gazette                                                                    1784-1786                UM Microprint 13

                      The New Haven Gazette & The Connecticut Magazine              1786-1788                UM Microfilm A82 Reel 20

New London  Connecticut Gazette, The Universal Intelligencer                       1773-1787                UM Microprint 12

                       New London Gazette                                                                  1763-1773                UM Microprint 12

                       New London Summary or the Weekly Advertiser                        1758-1763               UM Microfilm A1051, UM Microprint 48

Norwich          Norwich Packet OR The Weekly Advertiser                                1777-1779               UM Microprint 43

                      OR The Chronicle of Freedom OR The Country Journal


Rhode Island

Providence    Providence Gazette and Country Journal                                   1762- 1795              UM Microprint 59

                     The United States Chronicle                                                        1784-1804               UM Microprint 42