President Bush designates UDM project for American history initiative

Highlighter & Laureate,
Fall 2003



The University’s Black Abolitionist Archives will officially be on the map as a national historic resource now that President George W. Bush has selected the archive project “Black Antislavery Writings 1760-1829” to be funded by his “We the People” history initiative.

In September 2002, President Bush announced a new National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) initiative called We the People, which included a call for grant applications to explore significant events and themes in the nation’s history. The president has requested $100 million from Congress over the next three years, beginning with a first installment of $25 million in 2004 to support this initiative.

Professor of History and Black Abolitionist Archive Director Roy Finkenbine received word last June from NEH Chairman Bruce Cole that his project was selected as one of 41 projects to be funded.

“Being selected as a We the People project is a thrilling confirmation of our view that recovering and publishing black-authored texts from this period (many of which have been lost, overlooked or viewed as unimportant) is an essential part of accurately portraying the story of the American Revolution and New Nation,” says Finkenbine.

The project involves identifying, collecting, and publishing - both in selective print edition and comprehensive online edition - writings by African Americans (slave and free) between 1760 and 1829. The topics of the writings include slavery, race, and related topics (e.g., emancipation, race theory, identity, colonization).

“We expect that having these sources accessible and in one place will dramatically expand and revise scholarly and popular understanding of the role African Americans played in the American Revolution and the New Nation,” Finkenbine explains.

Finkenbine says a most interesting discovery of his research are legislative petitions authored by ordinary blacks and groups of blacks to state legislatures and Congress.

“They are quite informative as to what African Americans hoped for and worked for as the 'fruits' of the American Revolution - a nation where the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence was truly recognized.”

Though this project is funded by NEH, continued funding requires that matching funds are generated from external sources. If you are interested in supporting this important initiative, contact Roy Finkenbine at (313) 993-1016 or e-mail him at