The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
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Bill of sale for Thankfull, 1803

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


A wealth of stark and startling documents are among the Schlesinger Library’s collections. This one stands alone: Acquired by the Library in 2012, it is a bill of sale for a 23-year-old “Negro wench” identified as “Thankfull,” who was sold for $200 to Daniel Tooker by John Youle in 1803, in New York. Could anything make the dehumanizing reality of slavery more vivid than a signed and sealed bill of sale for a young woman?

Bill of Sale of John Youle, Schlesinger Library

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In the video below, Marlin Kann—an AP US history teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School who wants to broaden his students’ understanding of history—marvels at the creased and weathered document from 1803 that held the fate of a 23-year-old woman.

In 2017, the Radcliffe Institute hosted a conference to explore the relationship between slavery and universities, across the country and around the world.

View the complete proceedings of the event:

Heather Min