Truth be told, I haven’t been this excited about a school project since my 5th grade scrapbook that I got to work on with the love of my 11th year of my life, Spencer Fangman. I have never been in a more beautiful and cozy library than that of UTA’s special archives. When we went last week with the class, I felt like we were having a personal tour through a museum, except WE got to actually touch, look through, and examine everything! I was thrilled to get started. What enthralled me the most however, was when the librarian told us about slaves that lived in Texas when it was still apart of Mexico. I had never thought about slavery in that aspect before much less ever read anything about it. So in my mind, that is what I was going to study and research. In reality, that is not what happened.
Going to the special collections for the first time by myself was an experience to say the least. I called before hand to try and set up and appointment and the guy that answered said I didn’t need to do anything or set up anything to come in. So, I didn’t. Then when I came in the first time, I told the front desk guy (I’m assuming the same man, seeing as I only saw one the entire time I was there) I was there to research Texas slaves for Dr. May’s class, he gave me a blank look. I felt lost to say the least. When I told him of my Mexican/Texan slave idea, he handed me a thick binder and told me to start thumbing through it to see what I could find.
So I looked. And looked. And read some pretty interesting stuff that the library had that had nothing to do with Texas slaves, until about an hour went by with no luck. I was discouraged and hoped that the rest of my classmates were failing as miserably as I was so I wouldn’t look bad to my professor. After sifting through the entire binder, I looked at the index. Duh. However, I wasn’t that upset. Being an English major I don’t mind spending the better half of an afternoon sitting in a library. That’s when I started looking up key phrases.
This helped out a lot, especially because most of the documents were quite old, when African Americans did not have a lot of rights, if any. This led me to either slave documents, abolitionists, or influential African Americans. After looking up this term, I looked up “slavery” where I was able to find a lot of information.
The first thing I looked up was the Gafney Family Papers. These contained documents from a family who moved from North Carolina to the Red River area to own a cotton plantation.
I was shocked to actually see these documents in person, and wished I had bought that nerdy magnifying glass Dr. May told us to get. Thanks to the handbook that I was given with the box, I was able to look through the folders knowing what was in each. I inspected the documents for watermarks, and sure enough, almost every piece of paper had one.
After going through the family papers, I wasn’t satisfied with what I had found. Seeing slave receipts was humbling. But I was not sure where to go from there with unnamed slaves. The next box I wanted to go through was from a man named Lorenzo Sherwood.
In this twenty + page document, Sherwood campaigns for the release of a specific slave. According to the index, Sherwood was active in politics and an active abolitionist. Unfortunately, finding Sherwood’s documents is a recent discovery and I have not yet had time to delve into everything about it, but I hope to find out who he was talking about in his paper and what else he was able to do in his life. In his box, he also has pamplets on a Fort Worth kindergarden he helped to start. I hope to do my research on Sherwood and find out more about what he did in the abolitionist movement.