Branch Directory (Twitter: @branchdirectory) has compiled a list of popular eBooks that are in the public domain. We have converted them into the Adobe PDF format for convenience. If you have access to another publication and would like to share it, please contact Branch Directory. We’ll add it to this page.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin:
The novel began to germinate in Stowe’s mind while she was living in Cincinnati in the 1830s and ’40s, where she met fugitive slaves who had escaped through or from Kentucky, and where, as Reynolds puts it, “she loved spending time in the kitchen with servants like the African-American Zillah.” In the spring of 1850, having moved to Maine, where she followed the Congressional debates over a proposed new law that would deny fugitive slaves basic rights while imposing new penalties on anyone harboring them, she wrote to a magazine editor that “the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak.” The result was a series of fictional sketches of slaves under physical or psychological assault — among them, the beautiful Eliza, who escapes from bounty hunters by leaping from ice floe to ice floe across the Ohio River with her baby in her arms; the brooding Cassy, who belongs to the brutal Simon Legree; and Tom himself, whose gentleness and generosity grow apace as he is sold farther and farther south, eventually to Legree, who torments and tortures him before ordering his overseers to beat him to death.
Up From Slavery:
Booker T. Washington, born into slavery, shortly before emancipation, was the most prominent African-American of the late 19th century. Washington’s views on confronting civil rights was at odds with the NAACP. His autobiography, Up From Slavery, was first published in 1901.
My Bondage My Freedom:
Published in 1855, the former slave, then free, Frederick Douglass, wrote an autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom. Douglass manages to convey to the reader the real meaning of race, slavery, freedom and the response the nation would take as a result of the pending Civil War.
30 Years A Slave:
Louis Hughes was born a slave in 1832 on a plantation in Virginia. Hughes, the son of a white man and a slave woman writes 30 Years A Slave, to accurately depict the life of a slave. The dehumanization of Blacks is a particular focus of Hughes.
Matthew A. Henson was an explorer with substantial sea experience. Henson was born in Maryland the child of free blacks. With many years of contact with arctic natives Henson spoke Inuit languages fluently. A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, recounts his 23 years of expeditions.
Henry Ossian Flipper (March 21, 1856 – May 3, 1940); Flipper was the first African-American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After his graduation he was wrongfully court-martialed and dishonorably discharged. His good name was restored posthumously. Descendants of Flipper partitioned the U.S. Military to review the court martial records. In that review it was discovered that Flipper was unjustly dismissed from the military. His discharge was changed to a “good conduct” discharge. In addition, President Bill Clinton pardoned Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper in 1999.
Flipper was born to former slaves in Thomasville, Georgia. He was educated at what is now Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. Henry O. Flipper was the fifth African-American to receive an appointment to West Point but the first to graduate. The hostility of white cadets proved intolerable for the other Black cadets. He described his experiences in his book, “The Colored Cadet at West Point” in 1878 (download a free copy below).
“I Have a Dream”:
The famous speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C.. The Speech was a call for the end of racism in America and for the United States to strive to achieve the ideals of the nations founders.
The Underground Railroad:
William Still (1821-1902), worked to chronicle the activity of the fugitive slave in The Underground Railroad. Mr. Still contributed to the desegregation of public facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey through his persuasion of the state legislatures. Still is known as the “Father” of the Underground Railroad. In 1997, the U.S. Congress authorized a program to identify sites that were used by the Underground Railroad.
The History of the Negro Church, by Charles G. Woodson
Kelly Miller (July 18, 1863 – December 29, 1939) An African-American born in Winnsboro, South Carolina. Miller became an accomplished mathematician, sociologist, essayist, author and newspaper columnist. Miller was the first Black to attend graduate school at Johns Hopkins.
The United States Constitution, created in 1787 and put into effect in 1789, is the supreme law of the United States. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, the law that was in effect after the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Southern Horrors and Lynch Laws
Thoroughly appalled and sickened by the rising numbers of white-on-black murders in the South since the beginning of Reconstruction, and by the unwillingness of local, state and federal governments to prosecute those who were responsible, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett wrote Southern Horrors, a pamphlet in which she exposed the horrible reality of lynchings to the rest of the nation and to the world. Wells explained, through case study, how the federal government’s failure to intervene allowed Southern states the latitude to slowly but effectively disenfranchise blacks from participating as free men and women in a post-Civil War America with the rights and opportunities guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution. (Summary by James K. White )