African Americans of the District of Columbia

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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
The District of Columbia Family History Research series.
History of the District of Columbia
District of Columbia Vital Records
Census Records for the District of Columbia
Background Sources for the District of Columbia
District of Columbia Maps
District of Columbia Land Records
District of Columbia Probate Records
District of Columbia Court Records
District of Columbia Tax Records
District of Columbia Cemetery Records
District of Columbia Church Records
District of Columbia Military Records
District of Columbia Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
District of Columbia Archives, Libraries, and Societies
District of Columbia Immigration
African Americans of the District of Columbia
District of Columbia County Resources


Large numbers of freedmen and their families began settling in the District of Columbia before the Civil War, and they were joined by thousands of others after the war ended. Most records in the district consist of census schedules, military records, and Freedmen’s Bureau and related records compiled by the federal government.

Until about 1821, slave manumissions usually were recorded in deed books. After that time, many appear in the Freedom Registration Books that are Record Group 21 in the General Archives Division of the National Archives.

See also Letitia Woods Brown, Free Negroes in the District of Columbia, 1790–1846, The Urban Life in America Series (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), and Paul E. Sluby, Sr., and Stanton L. Wormley, Sr., Blacks in the Marriage Records of the District of Columbia, December 23, 1811–June 16, 1870. 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Columbian Harmony Society, n.d.).

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