8. Curators Present Rare Documents

Inside the Vault 

Inside the Vault is a free, monthly online program that highlights unique primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman Collection. From iconic historical treasures to personal letters that reveal the contributions of ordinary American citizens, each session investigates primary sources and discusses their background, impact, and potential use in the classroom. Check back here throughout the year for additional sessions dedicated to the topic of Black Lives in the Founding Era. 

FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHTS OF BLACK AMERICANS IN THE FOUNDING ERA 
June 17, 2021: This session examines the writings of two men who protested the treatment of Black Americans during the Founding Era, Prince Hall and James Forten. Documents include Hall's 1788 petition demanding the Massachusetts government protect Black sailors from being kidnapped and sold into slavery and Forten's 1813 pamphlet denouncing a proposed bill in Pennsylvania that curtailed the rights of Black people and prohibited the immigration of people of color into the state. 

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BENJAMIN BANNEKER
April 1, 2021: Benjamin Banneker is known for his work in science, mathematics, and astronomy. This session analyzes Banneker's correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, including a 1791 letter detailing the contradictions between the existence of slavery and the American ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. 

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The Lives and Works of Phillis Wheatley and Elizabeth Keckley 
February 4, 2021: Both women were born into slavery, became free, and built a lasting legacy. We learn about their lives and take a close look at the poetry of Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753–1784) and the autobiography of Elizabeth Keckley (1818–1907), one of the most sought-after dressmakers in Washington DC.

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Boston Massacre/Founding Era Propaganda
May 1, 2020: This session explores Philip Dawe’s print “Bostonians Paying the Excise-man” and Paul Revere’s engraving depicting the Boston Massacre, which shows Crispus Attucks, the first Black man to die in the American Revolution.

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Black Patriots of the American Revolution
October 29, 2020: This session explores unique documents that record the lives and military service of Black soldiers in the Continental Army and reveal their postwar experiences.

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George Washington and Slavery
August 7, 2020: This session examines Washington’s evolving view of slavery, looking at both his will and a 1786 letter in which Washington states that he “wishes to see some plan adopted by the Legislature by which slavery in this Country may be abolished by slow, sure, & imperceptible degrees.”

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To see upcoming Inside the Vault sessions, click here.