The Newport Historical Society has announced that they have worked with local bookbinder James Currier to produce a replica of a volume of 18th-century records from Newport’s African Union Society.

The African Union Society (AUS) was formed in 1780 by free African Americans seeking to create a mutual aid organization to benefit its members, according to the Newport Historical Society. The AUS’s earliest extant volume of records, dating 1787-1797, resides in NHS’s manuscript collection. It contains letters, accounts, and meeting minutes that offer valuable insight into the lives and perspectives of African Americans in Newport at the end of the 18th century. This significant volume is frequently referred to by NHS staff and researchers, but it is in extremely delicate condition. Physical handling risks further damage and even loss of information from fraying pages.

Title page of African Union (Contributed Photo)

Producing a replica promotes access to the African Union Society records while protecting the originals from over-handling. The replica will be available to researchers in our library while the original remains safely stored in archival enclosures in our vault. Having an accurate replica evokes the physical look and feel of the original volume, allowing researchers to admire and interpret the handwriting for themselves without risk of damage to the original records.