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Historic colonial documents are seen at the Louisiana Historical Center in New Orleans. For years one of America’s most precious archives: thousands of time-worn 18th-century legal papers written by French and Spanish notaries and court clerks who were among the first in North America to detail the lives of slaves and free blacks, sat in a museum vault in the French Quarter, largely forgotten about and hardly ever read. Slowly, this trove of records now is coming into the modern age.

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Colonial La. records shed new light on US history

A marathon project is under way in New Orleans to digitize thousands of time-worn 18th-century French and Spanish legal papers that historians say give the first historical accounts of slaves and free blacks in North America.

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