Drawn from major repositories throughout the South, these primary documents are rich resources for scholars. They open new directions for research on plantations as economic and social systems, values and culture among the southern elite, slavery and emancipation, women's roles, life among the yeoman class, marketing of staple crops, national politics, southern politics, the Civil War, and myriad other aspects of the antebellum period. Because the plantation was a commercial enterprise, record keeping was essential. Many planters kept journals, crop books, overseers' journals, and account books in remarkable detail. Family members often kept personal diaries and corresponded extensively with friends and relatives near and far. Series J contains the Shirley Plantation collection, which comprises the papers of several generations of the preeminent Carter plantation family, in Charles City County, Virginia. The collection covers personal, family, and plantation life at Shirley, as well as naval history, the Civil War, religion, politics, agriculture, business, medicine, and more. Slavery is a prominent and recurring topic. Complementing the plantation and financial records is a large body of personal family correspondence. There are letters from brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, parents, and friends residing at Shirley, in other areas of Virginia, in Maryland, and elsewhere. Correspondents include Robert E. Lee, George Washington, Bishop James Madison, landscape artist Frederic E. Church, generals George B. McClellan and Benjamin Butler, and others.