Without a doubt, researching African American genealogy in the U.S. has never been easy, even though Alex Haley made it look like it was in Roots. Sure, you can go back to the 1870 census but it often takes hours of Boots on the Ground to determine lineage before the Civil War.
Perhaps that’s about to change! Coming soon, an online database thanks to the University of Michigan’s Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade study that is partnering with organizations to link databases and attempt to match individuals as they moved from place to place. I first read about this amazing work in the January-February 2020 Smithsonian article, Tracing the Enslaved by Amy Crawford. Although the database combining multiple records held in archives around the globe is not yet available, it’s scheduled to be open soon.
In the meantime, try researching the Slave Societies Digital Archive, the brainchild of Jane Landers of Vanderbilt University. Begun in 2003, over 700,000 pages of documents have been digitized from Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, Angola and Florida (which was then Spanish). Many of the documents are religious because these once Spanish held territories had a different view of Africans; they were thought to be more souls to save for Catholicism, thus they recorded Baptisms and other vitals.