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African American Studies: Finding Primary Source Material

Publication Databases

African American Newspapers - This database provides online access to approximately 270 U.S. newspapers covering more than 150 years of the African American experience. The newspapers may be searched by date, place of publication, or basic keyword. Articles, photos and cartoons may be printed or downloaded.

American Periodical Series (1740-1900) - Over 1,000 American magazines and journals published from colonial days to the dawn of the 20th Century are covered within this database.  

American State Papers (1789-1838) - The American State Papers is a retrospective collection of Congressional and Executive materials originating from 1789 through 1838. This collection offers primary material for this time period, newly digitized. Fully searchable and browsable. Events that would be covered would be the Louisiana Purchase, Missouri Compromise, and the beginnings of the Abolition Movement.

Black Abolitionist Papers (1830-1865) - This is a primary source collection that details the extensive contributions of African Americans to the Abolitionist Movement.

Newspaper Source Plus - Includes more than 700 full-text newspapers, providing nearly than 31 million full-text articles. In addition, the database features more than 677,000 television and radio news transcripts.

New York Times Historical (1851-2007) - This database contains digital copies of the New York Times since its founding up to the present. It is good for an overview and reaction to major historical events both within and outside the United States.


Fine Arts

ARTStor - access to over one million digital images from nearly 200 collections, respresenting all artistic periods. Numerous African American artists can be found withing these colelctions. Further, the photographic collections showcase African American history.

Smithsonian Global Sound - This database contains recordings that come from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and archival audio collections from Folkways Records and other labels. The collection encompasses the Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop, Gospel, Latin, and Rock.

20th Century Topics

Slavery and the Civil War


Documenting the American South

Encyclopedia Smithsonian - choose African American History and Culture under "Topics" before beginning your search

WPA Slave Narratives*

The African American Mosaic - A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History & Culture

The Church in the Southern Black Community*

Voyages: the Atlantic Slave Trade Database

* These databases are a part of The American Memory Project - it's mission is to "provide free and open access ... to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, ..., chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, ..."

Other Library Collections

Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature - The largest African American history and literature collection in the Midwest, the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature documents the Black experience with a strong focus on Chicago.

Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies - this extensive collection is located on the campus of Northwestern University and is considered "the largest separate Africana collection in existence."

Amistad Collection - According to its website, it is "the nation's oldest, largest and most comprehensive independent archive specializing in the history of African Americans and other Ethnic Minorities." It is housed on the campus of Tulane University.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture - considered one of the most important and dynamic collections on African American studies in the world. It is a part of the New York Public Library system.