February is Black History Month, and so I thought I’d put together a couple of blog posts about some of the resources we have available in the library for African American history. Resources for African American history are increasingly a particular strength of the VHL’s collection, and with our recent acquisition of the electronic archives of two major black newspapers of the 20th century (The New York Amsterdam News, 1922-1993 and The Pittsburgh Courier, 1911-2002 – see this blog post for more information), we are now the only institution in Western Europe to have access to the archives of three black newspapers. In this first blog post I will focus on 20th century African American history resources, in particular relating to civil rights, and will follow it up (by the end of the month, I promise!) with one on the 19th century and slavery & emancipation.
To start briefly with newspapers and periodicals (but not too extensively, as they were the subject of my last two blog posts), in addition to the three archives mentioned above, we also have a collection of 17 black journals from the first half of the twentieth century available on microfiche (to see which, take a look at our online newspapers-on-microfilm list), as well as an extensive run of the leading African American magazine, Ebony, from 1945-1954 (on microfilm) and then 1958-2008 in print. If you’re looking for really recent African American newspapers, then Ethnic NewsWatch (via OxLIP+) provides coverage of ethnic and minority newspapers from 1990 to the present.
For more information on finding newspapers in general, take a look at the previous two posts on this blog.
The Civil Rights Era is a particular strength of our collection, and we have several microfilm collections of papers and records relating to the Civil Rights struggle. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Papers cover 1959-1976, and include the records and papers of this organisation, which was founded in 1942 in Chicago and advocated non-violent direct action to address racial discrimination. A guide to the microfilm collection can be found at Micr. E 185.61 .C75455 1984.
We only have selections of the Papers of the NAACP, but even so this is a massive collection of records, speeches, reports, correspondence, branch files and campaign information from the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. We hold parts 1, 2, 11A, 11B, 12B, 12C, 12D, 26B, 26C, 26D, 28A, 28B, 29A, 29B, 29C, and 29D of this collection (along with guides), which cover a range of topics, locations and dates from 1909-1970.
Another substantial microfilm collection we hold is Civil rights during the Nixon Administration, which record the Nixon administration’s broadening of the concept of equal rights beyond desegregation to include affirmative action in hiring women, the elderly, the physically disabled, and an expanding and overlapping list of other groups. Even though the subject matter here is much broader, you will still find records covering the continuing controversy over school desegregation and other topics relating to African American history.
And finally for microfilms, jumping back a little in time, are the Records of the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, which was set up following the riot of July/August 1919 by Illinois governor Frank Lowden.
Government publications and official papers
You can, as expected, find a huge amount of material in our major government publications resources, particularly of course the US Congressional Serial Set (via OxLIP+) where you can browse for publications related to acts such as the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as search and browse by subject.
One thing you may not realise that we have though is a lot of the printed civil rights hearings, in particular those before the United States Commission on Civil Rights in the early 1960s – search for civil rights hearings on SOLO. Many of these are down in our stack, so you will need to place a stack request via OLIS to get them fetched up for you.
I will write further blog posts in the future about finding government publications, so keep an eye on the blog for that if you need more guidance.
Just a quick note that the shelfmark range for African Americans in the Library of Congress classification is E 184.5 – E185.98. Obviously you can search SOLO to find out what books we have, but if you want to go and browse the shelves, that’s where to head for!
As ever, there is a huge and growing amount of fantastic primary source material being made available online. A good starting point is the VHL’s delicious page, and the sites we have saved there tagged as African American: http://www.delicious.com/vhllib/African_American. Some particular highlights for the 20th century/civil rights are:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Stanford University)
- Voices of Civil Rights
- Civil Rights Digital Library
- We Ain’t What We Ought To Be: This is a tie-in website for the recently-published book by Stephen Tuck, and includes links to all sorts of free web resources relating to African American history from 1861 to the present that are referred to in the book.
- Documenting the American South
- Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive
- Brown v Board of Education Online Archive
- Martin Luther King Online Encyclopedia
- Television News of the Civil Rights Era
- Black History on Footnote.com: all freely available with basic registration.