Online Resources for Researching Black History

Black Freedom Struggle in the United States: A Selection of Primary Sources (ProQuest)
Black Freedom Struggle in the United States: A Selection of Primary Sources from ProQuest

In 1976—nearly 400 years after the first arrival of enslaved Africans to what would become America—President Ford delivered a message to the country, officially recognizing February as Black History Month.

Today, the history of Black people and the African American experience in the United States is a large and growing focus of scholarship and study at all levels, with intersections into many disciplines and professions including law, politics, sociology, anthropology, journalism, literature, and visual and performing arts, to name just a few.

W&L community members have access to many online resources that help researchers access and navigate the universe of information on the centuries of Black history in America. Several are highlighted below.

For additional materials and information, see the W&L Libraries’ guide on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Resources: Black America.

Please note that some of these resources may require log-in with valid W&L credentials. For help with access or use, please email and a librarian will be glad to assist you.

Black Studies Center

Black Studies Center is a fully cross-searchable gateway to Black Studies including scholarly essays, recent periodicals, historical newspaper articles, reference books, and much more. The following resources are included:

  • Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience
  • International Index to Black Periodicals
  • The Chicago Defender
  • Black Literature Index
  • ProQuest Dissertations for Black Studies
  • ProQuest Black Newspapers
  • Black Abolitionist Papers
  • HistoryMaker oral history videos

Oxford African American Studies Center

Oxford African American Studies Center contains over 7,500 articles from Oxford University Press publications, some of which are not yet available in printed form, as well as primary source materials, maps, images, and more. In some cases, the entire contents of a publication might be included, such as the brand-new Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619 to 1895 and the forthcoming African American National Biography and Encyclopedia of African American Art and Architecture.

Black Freedom Struggle in the United States: A Selection of Primary Sources

This open-access website from ProQuest provides a selection of primary source documents useful for a wide range of students, teachers, and independent scholars. It contains approximately 1,600 documents focused on six different phases of Black Freedom:

  • Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860)
  • The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877)
  • Jim Crow Era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932)
  • The New Deal and World War II (1933-1945)
  • The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975)
  • The Contemporary Era (1976-2000)

The documents represent a selection of primary sources available in ProQuest databases, including American Periodicals, Black Abolitionist Papers, ProQuest History Vault, ProQuest Congressional, Supreme Court Insight and Alexander Street’s Black Thought and Culture.

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