Celebrate Black History Month by Visiting These Amazing Archives
Whether online or in person, explore these unique collections to learn more about the lives of Black Americans in the past.
February is Black History Month. What better way to celebrate it — and to learn more about Black history — than to visit archives that have been created in libraries across the country? Here are just a few examples of places people can go to find troves of materials examining the lives of Blacks and all aspects of their lives. Many are available online, while some may need to be visited in person and could require appointments for research, so check ahead before arriving.
The National Archives
The National Archives is a great starting place. The online collections are myriad and varied, including everything from slavery, abolition, and civil rights topics to genealogical research to the history of the NAACP to decades of Black culture to Black women writers of the nineteenth century to Black oral histories — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has extensive archives covering the history of Black people from slavery to the twenty-first century. The records in the archives include slave deeds and sale notices, emancipation records, military and financial records, birth and death certificates, and numerous newspaper and shipping records.
Celebrating the Collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Celebrating the Collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a centralized resource for the vast archives shared by libraries belonging to the HBCU Library Alliance. Each archive has both print and digital materials covering the founding and establishment of the schools, their histories, and related materials, including photos, videos, publications, correspondence, minutes, and rare books, among others.
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The Louisville Free Public Library African American Archives
The Louisville Free Public Library African American Archives focus on the history of the library itself, the first public library to provide services to Black people in the early twentieth century. The library was staffed by Black people as well. The archives include documents related to the establishment of the library, historically Black newspapers, books and manuscripts by Black authors, and print and digital resources for culture and life in Black America.
Umbra Search is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Libraries and St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre to centralize an online database of Black history collections from more than one thousand libraries, US archives, and museums. Collectively, the number of items available for online research is nearly nine hundred thousand. The database is wide-ranging, covering all aspects of the Black experience.
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Smithsonian Libraries has the National Museum of African American History & Culture Library, which holds resources to support research in Black history, culture, and the African Diaspora. The library can also assist with genealogical and family history research.
The University of Georgia’s Civil Rights Digital Library
The University of Georgia’s Civil Rights Digital Library has a comprehensive oral history collection of Black pioneers and their descendants in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
These are only a few of the Black history archives available in academic and public libraries across the US. In fact, your local library might have an archive — it’s always worth checking!
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