Skip to Main Content
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Afro American Studies

A general guide to library research in Afro American Studies.

Microforms for Afro American History


Microforms are books, journals or other items that are printed in miniaturized form on rolls, sheets of transparent plastic or opaque sheets. Those that are in long rolls are called microfilm, while those that are on small rectangular sheets are called microfiche. The white opaque sheets are called microprints and microcards. Microforms are used because they allow materials to be preserved in non-paper format and conserve storage space.

Each of the forms require special machines to be read. There are readers available for all formats in the Microforms Department of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. Microforms is open all hours that the library is open, continually staffed and ready to assist you.

There are many specialized collections housed in the Microforms unit, and many items of potential interest to the Afro American studies researcher. Some of these include:

  • Black Abolitionist papers, 1830-1865 UM/Microform Storage 10429, 17 reels. For a guide to the papers see Ref E499.B625 1981.

  • The Claude A. Barnett Papers UM Microform Storage 6910. 91 reels. For index, see The Claude A. Barnett Papers : the Associated Negro Press, 1918-1967 edited by August Meier and Elliott Rudwick. UM/Ref. E185.5 .N272 Guide also available online
  • Federal surveillance of Afro-Americans (1917-1925): the First World War, the Red scare, and the Garvey movement UM Microform Storage 669. 25 reels.
  • Microfilm edition of slavery and antislavery pamphlets from the libraries of Salmon P. Chase & John P. Hale UM Microform Storage 5460, 5 reels. Microfilm of pamphlet collection at Dartmouth College Library. For an index to the collection see Ref. Z 7164 S6H42
  • Papers of the NAACP UM/Microform Storage 7578. Numerous reels. For indexes, see
    1. A Guide to papers of the NAACP, part I, 1909-1950 : meetings of the Board of Directors, records of annual conferences, major speeches, and special reports UM/Ref. E185.5 .N272
    2. A guide to Papers of the NAACP : Part 2, 1919-1939 : personal correspondence of selected NAACP officials UM/Ref. E185.5 .N2722
    3. Papers of the NAACP, part 3 : the campaign for educational equality; Legal Department and Central Office records, 1913-1950 / guide compiled by Martin Schipper UM/Ref. E185.5 .N27221 Ser.A-D
    4. ...and other indexes in the Reference collection
  • W.E.B. Du Bois Papers UM/Microfilm 4877. 89 reels. For index, see the book The Papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, 1803 (1877-1963) 1979: a Guide by Robert W. McDonnell UM Microforms Guides E185.5 .M3


...just to name a few.


There are also collections in the other Five Colleges, such as:

  • The Black power movement at Smith College

    1. The Black power movement. / Part 1, Amiri Baraka, from Black arts to Black radicalism "The collection of materials reproduced in this microfilm edition documents Baraka's odyssey from the Black Arts movement to Black Power and beyond, offering an important inside view of the dynamics of the mass movements for black liberation in the late twentieth century. The collection covers Baraka's career from his involvement in the Black Arts movement in the mid-1960's through Baraka's nationalist and Marxist periods. The collection consists of rare works of poetry, organizational records, print publications, over one hundred articles, poems, plays, or speeches by Baraka, a small amount of personal correspondence, and oral history. The documents span from 1960 to 1988, and are arranged into sixteen series." Guide is available online.
    2. The Black power movement. / Part 2, The papers of Robert F. Williams "The life of Robert Williams underlines many aspects of the ongoing black freedom struggle—the decisive racial significance of World War II, the impact of the cold war on the black freedom struggle, the centrality of questions of sexuality and gender in racial politics, and the historical presence of a revolutionary Caribbean. But foremost it testifies to the extent to which, throughout World War II and the postwar years, there existed among African Americans a current of militancy—a current that included the willingness to defend home and community by force. This facet of African American life lived in tension and in tandem with the compelling moral example of nonviolent direct action." Guide is available online. 


There is a vast amount of newspapers on microfilm. Microforms also is home to many other periodicals, UMass dissertations, some government documents, and individual and family papers.


Undergrad Research Award!

Using primary sources in your paper?

Apply for the

Friends of the Library

Undergraduate Research Award

All undergraduate students enrolled at UMass Amherst are eligible. Projects must represent work completed for a class or independent study in any field within the 18 months prior to the application deadline. Criteria will be based on use of primary sources, creativity and originality, and clarity and effectiveness of writing.


[more information]