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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Afro American Studies

A general guide to library research in Afro American Studies.


Reference Sources

Most are located on the Main floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.

  • African American Dramatists: an A-to-Z Guide Ref PS338.N4 A69 2004 
  • The African American Theatre Directory, 1816-1960 : a Comprehensive Guide to Early Black Theatre Organizations, Companies, Theatres, and Performing Groups Ref PN2270.A35 P48 1997    
  • African American Women Playwrights: a Research Guide Ref PS153.N5 A3437 1999 
  • Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience Ref DT 14 .A37435 2005
  • Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940 Ref PN451 .D5 v. 51
  • Black American Poets and Dramatists of the Harlem Renaissance Ref PS153.N5 B5335 1995
  • Black American Writers: Bibliographical Essays Ref PS153.N5 B55
  • Contemporary African American Female Playwrights: an Annotated Bibliography Z1229.N39 W55 1998 (21st floor) 
  • Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays : a Biographical Directory and Dramatic Index Re PS153.N5 P43 1988
  • Harlem Renaissance and Beyond: Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 Ref PS153.N5 R65 1990
  • Who's Who in African-American History Ref E185.96 .W46 1994


For books at UMass, search the Library Catalog. Best to be as specific as possible in your searching. Start with a subject search (use keyword if subject yields no results). You can use broad categories to browse for sub-topics or to later limit (by date, words in subject or words in title) for more focussed results.

If UMass doesn't have the book(s) you need, try the other Four Colleges, by clicking on the Search Four College link.

TIP: Use WorldCat and Other Library Catalogs when UMass and Five College system are not sufficient.

Use Net Library - for online books


  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enuf UM/Media DVD 753 Originally produced in 1982 as a segment of the television series "American playhouse."
  • The Topdog Diaries UM/Media DVD 752


Databases (Journal indexing and online journals. Once you have a topic, this is where you search for articles on that topic.)


  1. From off-campus locations, an OIT Computer Account is required to access licensed databases.
  2. Use the Database Searching Log to keep track of your searches and search strategies.
  3. Use RefWorks to manage your citations and create your bibliography.
  4. After you've run a search, use the button (if the database has it) to retrieve articles or to be taken directly to Interlibrary Loan, so you can order the article if UMass does not have it.
  • Academic Search Premier - A multidisciplinary database with many literature, linguistics and anthropology journals. Citations can be saved to a folder and exported directly to RefWorks.
  • African American Biographical Database - Full-text books on African American lives and culture.
  • America: History and Life - Citations and abstracts for journal articles, dissertations, and book reviews relating to United States and Canadian history.
  • Arts and Humanities Citation Index - In ISI Web of Science, an index to scholarly journals which can be searched by topic, author, source, address or by cited reference. The Arts and Humanities Citation Index covers archaeology, linguistics, architecture, literary reviews, art, literature, Asian studies, music, classics, philosophy, dance, poetry, folklore, radio, television and film, history, religion, language, and theater.
  • Black Thought and Culture - Contains 619 sources with 246 authors which includes the non-fiction published works of leading African Americans.
  • Biography Resource Center - Brief biographies from a variety of reference sources.
  • Contemporary Women's Issues - Full-text articles from periodicals relating to women and women's issues.
  • Ethnic NewsWatch - Full-text articles from the newspapers, magazines and journals of ethnic communities in the United States. Most articles are in English, but many from Latino periodicals are in Spanish. Citations can be exported directly to RefWorks.
  • Expanded Academic Index - Similar to Academic Search Premier (see above) However, no direct export to RefWorks..
  • Historical NY Times - The entire New York Times, searchable, in image files. Time Period Covered: 1851-1999. Citations can be exported directly to RefWorks.
  • International Index to Black Periodicals - Indexing and abstracting of 150 African, American and Caribbean periodicals, with full text of forty core journals.
  • International Index to the Performing Arts (IIPA) - Citations to articles in journals covering theater, dance, film, and puppetry.
  • JSTOR (full-text) - Scholarly journals from many disciplines. From the earliest issue of each journal to between two and five years prior to the present. Therefore, does NOT contain very recent scholarship. Citations can be saved in a text file and imported into RefWorks.
  • Literature Resource Center - A large collection of literature reference material, including Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Literary Criticism and the Dictionaries of Literary Biography.
  • MLA International Bibliography - Indexes many articles on film (in addition to literature). Citations can be saved to a folder and exported directly to RefWorks.
  • Project Muse - Full-text articles from scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences published by Johns Hopkins University Press and a few other publishers; searchable by journal issue, author, and keyword.
  • Reader's Guide Retrospective - Citations to articles in 600 popular U.S. magazines. Time Period Covered: 1890-1982. Citations can be saved in a text file and imported into RefWorks.
  • Web of Science - Allows multidisciplinary searches combining arts, humanities, social science and science. Good for seeing who cited whom. Good for academic book reviews. Citations, abstracts, and other information can be saved in a text file and imported into RefWorks.

Internet Resources


Click here for Reserve Books and Paper Copies of Articles and eReserve articles for classes (when available).

Citation Style(s)

Note: The University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries offers a campuswide subscription to RefWorks, a citation management software that creates and automatically formats bibliographies in various styles, including APA and MLA.

Scholars in the Humanities (including English, Comparative Literature, Art and History) generally favor the MLA style outlined in:
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 2nd. ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1998. Ref. and Reserve PN147 .G444 1998

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Prepared for English 891BB: African American Women Playwrights, Spring 2005. Professor Jenny Spencer
Library guide created by Isabel Espinal