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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Afro American Studies

A general guide to library research in Afro American Studies.

Spotlight on Historical Pittsburgh Courier

Video about use of Historical Pittsburgh Courier:

Citation Management

Use a citation manager, such as RefWorks to keep track of your research.

Put all your references in RefWorks, create quick and easy bibliographies, build your knowledgebase.


If you need more help or info on RefWorks, check out the online guides and webinars or Ask a Librarian.

If you're looking for another citation management option to RefWorks, try Zotero.

Tips for Databases

  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.

More Databases



The Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) offer all Massachusetts residents remote access to proprietary databases. This includes historical newspapers, government information, and geneaology sources.


Connect to databases for Massachusetts residents at


Local history!

Don't forget about local History collections at public libraries. Most public library local history collections are not digitized.

Librarian in New Africa House

One on one consultation 

I can meet you at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, at New African House, on Zoom or other online venues. To request an appointment or get any other help, please use this form or send me an email.

Office hours in New Africa House Fall 2023 and Spring 2024:
3-4:30 pm
Room 325


Door of New Africa House some years ago, painted in red, black and green

(Door of New Africa House some years ago)



This research guide was prepared for Afro American Studies 691C: Historiographical Methods in Afro-American Studies.
Fall 2006 & 2008, Professor John Bracey. Fall 2010 & 2012, Professor Ernest Allen
Library guide created by Isabel Espinal, Librarian for Afro American Studies


Primary Sources

African American Poetry The early history of African American poetry, from the first recorded poem by an African American (Lucy Terry Prince's 'Bars Fight', c.1746) to the major poets of the nineteenth century, including Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

African American Newspapers: The 19th Century - Starting with the Freedom’s Journal in 1827 and continuing in chronological order with the monthly addition of new text, this database plans to ultimately contain the complete text of the major African American newspapers published in the United States during the 19th century. Currently contains the following newspapers: Freedom's Journal, The Coloured American, The North Star, The National Era, Provincial Freeman, Frederick Douglass Paper, and The Christian Recorder.

African American Song Audio database which documents African American music, including jazz, blues, gospel, ragtime, folk songs, and narratives, from the Document Records label. Browse by category of music, region, genre, instrument, artist, ensemble, and time period. A playlist option is available.

ArchiveGrid - This beta system connects you with primary source material held in archives, special collections, and manuscript collections around the world. You will find historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. ArchiveGrid also helps researchers contact archives to request information, arrange a visit, and order copies.

Black Abolitionist Papers Papers and articles of 300 US and European anti-slavery activists of color, 1830-1865.

Black Thought and Culture Contains 619 sources with 246 authors which includes the nonfiction published works of leading African Americans.

Black Women Writers A growing collection of literary works by about 77 African, African American, and Afro-Caribbean women.

Ethnic NewsWatch Full-text articles from the newspapers, magazines and journals of ethnic communities in the United States, 1965-present.

HATHI Trust Digital Library A gigantic collection of books and periodicals digitized by Google, Internet Archive, and member libraries. The entire corpus is searchable within the HathiTrust catalog, although only out-of-copyright books are available to read. Generally, this is books published before 1923 or by the government. UMass Amherst users can create accounts, assemble their own sets of texts for analysis, and  print and download.

Historical Baltimore Afro-American - Influential black newspaper, searchable, in image files, in full text. First-hand accounts and coverage of the politics, society and events of the time, covering 1893-1988.

Historical Boston Globe The entire Boston Globe, searchable, in image files, 1872-1924.

Historical Chicago Defender Influential black weekly newspaper, searchable, in image files, 1905-1975.

Historical New York Amsterdam News Full text of the paper of record of the New York's African American community, 1922-1993.

Historical NY Times The entire New York Times, searchable, in image files. Time Period Covered: 1851-1999. 

Historical Pittsburgh Courier The leading newspaper of the African American community in twentieth-century U.S. Covers 1911-2002.

Historical Statistics of the United States Statistics gathered by the Census Bureau, with scholarly editing and essays, from colonial times to near present.

North American Women's Letters and Diaries Primary source material for life as it was lived by 1,000 women in North America, 1675-1950.

Reader's Guide Retrospective Citations to articles in 600 popular U.S. magazines. Time Period Covered: 1890-1982.

Women and Social Movements in the United States 1600-2000 Primary and secondary sources on women's involvement in historical events. Includes books, pamphlets, papers, and articles.

Women Writers Project Literary works by women writers, 1600-1800.

Secondary Sources

Academic Search Premier A multidisciplinary database with many literature, linguistics and anthropology journals.

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. Good resource for academic book reviews.

Biography Resource Center Brief biographies from a variety of reference sources.

Black Studies Center combines several resources for research and teaching in Black Studies: Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, International Index to Black Periodicals (IIBP), The Chicago Defender, and the Black Literature Index. IIBP provided indexing and abstracting of 150 African, American and Caribbean periodicals, with full text of forty core journals. The Chicago Defender was at one point the most widely-read black newspaper in the country, with more than two thirds of its readership based outside Chicago.

Book Review Digest Citations, abstracts and excerpts of reviews of books, as published in periodicals.

Book Review Digest Retrospective Citations, abstracts and excerpts of reviews of English-language books, as published in periodicals, 1905-1982

Dissertations and Theses Citations and abstracts of doctoral and some maters theses, mostly completed in colleges and universities of the United States and Canada. Full text access to UMass dissertations.

ERIC  Articles and reports dealing with issues in education.

JSTOR Full-text articles from 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. 
Web of Science Allows multidisciplinary searches combining arts, humanities, social science and science. Good for seeing who cited whom. Good for academic book reviews. 

WorldCat The combined catalogs of most U.S. libraries. Material not owned by UMass Amherst can usually be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan. 

Reference Sources

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

  • Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience Ref DT14 .A37435 2005
  • Black Women in America Ref. E185.86 .B542 2005
  • Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas online
  • Facts on File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America Ref E185.96 .F2 1997
  • Revealing Documents: a Guide to African American Manuscript Sources in the Schlesinger Library and the Radcliffe College Archives Z1361.N39 V66 1993 (21st floor)
  • Who's Who in African-American History Ref E185.96 .W46 1994

Give feedback on library instruction

Fill out this anonymous evaluation form and give us feedback on the library instruction by librarian Isabel Espinal.

Some primary sources

Mary Church Terrell, "What Role Is the Educated Negro Woman to Play in the Uplifting of Her Race?" in Twentieth Century Negro Literature, Or a Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro, ed. and arranged by D. W. Culp (Naperville, Ill.: J. L. Nichols, 1902), pp. 172-77.

From the database Women and Social Movements in the United States 1600-2000 

The Colored American/Weekly Advocate

On January 7, 1837 Phillip A. Bell began to publish a weekly newspaper called Weekly Advocate. From the beginning, one of the major goals of this newspaper was to educate its subscribers, and much information appeared in a list format including: principal railroads, lengths of rivers, heights of principal mountains, principal colleges in the United States and the principal features of various countries of the nations of the earth.

On March 4, 1837, issue number 9 of the newspaper was published under the new name of The Colored American, with Samuel E. Cornish as editor. The new motto was “RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION,” and the paper was “…designed to be the organ of Colored Americans—to be looked on as their own, and devoted to their interests—through which they can make known their views to the public—can communicate with each other and their friends, and their friends with them; and to maintain their well-known sentiments on the subjects of Abolition and Colonization, viz.—emancipation without expatriation—the extirpation of prejudice—the enactment of equal laws, and a full and free investiture of their rights as men and citizens…

From the database African American Newspapers: The 19th Century


Black Abolitionist papers, 1830-1865 UM/Microform Storage 10429, 17 reels. For a guide to the papers see Ref E499.B625 1981. Also available online in database format.

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

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
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
A guide to Papers of the NAACP : Part 2, 1919-1939 : personal correspondence of selected NAACP officials UM/Ref. E185.5 .N2722
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
...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

For your convenience, we recommend that you request microforms through the Electronic Request Form before coming to the microforms area to do your work. When filling out the electronic form please list a specific call number along with a specific reel number, if applicable.