Black Studies 103 – Brown – African American Culture
About this guide
This guide provides students with suggested print and online resources for research on African American culture, for Black Studies 103 with Professor Brown.
Use the tabs above to navigate through the guide.
A 8-10 page research paper on an African American cultural expression from the colonial period to the present, such as music, language, art, religion cuisine, etc. You must cite at least 3 primary sources and 6 scholarly secondary sources (including both books and articles), using Chicago Style.
Remember: research takes time! Avoid waiting until the last minute.
Paper Writing Assistance
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Choosing a Topic
Your topic should be focused, but not so narrow that you cannot find enough information about it. For topic ideas, look at your course syllabus and readings, look at some of the reference sources on the “Background Info” tab of this research guide, or look at some of the websites on the “Primary Sources” and “Websites” tabs.
A research question articulates exactly what you want to know about your topic, and helps guide your research. Your research question should be specific, but open-ended.
The video below offers some tips for creating open-ended research questions.
Keywords are the words you type into a search box to search for information on your topic. The words you use to describe your topic may be different from the words used by the library catalog and databases. If you have trouble finding information on your topic, ask a librarian for help choosing the best keywords to use in your search.
Watch the video below for a short tutorial on keywords.
References sources are a good place to start to get background information on your topic.
Online Reference Sources
To access these resources from off campus, you will need to log in using your Pipeline username and password.
- Credo Reference
- African American Writers
- Black Literature Criticism: Classic and Emerging Authors since 1950
- Contemporary American Ethnic Poets: Lives, Works, Sources
- Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage
- Encyclopedia of African-American Popular Culture
- Encyclopedia of Race and Racism
- Minorities: Race and Ethnicity in America
- Who’s Who Among African Americans
Print Reference Sources
These resources are available in the Luria Library Reference section.
- Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America, Vol. 5: African Diaspora Traditions and Other American Innovations – R 200.973 G162i, vol. 5
- Encyclopedia of African and African American Religions – R 299.6 G553e
- The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to the Twenty-first Century – R 301.45196 L917e
- Encyclopedia of American Race Riots – R 305.800973 R911e
- Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance – R 810.9896 A145e
- The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature – R 810.9896 O85g
- Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience – R 909.0496 A647a
- Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century – R 973.0496 F499e 2009
- Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration – R 973.0496 R347e
Social Issues and Culture
When searching for information in the library catalog and databases, try combining some of the terms below with words that describe your specific topic. For example, if you are doing research on music, you might search for African Americans AND culture AND music.
- African American
- African American children
- African American men
- African American women
- African Americans
- Black Studies
- Popular culture
- Social conditions
- Social history
Search the library catalog for books on your topic, using some of the keywords suggested above.
To find articles from periodicals (newspapers, magazines, and academic journals), search the library databases. To access databases from off campus, you will need to log in with your Pipeline username and password.
Use one of the following general databases, or ask a librarian to suggest the best database for your specific topic:
- Academic Search Premier Provides abstracts for articles from nearly 13,200 periodicals (journals, magazines, and newspapers) in all subject areas.
- Ethnic NewsWatch Journals, magazines, and newspapers from ethnic and minority presses. dating back to 1959.
- History Resource Center Includes primary sources as well as periodical articles.
- JSTOR Includes articles from as far back as the mid 1800s, which may be considered primary sources, depending on your topic.
- Project MUSE Provides complete, full-text versions of scholarly journals in subject areas such as: ethnic studies; art and architecture; literature; education; film; theatre and performing arts; history; language; medicine and health; philosophy; religion; science, technology, and math; social sciences; and gender and sexuality.
About Primary Sources
Primary sources are first-person accounts or direct evidence of the topics or events you are researching. They may include letters, diaries, photographs, autobiographies, records such as birth certificates or land deeds, treaties and other government documents, news footage and eyewitness articles, plays, movies, works of art, speeches, interviews, oral histories, memoirs, architectural plans, and many other kinds of artifacts.
Secondary sources analyze, summarize, interpret, or comment on primary sources. They are usually created by someone who did not experience an event first-hand. They may include biographies, scholarly journal articles, literary criticism, political analysis, news reports other than first-hand accounts, reference books, and textbooks.
What About Newspapers? Some sources may be considered primary or secondary, depending on how you use them. For example, a 1969 newspaper article that discusses the moon landing that year could be considered a secondary source. But if you are interested in how NASA was portrayed by the media during the Cold War, the same article could be considered a primary source as an historical artifact. Watch Newspapers – Primary Source? for more information.
For more information on different types of primary and secondary sources, review the presentation from class below, and remember: sometimes whether a source counts as primary or secondary depends on how you are using it. When in doubt, ask your professor, or a librarian.
Finding Primary Sources Through the Library Catalog
Use the library catalog to find primary sources on a topic. Choose from the keywords listed below and add them to your search to explore what primary source material we have on your topic:
- personal narratives
Sample search: “slavery” and personal narratives
Sample search: music and sources
Sample search: “civil rights” and correspondence
- early works
Finding Primary Sources Through the Library Databases
Some of the library databases include primary source materials. When you access these resources from off campus, you will be prompted to log in with your Pipeline username and password.
- History Reference Center: Primary source material in this database includes treaties, photos, maps and videos. Use the advanced search and select “primary source document” in the “publication type” menu. Or, select the “primary sources” tab found in the menu to the left of the list of results after your search.
- Alexander Street Press Videos Search for African American
- ARTstor Find images of artwork.
- JSTOR Some journals found in JSTOR were published as early as the mid 19th century and could be considered primary sources depending on your research topic. Use the advanced search and limit your search by date to find materials written during a particular time period.
Finding Primary Sources on the Internet
You can also find primary source materials through several free websites:
- Africans in America PBS overview of African American History, including excerpts from primary sources
- Library of Congress American Memory: African American History Collection Free access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the African American experience
- Amistad Digital Resource from Columbia Designed as a “multimedia resource for secondary school teachers to enhance their knowledge and ability in teaching African-American history.”
- Calisphere Text and images from California history and culture
- United States National Archives
- American Memory Historic photographs, film and other materials from the Library of Congress
- Glider Lehrman Institute of American History Includes a database of digitized material as well as exhibits
- African-American Migration Experience: Thousands of primary sources detailing African American migration over 400 years
- African-American Perspectives Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907: Eclectic collection of pamphlets most of which were published after the Civil War
- Crisis Digitized version of the NAACP magazine from 1910 to the present
- Black Archives of Mid-America Collection of photographs and documents illustrating African American History in Missouri
- Digital Schomburg Digital collections from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at New York Public Library
- Black-past.org “Includes an online encyclopedia of hundreds of famous and lesser known figures in African America, full text primary documents and major speeches of black activists and leaders from the 18th Century to the present.”
- Elijah Muhammad FBI documents on the Nation of Islam leader
- FBI Records – The Vault Full-text FBI documents on a number of people including Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Medgar Evers and others
- Frederick Douglass Papers Correspondence and other material
- George Washington Carver Digital Collection Papers and photographs of Carver
- Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Papers Papers of the two artists includes correspondence, news clippings and other material
- Langston Hughes FBI documents on the poet
- Malcolm X Project Digitized government documents, interviews and speeches
- Booker T. Washington: Online Resources The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material associated with Booker T. Washington, including manuscripts, photographs, and books.
- The Church in the Black Community Collection of primary sources
- The Blues, Black Vaudeville and the Silver Screen, 1912-1930s Digitized selections from the Douglass Theatre in Macon, Georgia. The collection includes correspondence, financial records, contracts, and advertising materials.
- Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas Traces the graphic art made by Emory Douglas while he worked as minister of culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until its discontinuation in the early 1980s.
- Digital Harlem Project depicts everyday life in Harlem between 1915 and 1930 using legal records and mapping
- Documenting Our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive Project Collection of Pittsburgh Courier photographs by Charles “Teenie” Harris that depict the events and daily life of African Americans from the 1930s to 1970s
- American Black Journal Digitized episodes of the series produced by the Detroit Public Television that began airing in 1968
- 10 O’Clock News Digitized videoclips from WGBH’s focusing on Boston’s African American community from 1974 to 1991
- African American Funeral Programs Over 1,000 digitized funeral programs from 9 states dating from 1933 to 2008 (most from the 1970s)
- Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project 1936-1938 More than 2,300 first person accounts of slavery plus 500 photographs
- African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts 117 documents including letters, warrants, bills of sale and antislavery material
- Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy Information on 100,000 slaves in Louisiana during the 18th and 19th centuries
- Antislavery in New England 100 digitized pamphlets dating from 1775 to 1871
- Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in America: A Visual Record Hundreds of images depicting slavery and the slave trade, includes maps, illustrations and photographs
- Black Abolitionists Archive Collection of black abolitionist speeches and editorials
- California Underground Railroad Digital archive of newspapers, manuscripts and other material documenting the experiences of African American slaves in California
- DAACS: Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery Archaeological database includes some images
- Digital Library on American Slavery Database of detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color
- From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909 396 pamphlets written by African-American authors and others who wrote about slavery, African colonization, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and related topics
- Geography of Slavery in Virginia Digital collection of advertisements for runaway and captured slaves and servants in 18th- and 19th-century Virginia newspapers
- North American Slave Narratives A collection of “approximately two hundred texts, including all known narratives of fugitive and former slaves published in broadsides, pamphlets, or book form in English up to 1920 and many of the biographies of fugitive and former slaves published in English before 1920.” Also see American Slave Narratives, Third Person, First Person, selected documents from the Freedmen and Southern Society Project and African-American Women.
- Revised Dred Scott Case Collection 111 documents detailing the 1846 case
- Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection Digitized collection of thousands of anti-slavery and abolitionist material
- Slaves and the Courts Over 100 pamphlets and books (published between 1772 and 1889) dealing with the legal status of slavery
- Texas Slavery Project Transcriptions of primary sources dealing with slavery in Texas between 1820 and 1850
- Unknown No Longer Database of slave names in Virginia gleaned from the manuscript collecitons of the Virginia Historical Society
- Voices from the Days of Slavery Audio recordings of 23 former slaves
- Voyage of the Slave Ship Sally: 1764-1765 Narrative with accompanying documents including manifests, letters and contracts
- Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database Data on almost 35,000 slaving voyages supplemented with images, a names database and other material
- Eyes on the Prize Teaching Guide Activities, video, and primary sources related to the American Civil Rights Movement.
- Black Panther Party Sound Recording Project Selection of speeches, broadcasts and other recordings of Black Panther Party members
- Brown v. Board of Education Digital Archive Documents and images which chronicle events surrounding this historically significant case up to the present
- Citizens’ Council Digitized version of the Mississippi white supremacist newspaper from 1955 to 1961
- Civil Rights Digital Library Documents, video, oral histories and more documenting the civil rights movement
- Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive Collection of oral histories, photographs, letters and more
- Civil Rights Movement Archives Collection of documents, photographs and other material from the collections of Queens College
- Crossroads to Freedom Digital archive of materials that documents the Civil Rights era in Memphis, Tennessee
- Desegregation of the Armed Forces Truman administration documents dealing with the desegregation of the military in the late 1940s
- Du Bois Central Collection of articles, books and photographs of W.E.B. Du Bois
- Duluth Lynchings Online Resources Collection of more than 2,000 pages of primary sources dealing with the lynching of three Black men on June 15, 1920
- Eyes on the Prize Interviews Transcriptions of the complete interviews that were used in the documentary of the civil rights movement
- Fiery Cross Digitized Indiana KKK newspaper from 1923-1924
- Freedom Riders FBI documents on the Freedom Riders
- Freedom Summer Collection Digital collection includes newspaper clippings, oral histories, correspondence and more from the summer of 1964
- Greensboro Voices: Voicing Observations in Civil Rights and Equality Struggles 124 oral history transcripts from North Carolina
- Historical Publications of the United States Civil Rights Commission Digitized collection of documents from the Commission dating from 1957 to 2006
- Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia Museum at Ferris State University provides images of racist objects, images and cartoons along with essays
- KKK More FBI documents on the KKK
- Land of (Unequal) Opportunity Collection of images, broadsides, pamphlets, and publications documenting civil rights in Arkansas
- Mississippi Burning FBI Files FBI case files on the 1964 murders of 3 civil rights workers
- Oral Histories of the American South – Civil Rights Collection of more than 200 oral histories from a number of Southern oral history programs
- Original Knights of the KKK FBI documents on the KKK from the 1960s
- Papers of Justice Tom C. Clark Papers of the Supreme Court justice dealing with civil rights cases of the 1950s
- Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project Collection on oral histories, photographs, documents, movement histories, and personal biographies documenting Civil Rights in Seattle
- Sovereignty Commission Online Over 130,000 pages from the records of the defunct Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, which functioned as the state’s official counter civil rights agency from 1956-1973
- Television News of the Civil Rights Era 1950-1970 Digitized news segments from two Roanoke, Virginia TV stations (WDBJ and WSLS) plus documents and oral histories
- Who Speaks for the Negro Collection of interviews from the mid-1960s with civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and others
- Without Sanctuary Website that accompanies book with the same title with graphic photographs of lynchings
- Race and Place: An African American Community in the Jim Crow South Primary sources include letters and recorded oral histories
- California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA) At the UCSB Library. CEMA includes several collections related to African American history and culture, which you can view by visiting UCSB.
General History and Culture
Art, Literature, Music and Theater
You can also visit local collections of primary sources:
Figuring out whether the information you find online is credible enough for college research can be challenging. Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Test for Evaluating Sources to determine whether the sources you find are credible:
- Purpose: The reason the information exists. Is the purpose to sell, to entertain, to inform, to teach, or to persuade? Do the authors and publishers/sponsors make their purposes clear? Is this source designed for general readers or academic readers?
- Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs. Does it relate to your topic? Does it meet the requirements of your assignment? Is it too basic or too advanced?
- Objectivity: The reasonableness of the information. Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong or emotional language, or leave out important facts or alternative perspectives?
- Verifiability: The truthfulness and accuracy of the information. Where does the information come from? Can you verify it in other sources? Are there citations or links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic?
- Expertise: The source of the information. Who are the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the information? Are they experts, or has the information been reviewed by experts? Is it posted on a personal website or blog?
- Newness: The timeliness of the information. When was the information published or posted? Is it up to date? Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as technology or current events), or will older sources work as well?
Internet Search Tips
For tips on advanced searching in Google, check out the video, Know More Now: Searching Smarter in Google.
Consider using some of the websites below to find reliable information on your topic. Some of these websites may include links to primary sources.
For more suggestions, check out the Luria Library Resources for Black Studies Research Guide.
- African American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History & Culture
- Ask your Mama Showcases the cultural legacy of African-American musicians
- CNN Special: Black in America Text and video related to the series “Black in America”
- DuSable Museum of African American History
- Eyes on the Prize: About the Black Panthers
- Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia
- History of Jim Crow
- NAACP at 100 years
- National Museum of African American History and Culture (check COLLECTIONS)
- Public Policy Institute
- RainbowPUSH Coalition
- Say It Plain: A century of Great African American Speeches
- The Church in the Southern Black Community A collection of publications beginning with the Revolutionary period and ending in the early 20th century.