African American History

Try to narrow your research to a particular area. You might start by finding an entry in a good print encyclopedia or by reading a short, general book on your topic. This will give you an overview of the subject and help you to refine your search. Check out the starting your research project before you begin! Some possible subject areas for African American history include:

desegregation of the armed forces
the Great Migration to the North
the Negro Baseball League
the evolution of Dixieland jazz

For resources on slavery in the United States, you can also look at our Civil War and Reconstruction pathfinder.

We can't fit every resource about African American history on to this list! A topic guide is just the beginning of building your bibliography.

Reference materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference books offer short, authoritative information on every topic. These books must be used in the library. Most contain bibliographies of important books on your topic. A good first stop would be any of the standard print encyclopedias in the Beaver collection: Encyclopedia Americana, World Book or Britannica.


Cayton, Mary, et. al. (1993). Encyclopedia of American social history. REF 973 En1 A 3 volume set with ivory covers.
Halliburton, Warren. (1993). Historic speeches of African Americans REF 815 HISTORIC
Koslow, Philip, ed. (1999). African American desk reference. 973.0496 Af8 1
Salzman, Jack, et. al. (1996). Encyclopedia of African-American culture and history. REF 973.049607 En1 1996 A 5-volume set with gray covers.


Britannica Online Great for pre-search and primary sources, including speeches, essays, biographies, court decisions, editorials and photos.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
General Reference Center Gold


Books about African American history will be found at 973.0496. Because this topic is so broad, you will want to develop a list of more specific terms to use in a subject search. Biographies can be found at 921, listed alphabetically by the subject's last name (for example, a biography of Barack Obama would carry the call number: 921 Obama).

Coddon, Karin. (2004). Black women activists. 323.092 B56 2004 220 pages.
Giovanni, Nikki. (2007). On my journey now : looking at African-American history through the spirituals. 782.25 G43 2007 116 pages.
Hardesty, Von. (2008). Black wings : courageous stories of African Americans in aviation and space history. 920 HARDESTY 180 pages.
Hogan, Lawrence B. (2006). Shades of glory : The negro leagues and the story of African-American baseball. 796.357 H67 2006 422 pages.
Jordan, Anne. (2007). Slavery and resistance. 306.36 J76 2007 70 pages.


For these Gale Group Resources, use the subject guide search tab (upper left) to tailor a search. For example, use African American Suffrage for articles on voting or African American churches and then History to find articles on these specific topics. Talk to one of the librarians for help with search terms.
General OneFile
Expanded Academic ASAP
US History in Context
Artstor Browse through photographic images of African Americans and their lives, look at artwork created by African American artists. Must be on campus to register for remote access.
Biography in Context For information on famous people associated with African American history. Search by the person's last name.
History Study Center
Issues and Controversies in American History
SIRS Use the Subject Heading Search to create a term to reflect your research goals.

Internet sites

African American History Digital Library Link to a large selection of primary sources.
Black Past This University of Washington site has timelines of African American history, archives, multimedia presentations and special resources on African American history in the West.
National Archives Primary sources on African American history, culture, famous figures.
National Park Service Join the NPS to explore "Our Shared History: African American Heritage."

BPL: Electronic Resources

African American Song. Browse through and listen to thousands of recordings. Selections include gospel, jazz, R & B, even recorded sermons.
African American Studies Center. Search authoritative, current reference books on-line!
America: History and Life. This database indexes scholarly and popular articles on American history. You can limit your search to full text if you want articles instead of citations.
History Resource Center: U.S. A good starting point for pre-search and fact-checking as well as more advanced searches. This site will also let you limit your searches to reference, biographies, periodicals, news, primary sources or maps and multi-media.
History Study Center. This resource was designed just for students! Start here to learn more about African American history, see a timeline of important events, learn about key people and places. An excellent starting point for your research.

Updated, 5/11