Special Collections and Archives

Departmental libraries and archives within the University Library hold research materials that may be relevant to your African American Studies research. They could also be great starting points for developing a research topic.

Below are some highlights from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, and University Archives. For help accessing materials, please contact the relevant departmental staff.


Rare Book and Manuscript Library

  • African American History Prints
    • 16 portraits of notable African American figures by Fred O’Neil. Figures include, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Billie Holiday, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
  • Maps of Africa to 1900
    • Contains images of maps listed in the bibliography “Maps of Africa to 1900: A Checklist of Maps in Atlases and Geographical Journals in the Collections of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign” (Bassett & Scheven, Urbana: Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 2000).

Illinois History and Lincoln Collections

  • John Lee Johnson Papers, 1964-2009
    • John Lee Johnson (1941-2006) was a lifelong resident of Champaign, Illinois, and a lifelong activist on issues of concern to the citizens of East-Central Illinois, including racial equality, educational opportunity, affordable housing, and access to health care.
  • Johnson v. Board of Education of Champaign (Unit 4) Records, 1991-2009
    • Contains records from the Johnson v. Board of Education Champaign (Unit 4) court case, wherein Plaintiffs took action to eliminate disparities between African American and white students within the Unit 4 School District, which includes all public schools within Champaign, Illinois.
  • John M. Smith, Interview, 1969
    • Includes radio interview with John M. Smith (1885-1971), an 84-year-old black farmer from Broadlands, Illinois. Smith discusses, among other topics, prejudice against blacks in Champaign and Danville, voting rights, and farming techniques.

University Archives

  • Albert Lee Papers, 1912, 1917-1928
    • Contains papers of Albert Lee (1874-1948), Chief Clerk of the President’s Office. Includes correspondence, programs, notes and memoranda, relating to the admission, housing and placement of African American students.
  • Negro Matriculants List, 1887-1937
    • Includes lists of African American matriculants at the University of Illinois, 1887-1937, compiled by Albert Lee, Chief Clerk in the President’s Office for the Alumni Association include partial lists of honors, awards and degrees earned by students (1929-31), and lists of African American students in sororities, fraternities and independent houses (1931-37). Also included are memoranda relating to compilation of lists and correspondence with William E. B. DuBois and a 1940 report “Data Concerning Negro Students at the State University” (digital surrogates available) providing a narrative overview of the history, curricula, graduation, employment, extra curriculars, graduate work, honors, living conditions, organizations, welfare, and needs of African-American students 1887-1940.