Tracing the African American Experience


This website is designed as a resource for researching and exploring African American history and culture. You will find that these resources are an amazing, although select, few of online Governmental and Non-governmental documents and images available via the World Wide Web. Through these links, the Government Documents Library hopes that you learn and expand your appreciation of the history and contributions made by African Americans.


Government Information Sources

African-American History and Culture by the Library of Congress
An illustrated guide offered by their Manuscripts Division, this site has valuable collections. The Library’s holdings include information about slavery, the slave trade, aspects of plantation life, papers of slaveholders, slave narratives, manuscripts of black and white abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Salmon P. Chase, records of the American Colonization Society that detail the saga of African Americans who left the United States and establishing the West African nation of Liberia in the mid- nineteenth century. Papers relating to black participation and victimization in the Civil War abound, and African-American history during Reconstruction is reflected in collections pertaining to newly elected black officials such as John Mercer Langston, Blanche K. Bruce, Hiram R. Revels, and Francis L. Cardozo.

African-American Mosaic
An exhibit from the Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture, this site offers nearly 500 years of the black experience in the Western hemisphere. Specifically the exhibit covers four areas of history –Colonization, Abolition, Migrations, and the Works Progress Administration/Work Projects Administration (WPA).  Mosaic surveys the full range size, and variety of the Library’s collections, including books, periodicals, prints, photographs, music, film, and recorded sound.

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1824-1909
The Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress presents 397 pamphlets, published from 1824 through 1909, by African-American authors and others who wrote about slavery, African colonization, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and related topics. The materials range from personal accounts and public orations to organizational reports and legislative speeches. Among the authors represented are Frederick Douglass, Kelly Miller, Charles Sumner, Mary Church Terrell, and Booker T. Washington.

African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship
This Special Presentation exhibition showcases the Library’s incomparable African American collections. It highlights what is on view in this major black history exhibition, and includes a wide array of important and rare books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings.

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWWS)
This site provides a search database of soldiers, sailors, regiments, cemeteries, battles, prisoners and medals of honor national parks. Coordinated by the National Park Service, the CWSS Project was sponsored by the African American Civil War Memorial, Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana), George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Howard University (African American Civil War Sailors Project), National Archives, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the U.S. Army Military History Institute.

African Americans and the U.S. Navy
This site includes links to information about Amistad and the U.S. Navy, Ship’s Cook Doris “Dorie” Miller: Biography of an African American Sailor, Port Chicago Naval Magazine Explosion, 17 July 1944, Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear, and photographs.

Black History Teaching Resources at the Smithsonian
This page offers readers information on Smithsonian collections related to African American history.

John H. White: Portrait of Black Chicago
From June through October 1973 and briefly during the spring of 1974, John H. White, a 28-year-old photographer with the Chicago Daily News at that time, worked for the federal government photographing Chicago, especially the city’s African American community. His photographs portray the difficult circumstances faced by many of Chicago’s African American residents in the early 1970s, but they also catch the “spirit, love, zeal, pride, and hopes of the community.” This site is a part of the National Archives Exhibit Hall.


Nongovernmental Sources

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
This eBook of Douglass’ personal escape narrative is offered by the University of North Carolina and copyright restrictions should be recognized.

American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology – Index to Narratives SOUND FILES
As part of the American Hypertext Workshop at the University of Virginia during Summer 1996, this web site provides an opportunity to read and hear slave narratives, and to see some of the photographs taken at the time of the interviews by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The entire collection of narratives can be found in George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972-79).

Global Mappings: A Political Atlas of African Disapora
This interactive site was created to offer a virtual archive housing scholarly entries that demonstrate the linkages between transnational black politics, social movements and world historical events of the twentieth century. Initiated in 1998 with funds from the Ford Foundation, it is the first undertaking of the Institute of Diasporic Studies at Northwestern University.

The National Geographic Online presents The Underground Railroad SOUND FILES
This is an interactive site to give users an idea of what a slave’s experience might be like when trying to escape. You will have to make life and death decisions. 

PBS presents Africans in America: Historical Documents
Resource Bank Index of personal narratives, portraits, petitions and other legal documents during the years of African bondage.

Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences
This site provides profiles of African Americans in science. Indexed alphabetically and by profession.

Mathematicians of African Diaspora
Profiles of over 400 male and female African and African-American mathematicians.  

Breaking the Racial Barriers: African Americans in the Harmon Foundation Collection
William E. Harmon (1862-1928) established the Harmon Foundation in New York City to recognize African American achievements in the fine arts.  Forty-one of the original fifty portraits in the original 1944 exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution were given to the National Portrait Gallery by the Harmon Foundation. This exhibition is drawn from that gift.

Archives of African American Music and Culture
Launched by Indiana University in 1991, this site is a repository of materials covering various musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era.

PBS presents JAZZ : A History of American Music
Directed by Ken Burns, this documentary, JAZZ, is a story about race and race relations and prejudice, about minstrelsy and Jim Crow, lynchings and civil rights. JAZZ explores the uniquely American paradox that our greatest musical art form was created by those who have had the peculiar experience of not being free in our supposedly free land. African-Americans in general, and black jazz musicians in particular, carry a complicated message to the rest of us, a genetic memory of our great promise and our great failing . . .

Without Sanctuary: Postcards of Lynchings in America
James Allen organized and helped edit this website of photographs and postcards taken as souvenirs at lynchings throughout America. These photos and postcards speak to the hatred and evilness that was prevalent and a by-product of justified slavery. These photographs have been published as a book “Without Sanctuary” by Twin Palms Publishers and are on display at the New York Historical Society. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta
This is the official MLK historical site. It includes links to the papers project at Stanford.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world.

African American Resources SOUND FILES
Maintained by the Center For Multilingual, Multicultural Research at USC, this link provides full text articles, sound files of historic speeches, video and other resources covering such topics as Ebonics.