Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Social Studies 98


Contexts, Backgrounds, Overviews

The Harvard Guide to African American History (2001)

This landmark guide covers research into every aspect of African-American life and work, offering a compendium of information and interpretation about almost 400 years of African-Americans’ experiences as an ethnic group and as Americans.

The first part of the Guide contains 12 essays on historical research aids, from traditional archival and reference materials to the Internet. The second and largest part presents comprehensive chronological bibliographies, prepared by a team of renowned scholars. The third part contains listings of resources on the special subjects of women (prepared by  Editor-in-Chief Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham), geographical areas, and  autobiography and biography

Available in print only. View the full table of contents

The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-present (2012)

Edited by Harvard professor Lawrence D. Bobo, this handbook is comprised of  thirty-four articles,written by scholars of African American studies across the social sciences. They trace the historical evolution of African American experiences, from the dawn of Reconstruction onward, through the perspectives of sociology, political science, law, economics, education, and psychology.

As a whole, the book is a systematic study of the gap between the promise and performance of African Americans since the end of the Civil War and the start of the first Reconstruction.  



African American Studies Center

Produced by Oxford University Press and overseen by Harvard's Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the AASC bills itself as the "online authority on the African American experience." It draws its content from some of the most important reference works in the field and is continually updated. 

At present, it contains more than 10,000 articles by top scholars from around the world, over 1,750 images, more than 300 primary sources with specially written commentaries, maps, charts, tables, timelines, and 6,000 biographies.  A key feature of the AASC is the "At a Glance" page, which brings together multiple entries on a subject or an individual for browsing.  


IMAGE: Black Power Activists Stokely Carmichael, LeRoi Jones, and H. Rap Brown in Michaux's Bookstore in Harlem, 1967. Photograph by James E. Hinton. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress; rpt. in "Black Power Movement." Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century, edited by Ed. Paul  Finkelman. Oxford African American Studies Center. 


The Oxford Bibliographies Online

OBO combines the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia  in order to help you identify some of the most important and influential scholarship on a broad topic (culturally responsive pedagogies, , science education, educational policy in the U.S., and so forth).

Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material but overabundance.  OBO entries can help you solve the problem of  knowing what or who to read or which voices in the conversation you should give some fuller attention to.

The database updates quarterly, to keep material current. 

LEFT: Undated image of W.E.B. DuBois, from the Library of Congress. 



From the advanced search screen, choose the categories AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES, POLITICAL SCIENCE, and SOCIOLOGY (or some other combination that works for you) before you run your keyword search.  Personalizing a bit will help you surface  appropriate entries more easily.

Primary Sources on Black Political Thought

Primary sources abound in the Harvard Library, even at places, like Widener or Lamont, that are neither "special collections" nor a designated "archive."  As a researcher, your job is to think creatively about what constitutes primary evidence and where you might find it. 

How can you search efficiently for primary sources? Here are strategies to use in the library catalog portion of HOLLIS:


  • Look for the  limiter on the right side of the results screen. 

The HOLLIS catalog is massive -- and old in the best sense.  Publications produced contemporaneouslyduring the era or time period or lifetime of a figure you're studying may become visible that way. 

With smallish result sets, you can also resort results by date (ascending), so you'll see the oldest items in the catalog first. 

  • Limit your results by to one of our special collections or archives (Schlesinger, Houghton, Harvard University Archives, etc.).

Once you've chosen the archive or special collections from the list, you can add additional precision by limiting again, to Archive /Manuscript (under ).

  • Use the  limit to display materials by type. Primary sources will be identified with real granularity by these means; they exist as everything from photographs to correspondence to diaries to clipping files and scrapbooks (for instance). 


  • Add a century marker to the keyword search (19th, 20th, 21st, for example). 
  • Try adding  the word sources  to a keyword string.  This trick will sometimes help you pull up primary materials that have been republished  or that have been reformatted (as microfilm or microfiche). 
  • Other words to try adding to a keyword search include  anthologycollected, collection, readerdocumentary or documents


Browsing in the catalog  (as on the shelves) is an under-appreciated research strategy. It can help you see how the writings ABOUT an author, an idea, an event, etc. has been broken down and categorized. So instead of getting the typical list of titles, you see results in terms of sub-topics. Inspiration may lie there!


Open HOLLIS. Click on the  link above the search box. Then select SUBJECT. 




Houghton collections are physical, visual, literary, performative: they run the gamut, in other words, and represent all time periods, including the late 19th and 20th centuries, areas covered in this course.  Potential collections of interest might come from its Modern Books and Manuscripts division, Printing and Graphic Arts, the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, the Theatre Collection, and the Woodberry Poetry Collection (housed in Lamont). 

Among many other items, Houghton Library has a collection of Black Panther Party materials

You can inquire about items that might match your interest by using this form:


The pre-eminent library for the history of women in North America, Schlesinger's collections document such things as  women's rights and feminism; health and sexuality; work and family life; culinary history and etiquette; education and the profession; women as creators and consumers of culture.  Schlesinger is the repository for papers of such prominent Black intellectuals as Florynce Kennedy and Pauli Murray.

For a sense of the range and depth of the collections,  browse here:

Expert to contact: Tamar Gonen Brown



​​African American Periodicals, 1825-1996

JStor African American Periodicals 



African American Newspapers 1827-1998

ProQuest Historical Newspapers -- Black Newspapers: a suite of 9 publications:


The History Makers: the nation's largest video oral history archive. 


Afro-American Imprints, 1535-1922 (Library Company of Philadelphia)

 Provides researchers with more than 12,000 printed works. These essential books, pamphlets and broadsides, including many lesser-known imprints, hold an unparalleled record of African American history, literature and culture. This collection spans nearly 400 years, from the early 16th to the early 20th century. Critically important subjects covered include the West's discovery and exploitation of Africa; the rise of slavery in the New World along with the growth and success of abolitionist movements; the development of racial thought, including political protest and resistance to racism; descriptions of African American life -- slave and free -- throughout the Americas; and slavery and race in fiction and drama. Also featured are printed works of African American individuals and organizations.

Black Abolitionists Papers 

This extraordinary, primary source collection is the first to comprehensively detail the extensive work of African Americans to abolish slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War. Covering the period 1830-1865, the collection presents the massive, international impact of African American activism against slavery, in the writings and publications of the activists themselves. The approximately 15,000 articles, documents, correspondence, proceedings, manuscripts, and literary works of almost 300 Black abolitionists show the full range of their activities.

Civil Rights and the Freedom Struggle (ProQuest History Vault)

The Sixties: Primary Documents and Personal Narratives, 1960-1974

ProQuest Congressional


African American Perspectives (Library of Congress)

​UmbraSearchBrings together hundreds of thousands digitized materials from over 1,000 libraries and archives across the country.


Finding the Scholarly Conversation



An online directory of online academic research in all aspects of philosophy.  Among its helpful features is the ability to browse a topic list that has been defined and is maintained by the site's philosopher-community. One of its current aims is to classify all its contents according to a finely grained taxonomy.

For some topics, including several of those linked below, headnotes summarize major trends, influential works, controversies and debates, and even identify good introductory texts for those new to a philosophical concept.  Examples:


International Index to Black Periodicals (part of ProQuest's Black Studies Center)


The only periodical database of current titles pertaining exclusively to black studies and culture, IIBP covers journals and magazines from the United States, African nations, and the Caribbean. Its coverage is deep -- reaching as far back as 1902, making it useful as a primary source repository for intellectual history and theory.  

Also included as part of the IIBP search is the very first compilation of black serial publicationsThe Marshall Index, which covered 42 core African-American periodicals published between 1940 and 1946. 

The larger Black Studies Center, from within which you access IIBP, includes the Black Literature Index, essays on Black culture and history produced by Schomburg Center scholars, and supplementary materials, like timelines. 

TIP: Results display in reverse chronological order in IIBP, rather than by relevancy (the more common default.  You can change the sort order before or after your search to see items that algorithmically "most relevant," when necessary.




America: History and Life

The premier database for deep access to scholarly books, journals, and dissertations on the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. AHL included all the leading English-language historical journals as well as some international publications.  Its companion database for world history  is Historical Abstracts.

TIP: In a historically-focused database like AHL you can set date parameters (a range of years or centuries) to identify the historical period a book or article covers and is about. Most other databases only let you limit to publication date of the articles themselves.



Sociological Abstracts

A core resource for Social Studies concentrators, researchers, professionals, and students in sociology, social planning/policy, and related disciplines. It includes citations and abstracts from over 1800 journals, relevant dissertations, selected books and book chapters, and association papers, as well as citations for book reviews and other media.

Tools for Locating Full-Text and Managing Your Sources

The Harvard Library Bookmarklet: this handy extension can help you quickly determine online access to articles you may encounter in your travels around the web.

Easy directions for creating the Bookmarklet  are here.

Once you've made it, just drag it to your toolbar so it will be easy to get to when you need it.

When access seems to be behind a "lock and key" -- that is, you're asked to login, to subscribe to the hosting service, or to pay $$ in order to view and use the full text -- simply click on the Bookmarklet. Your screen will refresh and full-text (courtesy of Harvard) will appear. 

Google Scholar Settings: One simple change can turn Google Scholar into what's effectively a Harvard database -- with links to the full-text of articles that the library can provide. Here's what to do:  Look to the left of the GS screen and click on the "hamburger" (); then click on .  Look for "Library Links."  Then type Harvard University into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep.  

If you've used NoodleTools or EasyBib in a past academic life -- or even if you've figured out the the pin and cite options in HOLLIS -- Zotero will take you to a whole new level. 

This free, open source citation management tool makes the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page stress-free and nearly effortless.

It's worth the small investment of time to learn Zotero. A good guide, produced by Harvard librarians, is available here: