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New Database Enriches African American Studies

"Lawlessness—lynch law and kindred outrages form a menace to the people in the respective communities and states in which it prevails...."

"If we have seem to be bias in matters of interest to the colored man it has been because editors of the white press have only as a rule only reflected our sins and hid our virtues."

Examples from Afro-American newspaper, Baltimore

The two striking passages above appear in the April 29, 1893 issue of the famous Afro-American newspaper published in Baltimore. In the same paper a monetary appeal jointly signed by Frederick B. Douglass and Ida B. Wells solicits funds for printing “a carefully prepared pamphlet” about African Americans to be distributed in multiple languages to visitors at the upcoming exposition (world’s fair) because without a pamphlet, no African American presence is planned for the fair. Douglass includes his mailing address in Anacostia, District of Columbia as the location to which to send contributions. Concerns about the perception of African Americans and even the dangers of being African American in the late nineteenth century United States are made abundantly clear in just one issue of one newspaper.

Other issues of this newspaper and many other newspapers appear in African American Newspapers, 1827–1998, one of the newest additions to the library’s database subscriptions. The database significantly enhances the library’s resources about African American history, issues, and concerns. It also expands the library’s coverage of local history and presses because the collection contains 270 newspapers from 35 states. Seven of the newspapers were published in the District of Columbia.

Content and Topics

As the publisher notes, the content of this database is particularly rich with coverage of life in the Antebellum South; the spread of abolitionism; growth of the Black church; the Emancipation Proclamation; the Jim Crow Era; the Great Migration to northern cities, the West and Midwest in search of greater opportunity; rise of the N.A.A.C.P.; the Harlem Renaissance; the Civil Rights movement; and political and economic empowerment. In addition to Frederick Douglass, other voices in these newspapers include those of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King, Jr. All of the usual content for newspapers such as obituaries, advertisements, editorials, and illustrations are also included in this full-image database useful for the study of social and political history.

Search Strategies

The African American Newspapers database has an abundance of search possibilities. Researchers can search by title, by state, by well-defined historical eras, and of course by keywords in either headlines or articles. Searches can also be restricted by date. For assistance with searching African American Newspapers, users can contact AU reference.