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The HARRC Collection

Historic African River Road Connections collection, curated by AU Library.

The HARRC Collection curated by the American University (AU) Library collects, preserves, and makes available materials created and acquired by members of the River Road African communities founded during the Reconstruction Era.

The Collection is used to support research by descendant communities, activists, students, and scholars; to create exhibits; digital collections; and provide educational and public programs that document and celebrate the communities’ interconnected histories. Materials donated to the Collection are preserved in a climate controlled, secure environment to ensure they remain accessible to researchers now and in the future.

AU & historic African River Road

Children from River Road communities used AU’s recreational spaces in the 1950s when they were barred from entering segregated Bethesda pools and parks. Yet AU is also situated in Tenleytown (Reno City), once home to a thriving Black community, and the southernmost historic African community on River Road. Reno City’s African American residents were pushed out through racist development strategies during the first half of the 20th century. Today, AU’s location, its history, and its commitment to community engagement make it a natural and essential site for collaboration with its neighbors, with the aim of helping to ensure the future of African River Road by preserving its past.

What the HARRC Collection needs from you

The Collection solicits donations from community organizations, churches and descendants of earlier generations of members of the African communities of Scotland, Tobytown, Bethesda, Tenleytown, and other organizations or individuals who possess relevant materials. We are especially interested in materials that shed light on individual, family, community and congregational histories, such as: correspondence, diaries, film and video, sound recordings, photographs, reports, church and legal records, community publications, leaflets, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, family bibles and other important family and community books. While the Collection is not able to accept heirlooms or other artifacts for preservation, Bethesda Macedonia Baptist Church (301.656.0994) and Scotland AME Zion Church (301.299.5226) are happy to work with you to ensure the preservation of material culture.

We need your help!

Personal and community documents are needed to create and maintain a living history of the interconnected African River Road communities. In order for the Collection to provide rich and detailed information about their history, it must include materials from as many different families, churches and official sources as possible. By knowing their histories, communities are better prepared to withstand challenges to their ongoing existence in the form of encroaching development, desecration of cemeteries, and other serious threats. By donating to the HARRC Collection you will help to ensure that your families’ and communities’ proud legacies will have a positive impact for generations to come.

Donate Materials

If you are interested in making a donation please contact the American University Archives at or by telephone at +1 (202) 885-3256. Our archivists will be happy to answer your questions and guide you through the process of making a donation.