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African-Americans & the Black Experience: Databases & Books for African-American Research



Books are shelved by Library of Congress call numbers. Use Avalon, the library's online catalog, to find books and eBooks. The following subject headings and terms can be useful search terms in many of the databases including the library catalog.

In the Library of Congress subject headings, the standard search term for African American or Black American is African American, but works may also be listed under African Americans (plural) when the subject deals with African Americans as a group. The term African American is used primarily as an adjective modifying another group designation. In other words, African Americans -- Civil rights deals with the civil rights of African Americans, while African American Civil rights workers refers to civil rights workers who are African American.

In Murrell Library, books with African Americans as the primary subject heading have call numbers beginning with E185.  You can browse both print books and eBooks by using Avalon and doing a call number search on E185Many other books with African Americans as subject heading will be located elsewhere in the library depending upon content, so search Avalon to make sure you don't miss anything. Some subject headings include:

  • African American church musicians
  • African American college students
  • African American families
  • African American music [In place of African American songs]
  • African American women abolitionists
  • African American women clergy
  • African American women social reformers
  • African Americans -- Suffrage
  • American drama -- African American authors
  • Anniversaries
  • Bibliography
  • Biography
  • Black English
  • Black power -- United States
  • Civil rights
  • Civil rights - United States
  • Civil rights workers -- United States
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Education
  • Folklore
  • Free African Americans
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Hip-hop
  • History
  • Intellectual life
  • Literature
  • Periodicals
  • Political activity
  • Poor People's Campaign
  • Rap (music)
  • Religion
  • Selma-Montgomery Rights March, 1965
  • Slaves' writings, American
  • Social conditions
  • Social life and customs
  • Societies, etc
  • Songs and music
  • Spirituals (Songs) [In place of African American spirituals]

When searching for groups who temporarily reside in the United States (such as resident aliens, students from abroad, etc.), use Blacks -- United States. For searches involving blacks who do not reside in the United States, use Blacks -- [country, city, etc.]. For example: Blacks -- Brazil.

Google Books provides the largest collection of digitized books.  Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, many are restricted to snippets.  Also, Google Books is also populated with magazines (which can be good or bad depending on what you are looking for). Click on the advanced search feature so you can restrict your search to full-text only and books.

The Internet Text Archives provides access to millions of free digital texts.  The books here are divided into several sections, including books from American libraries (the largest section with 1.2 million texts), books from Canadian libraries, Open Source books, Project Gutenberg, and Children’s Library. If you want to browse check the nav on the right for the most popular downloads of all time, the most popular downloads of this week, and Editor’s Picks. You can do keyword searches, too. If you want to do anything beyond a simple keyword search I recommend you go straight to the advanced search page; there are so many fields available to search that it’s hard to remember them all. The advanced search is easier.

Project Gutenberg provides access to electronic texts of many works related to African Americans. Check out the African American Writers Bookshelf  for some examples! For another example, see Norman Coombs, The Black Experience in America