Researching African-American History

Harlem Renaissance artist Archibald J. Motley Jr.'s Black Belt, 1934
Black Belt, 1934 by Harlem Renaissance artist Archibald J. Motley Jr.

February is Black History Month, making it an excellent time to highlight some of the many resources in our collection related to African-American history, including some lesser known items like subject dictionaries and online videos. 

When you hear “dictionary,” you probably think of something like Merriam Webster, but that’s just one kind of dictionary. Subject dictionaries and encyclopedias are a genre of reference book that offer information on specialized terms related to a certain topic, like this Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement. Organized in alphabetical order, this volume supplies background and definitions for a comprehensive selection of people, ideas, court cases, and other topics related to the civil rights movement, from Ralph David Abernathy (top aide to Martin Luther King, Jr.) to Whitney Moore Young, Jr. (activist and leader of the National Urban League). Subject dictionaries are valuable for providing more in-depth and niche information than, for example, a traditional encyclopedia, but in the same accessible and easily digested format. Check one out to dabble in a new subject, review for an exam, or find inspiration and preliminary information for research topics.

First African-American congressmen, 1871 (source)
First African-American congressmen, 1871 (source)

The easiest way to locate a subject dictionary is to add “dictionaries” to general topic area keyword(s) like “civil rights” or “African-American” in a catalog search. This works because each of this type of book has been given a standardized label, called a subject heading, that ends with the term dictionary, so the search will retrieve all of the books in this genre, even if it’s named, for example, The A to Z of African American cinema. The same thing works for the term “encyclopedias,” which uncovers titles like the Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage and The Complete Encyclopedia of African American History.

Click here to view: Solomon Northup’s Odyssey: Twelve Years a Slave

If you’d prefer to get an overview of a topic in video form, the library can help there too. You  can search for titles from our streaming video collection using the location “Touro E-Videos”. The results include titles like:

A few of the many ebooks available to learn more about African-American history (view links below)
A few of the many ebooks available to learn more about African-American history (view links below)

Of course, we also have a large range of print and e-books on subjects related to black history. For further reading, these are a few of the titles I found interesting during my research:

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