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.
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.
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:
- Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice – “Though virtually forgotten today, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a household name in black America during much of her lifetime (1863-1931). This film is a stirring biography of a crusading journalist, anti-lynching campaigner, and black suffragette during the most repressive years of the Jim Crow period.”
- Rise! (1940-1968): The African Americans—Many Rivers to Cross – This documentary explores the Civil Rights movement, from WWII to the assassination of Dr. King.
- Save Our History: The Underground Railroad – Featuring “Historical documents, visits to significant sites, and the rich music of the period are featured, as well as interviews with the descendants of noted abolitionists and commentary from experts.”
- Solomon Northup’s Odyssey: Twelve Years a Slave – A documentary based on Solomon Northup’s memoir Twelve Years a Slave, which was also the source material for the Academy-Award winning 2013 film of the same name.
- Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Original clips of speeches given by civil rights leader and superlative orator, Dr. King.
- Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson – A Ken Burns documentary about the first African-American heavyweight boxer.
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:
- Writing History from the Margins: African Americans and the Quest for Freedom
- Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought
- How Blacks Built America: Labor, Culture, Freedom, and Democracy
- Documenting the Black Experience: Essays on African American History, Culture and Identity in Nonfiction Films
- Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience