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African American Studies: African American Biography

Getting Started

Biographical information on African Americans is abundantly available in the Morris Library. This select bibliography can be used to identify full-text information online, books, newspaper and periodical articles, and encyclopedia entries on this topic. A few good starting points are:

Online Periodical and Newspaper Indexes

Autobiographical or biographical information can be found in periodicals or newspapers. Below are a few online indexes to periodicals and newspapers that can help you locate such information.

Finding Newspaper and Periodical Articles: Printed Indexes

Often autobiographical or biographical information can be found in periodicals or newspapers. Below are a few indexes which can help you locate such information. Additional indexes are available in the Reference Department.

Black Newspapers Index. Wooster, Ohio: UMI.
LOCATION: Reference AI3 .I46
An index (1977 to the present) which is devoted to African American newspapers. Newspapers indexed are: Afro-American (national edition), Amsterdam News (New York), Argus (St. Louis), Call and Post(Cleveland), Chicago Defender, Daily World (Atlanta), Journal and Guide (Norfolk), Michigan Chronicle (Detroit), Sentinel (Los Angeles), and the American Muslim Journal(Chicago).
Index to Black Periodicals. Boston: G.K. Hall.
LOCATION: Reference AI3 .I59
An annual author, title, and subject index to articles and book reviews by and about African Americans published in thirty-nine black journals from 1950 to the present. Formerly entitled Index to Periodical Articles by and about Blacks.
Kaiser Index to Black Resources, 1948-1986. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson, 1992.
LOCATION: Reference E185 .K35x 1992
A five-volume index to newspaper and periodical articles, books and ephemera held in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The volumes have entries listed under an individual's name, organization, or subject area.
Newman, Richard. Black Index: Afro-Americana in Selected Periodicals, 1907-1949. New York: Garland, 1981.
LOCATION: Reference AI3 .N485
An index to periodical articles published about African Americans in popular and scholarly magazines from 1907 to 1949. (References from the Journal of Negro History have been excluded since that journal publishes its own index.) Access is by author and subject.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Index to the Schomburg Clipping File. Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1986.
LOCATION:  Reference E185 .S373x 1986
An index to periodical and newspaper clippings contained in the Clipping File at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Clipping File is also available on microfiche in the Morris Library (Microfiche No. 1583). The index provides access to individual names, organizations, and subjects.

General Reference Sources

The following bibliographies, biographical dictionaries, encyclopedias and indexes may assist you in beginning your research. Some of these works also have occupational indexes which are useful for identifying individuals within a particular career.

Black Biography, 1790-1950: A Cumulative Index. Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1991.
LOCATION : Reference E185.96 .B53x 1991
A three-volume index to a collection of 350 historical black biographical dictionaries published on microfiche (Micro No. 1974). In addition to providing brief biographical information on the individual, the index also provides geographical and occupational indexes.  While many of the dictionaries can be found online at HathiTrust or Google Books, the invaluable indexing provided by this publication is not.  A one-volume supplement is available at:  Reference E185.96 .B532x 2000.
Gates, Henry Louis, and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. The African American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
LOCATION: Reference E185 .96 .A4466 2000
An eight-volume biographical dictionary containing 4,100 entries.
Mitchell, Sara. Afro-American Biographies: A Bibliography. Huntington, NY : Nova Science Publishers, 2000.
LOCATION: Reference E185 .96 .A37x 2000
A useful listing of biographies that have been published on African Americans. Entries are grouped into several broad categories (e.g. Science, Engineering and Invention). Author, title, and subject indexes are provided.
Palmer, Colin A. Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. LOCATION: E185 .E54 2006
A six volume set which contains scholarly essays written on various topics pertaining to African American studies. The signed essays are written by experts in the field and provide references to additional sources. There is a general index, along with numerous appendixes which provide historical statistics and other useful information.

Subject Librarian

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Carol Rudisell
Librarian and Head,
Reference & Instructional Services

Subjects:Africana Studies, General Reference

Ask the Library


Searching DELCAT Discovery

  • To obtain book-length autobiographies and biographies, search DELCAT Discovery using the individual's name as a subject. For example, to locate books about Tupac Shakur,  type su:tupac shakur

  • DELCAT Discovery uses the term African Americans when referring to black citizens of the United States and blacks when discussing black people internationally.

  • To find biographical information on African Americans in a particular career, use terms that refer to that career/subject area. For example, african american musicians and biograph*.  Try many options such as: african american* and (musicians or rappers) and biography.

    NOTE: The " * " in the above search retrieve words with different endings. For example, biograph* would retrieve the terms biographical, biographies and biography.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

If you are interested in a certain career and/or subject area, search using subject headings that refer to that career. For assistance in selecting headings to locate books, refer to the Library of Congress Subject Headings or Ask a Librarian. Below is a sample list of subject headings you might use:

African American athletes
African American authors
African American inventors
African American musicians
African American physicians
African American scientists
African American women--Biography
African Americans--Biography
African Americans--Civil rights
African Americans--Education
African Americans--Social conditions
Authors, American--20th century
Jazz musicians
Novelists, American--20th Century
Racially mixed people
Slavery in the United States
Slaves--United States--Biography
Underground railroad
Women slaves