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Special Collections: African American Studies Research Guide

Finding Special Collections Materials

Printed collections

Published items held in Special Collections, such as books, journals, pamphlets, and broadsides, are searchable in DELCAT.  It is possible to limit your search to ONLY materials held in Special Collections by selecting the box next to "Special Collections" under the "Library" tab on the sidebar. Material from Special Collections will display the location information as "Special Collections Non-Circulating."

For additional information on how to search Special Collections in DELCAT, such as how to limit or sort by date, please refer to the DELCAT LibGuide.

Manuscripts and archives

Manuscript and archival collections in Special Collections contain a range of materials--such as documents, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, business records, reports, ephemera, audio, video, and born-digital content--from individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. The guides to these collections are called finding aids and they can be browsed and searched here:

For search tips and other help using the Finding Aids for Archival Collections site, please view the appropriate subpage of the Introduction to Special Collections Research Guide:

Not all finding aids or collection descriptions are online, so please contact Special Collections if you need help with your search.

Suggested Search Terms

Below is a list of suggested Library of Congress subject terms that can be used to locate material in both DELCAT and the online finding aids.

For printed material in the catalog (e.g. books, pamphlets), you can search by creator using the prefix "au:" before your search term or conduct a subject search using the prefix "su:" before your search term. Remember to limit your search to "Special Collections." 

You can also use Library of Congress subject terms to search the finding aids. Our finding aids also allow for plain language keyword searching like Google. Note, however, that plain language searching will return any finding aid containing the exact search term you use (no synonyms). You can also limit search results by date range, name, location and format using the filters on the side of the page.

A note on historic search/subject terms: Words and phrases to describe people, places and issues have changed over time (e.g. the Library of Congress' use of "Negro," changed to "Afro-American," changed to "African American," expanded to "Black"). Use historical language to develop synonyms (e.g. "colored") to your search terms to find a wider array of sources. In addition to suggested search terms provided here, please see Terminology in the Additional Resources section of this LibGuide. Contact Special Collections if you need assistance in identifying appropriate keywords for your research.     

Sample Basic Search/Keyword Anywhere:

  • African Americans and Delaware
  • African Americans and education
  • African Americans and newspapers
  • Negroes
  • Moors (a term used to describe a community of mixed-race individuals living in Delaware)

Sample Browse/Subject searches:

  • African American Methodists
  • African Americans—Delaware
  • African Americans—Delaware—education
  • African Americans—Delaware—newspapers

Other relevant subject searches using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):

  • Abolitionists
  • African American soldiers
  • African American women—Biography
  • African Americans—Biography
  • African Americans—Civil rights
  • African Americans—History—19th century
  • African Americans—Social conditions
  • Antislavery movements
  • Black Panther Party
  • Black power
  • Freedmen
  • Racially mixed people
  • Reconstruction
  • Slave holders
  • Slavery in the United States
  • Slavery in the United States—Condition of slaves
  • Slaves—Emancipation—United States
  • Slaves—United States—Biography
  • Underground railroad
  • United States. Colored troops
  • Segregation in education
  • Slave insurrections
  • Slave trade