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Michigan State University

African American Studies Research Guide: Print Primary Sources in Special Collections

Print Primary Sources in Special Collections

Most of the resources on this page were identified and brought together by Ruth Ann Jones.

For additional information about African American materials in Special Collections, check on the separate Special Collections Tab.

Black Arts Movement Background

The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (2013) has a brief summary of the Black Arts Movement.

The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2013) has a longer introduction.

Larry Neal's essay "The Black Arts Movement" (published in Drama Review in 1968) was one of the first to recognize the new direction in Black creative work.

Find more background material, books, and journal articles with SearchPlus, the library's multi-resource searching tool.

The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2013) provides background on the Black Power Movement.

The Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to the Present (2009) has an introductory article on the Black Power Movement.

Blacks Art Movement : Broadside Press

The Broadside Press was founded in Detroit in 1965 by Dudley Randall. It was instrumental in bringing many Black poets to national attention.

Our holdings

We have about 100 items issued by the press, many of which are actual broadsides. (This term means poetry or prose printed on a single sheet, so it can be framed or posted.)

How to find

Search the MSU library catalog.

  • Limit to Special Collections.
  • Keyword search "broadside press" (use quotation marks to get the phrase instead of the separate words)

Black Arts Movement : Third World Press

The Third World Press was founded in Chicago in 1967 by Haki R. Madhubuti, Carolyn Rodgers, and Johari Amini. It is now the largest Black-owned publisher in the U.S.

Our holdings

The majority of our holdings are in Main, with about 25 early titles in Special Collections.

How to find

Search the MSU library catalog.

Keyword search "third world press" (use quotation marks to get the phrase instead of the separate words)

Black Arts Movement : Other Publications

Our holdings

In addition to strong holdings of the Broadside Press and Third World Press (described above), we have scattered holdings of several other publications of the Black Arts movement.

How to find

Search MSU library catalog.

  • Title search cricket black music in evolution
  • Title search journal of black poetry
  • Title search soulbook
  • Title search black dialogue magazine
  • Title search negro digest

Black Power Movement : Background

The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2013) provides background on the Black Power Movement.

The Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to the Present (2009) has an introductory article on the Black Power Movement.

Black Power Movement : Periodicals

We have selected issues of several periodicals associated with the Black Power movement:

Longer runs of these periodicals are available online or in the Main Library collection.

Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism

The Civil Rights movement ran parallel, one might say, to expressions of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. These movements included diverse visions and goals, including:

Solidarity between African countries and African Americans:

Exploration of common goals between Black Nationalism and Socialist and Communist organizations:

Interest in Afro-centric culture, including creation of the Kwanzaa holiday:

Establishment of a separate nation for African Americans within the territory of the United States:

Black Student Newspapers

1971-1975 - The Grapevine Journal

1976-1978 - People's Choice


1994 - Speak


1998-2001 - The Legacy


PLUS: The University Archives & Historical Collections have a Grapevine Journal Archive, which includes issues of the paper plus extensive office files.

African Americans and World War II

African American soldiers returning from the Second World War were an important catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. They risked their lives in combat while experiencing discrimination within the armed forces.

After the war, they continued to face the same discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and access to voting rights as before their service.

Brother Jim Crow... James Rorty. Post War World Council, 1943.

Democracy's Negroes: A Book of Facts Concerning the Activities of Negroes in World War II. Arthur Furr. House of Edinboro, 1947.

The Harlem Hellfighters [graphic novel]. Max Brooks and Canaan White. Broadway Books, 2014.

Jim Crow in National Defense. National Negro Congress, 1941.

Jim Crow in Uniform. Claudia Jones. New Age Publishers, 1940.

Leadership and the Negro Soldier. United States Army, 1944.

The Negro and the U.S. Army. Eugene Varlin. Socialist Workers Party, 1941.

A Negro Looks at War. John Henry Williams. Workers Library Publishers, 1940.

Negro People Will Defend America. National Negro Congress, 1941.

Negro Workers After the War. National Negro Congress, 1945.

Time for Action: World War II Through the Eyes of an African-American Cartoonist. Robin Mazyck. (M.A. thesis, Michigan State University) 1998.

United States Army Scottsboro Case. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1943.

War's Greatest Scandal! The Story of Jim Crow in Uniform. Dwight Macdonald. March on Washington Movement, 1943.

Where is the Justice? Oliver W. Harrington. W.O. Evans, 1991 [reprint of speech given in 1946]

African Americans and the Vietnam War

Roughly 25 years after World War II, African American soldiers were among those serving in the Vietnam War. How had the Civil Rights movement and nascent Black Power movement changed attitudes?

Blacks in the Military: The Myth of Equal Opportunity. Center for National Security Studies, 197-?

Black Marines Against the Brass. Radical Education Project, 197-?

The Black Man's Stake in Vietnam. Eldridge Cleaver. Black Panther Party [?], 197-?

Brothers, Black Soldiers in the Nam. Stanley Goff et al. Berkley Books, 1982.

Kangaroo Court-Martial: George Daniels and William Harvey, Two Black Marines Who Got 6 and 10 Years for Opposing the Vietnam War. Committee for G.I. Rights, 1969.

Uncle Sam Wants YOU, Nigger. Harlem Progressive Labor Club, 196-?

War, Racism, the Movement: As We See It. Jarvis Tyner. W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs of America, 1968.

A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam. Vietnam Generation, 1989.

History Texts by African Americans

These titles range from books for elementary-age children to histories for adult readers.

1893 - A School History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1890... revised edition, by Edward A. Johnson.

1902 - Progress of a Race: Or, the Remarkable Advancement of the American Negro... by J.W. Gibson and W.H. Crogman.

1928 - Negro Makers of History, by Carter G. Woodson

1933 - The Negro in America, by Alain Locke

1938 - The Negro American Series (four volumes) by Emma E. Akin

1938 - Negro Folk Tales for Pupils in the Primary Grades, by Helen Adele Whiting

1938 - Negro Art, Music, and Rhyme for Young Folks, by Helen Adele Whiting

1943 - The Negro, Too, in American History, by Merl R. Eppse

1947 - Little Journeys into Storyland: Stories that Will Live and Lift, by Louis B. Reynolds and Charles L. Paddock

1956 - A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, by Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer

1959 - The Story of the Negro Retold, by Carter G. Woodson and Charles H. Wesley

1969 - Afro Americans, Then and Now, by Jane Hurley and Doris McGee Haynes.

1971 - The Struggle for Freedom and Rights: Basic Facts about the Negro in American History. "To be used in connection with classroom texts for grade 8."

Black Feminist Movement

Several key documents in the Black Feminist movement:

Poor Black Women, Including Birth Control and Black Children: A Statement by the Black Unity Party; A Response, by Black Sisters. (Boston: New England Free Press, 1968)

Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female (Reprinted from Black Women's Manifesto, 1971)

Statement of Purpose of the National Black Feminist Organization (New York: National Black Feminist Organization, 1973)

The Combahee River Collective Statement: Black Feminist Organizing in the Seventies and Eighties (New York: Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, 1986)

Black Women's United Front: Congress of Afrikan People on the Woman Question. Position paper and speeches from meeting held in Detroit, January 25, 1975.

Interrelationship of the Black Struggle and the Woman Question: Later for Struggle Sister Struggle, by Nina Harding. (Seattle: Radical Women's Conference, 1980)

LGBTQ African Americans

Our LGBTQ collections include many newsletters and books from Black and multiracial LGBTQ organizations. Several examples:

  • Black Lines. "Expressions from black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered life." MSU has issues from 1996-2003.
  • Kick! Magazine for African American gay men and lesbians in Michigan. MSU has issues from 1995-1999.
  • Color Life. "The lesbian, gay, two-spirit & bisexual, people of color magazine." MSU has issues from 1993-1994.
  • The Griot Press. "Minority owned and published lesbian and gay magazine." MSU has issues from 1992-1995.
  • National Association of Black and White Men Together Quarterly Newsletter. "A gay multiracial organization for all people." MSU has issues from 1989-1996.

Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men. Essex Hemphill, ed. Alyson Publications, 1991.

Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing. Catherine E. McKinley and L. Joyce Delaney, eds. Anchor Books, 1995.

Terri L. Jewell Papers

Terri L. Jewell (1954-1995) was an African American, lesbian-feminist  author and activist. She grew up in Louisville but attended MSU and lived in Lansing as an adult.

She was the editor of The Black Woman's Gumbo Ya-Ya: Quotations by Black Women (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1993) and published poetry and essays in dozens of publications.

Her personal papers are held in Special Collections, as well as a bibliography of her work.

African American Cookbooks

Book cover Sylvia's Soul Food

Soul food gained great popularity in the 1960s. Many soulfood cookbooks include commentary by the authors about their interest and appreciation of their African heritage.

Search the MSU library catalog.

  • Limit to Special Collections.
  • Keyword search african american cooking.
  • Sort your results by date for the time period you want to explore.

(Note that your results will include a few recent reprints of older works.)

Beauty Culture

Book cover for Accent African

The period from 1940-1980 saw dramatic changes in how many African Americans dressed and styled their hair, reflecting the changing Black identity.

Accent African: Traditional and Contemporary Hairstyles for the Black Woman. Valerie Thomas-Osborne and Carla Brown. Cultural Expressions Inc., 1992.

Curly Hair: Specialized Texts for Barbers and Beauticians. Willie L. Morrow. Black Publishers, 1973.

Jet Magazine. Johnson Publishing. MSU has issues from 1952 to 2003.

National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers, an organization for African Americans in the fashion industry. MSU has conference programs from the 1960s and 1970s.

Sepia Magazine. Sepia Publishing. MSU has issues from 1959 to 1981.

Sally Hemmings

Cover image of CD "From the Diary of Sally Hemings"

Sally Hemings was an enslaved woman of mixed race who was owned by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the U.S. Jefferson is believed by many scholars to have been the father of Hemings' six children.

Hemings herself did not leave behind any writings, but playwright Sandra Seaton imagined her life in From the Diary of Sally Hemings.

Seaton's text was then set to music by composer William Bolcom:

I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky

Banner image for I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky

African American poet and activist June Jordan wrote the text for this modern choral work, about the lives of seven young people in Los Angeles just before the 1994 earthquake.

Her characters struggle with issues of immigration, birth control, and criminal law. Music by composer John Adams.

Rasing Black Children in a Black Society

Works by African American authors:

And: Children of Crisis: A Study of Courage and Fear. (Robert Coles. Little Brown, 1967.) Robert Coles is a child psychiatrist and is white. MSU Special Collections has Coles' papers and work files, spanning about 50 years, including documents about his interactions with Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to integrate an all-white elementary school in the South.

American Black Journal Archive

American Black Journal web banner

American Black Journal is a weekly television program on African American arts, culture, and community issues, which has been produced in Detroit since 1968.

It was originally called Colored People's Time, but the title was soon changed to Detroit Black Journal. The show was renamed American Black Journal in 1988.

Production files from the first 34 years of the program (1968 to 2002) were given to Special Collections by Detroit Public Television.

American Black Journal Also Available on the Web

American Black Journal : Documenting Detroit and American History from African-American Perspectives.  American Black Journal, originally titled Colored People's Time, went on the air in 1968 as a televised public forum for black Americans during a historic moment of racial turmoil across the nation. During its thirty-six-year run, the show (under different titles and formats) has documented Detroit and American history from African-American perspectives. The show represents a unique national treasury, possessing one of the most extensive audio-visual records of local African-American history and culture in existence, recorded in the city with the third largest black population in the United States. While many extant collections are limited to the contributions of African-Americans in specific areas such as civil rights or music, ABJ explores the entire spectrum. The collection includes interviews, round table discussions, field-produced features, and artistic performances by African-Americans, many from among the nation's most-recognized African-American experiences. The collection also contains in-studio interviews and on-location footage that examine such issues and events as work in the automobile industry, nationwide urban civil disturbances in 1967 (including those in Detroit), the development of strong African-American political leaders, the explosion of Motown music and the emergence of rap, the rise of mainstream business leaders, and the enduring importance of religion within African-American culture. In its thirty-six years of programming, the ABJ has highlighted leading figures in the worlds of sports, economics, academics, international relations, the law, and religion. The show's first-person approach is particularly valuable for public presentations of history, while the ABJ materials provide faces and voices to the key aspects of African-American culture and history over the last third of the century.  A treasure trove of primary source material on film. 

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