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Michigan State University

African American Studies Research Guide: Find Books

General Tips and Advice

  • Check the MSU Online Catalog for books, videos, and more.  Note that the MSU Online Catalog is a union catalog which includes the holdings of the Library of Michigan, the MSU College of Law Library, and other branches on our own campus.

  • Do a wider search using MelCat (a  network of participating Michigan libraries) or WorldCat (searches thousands of libraries). You can request non-MSU Library materials through interlibrary loan. NOTE: Not all materials listed in MelCat or WorldCat can be borrowed through interlibrary loan, but many can.

  • Don't forget to use the bibliographies in reference works, books, and articles to identify other resources on your topic.

New Acquisitions

Click on the New Books tab above to review some of our more recent book acquisitions.

Featured Books

African Americans in Michigan

African Americans in Michigan Lewis Walker, Benjamin C. Wilson, Linwood H. Cousins. East Lansing, Mich. : Michigan State University Press, c2001. 63pp. Main Library E185.93.M5 W35 2001
African Americans, as free laborers and as slaves, were among the earliest permanent residents of Michigan, settling among the French, British, and Native people with whom they worked and farmed. Lewis Walker and Benjamin Wilson recount the long history of African American communities in Michigan, delineating their change over time, as migrants from the South, East, and overseas made their homes in the state. Moreover, the authors show how Michigan's development is inextricably joined with the vitality and strength of its African American residents. In a related chapter, Linwood Cousins examines youth culture and identity in African American schools, linking education with historical and contemporary issues of economics, racism, and power.

Another Ann Arbor

Another Ann Arbor / Carol Gibson and Lola M. Jones.  Charleston, SC : Arcadia Pub., c2006.  128pp.  Main Library F574.A6 G53 2006 : The black community in the Ann Arbor area includes Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Second Baptist Church, Brown Chapel, the Ann Arbor Community Center, the old Jones School, and other well-remembered places. The photographs representing this history follow the progress of the African American community from 1857, when the Rev. J. M. Gregory gathered together a small congregation at 504 High Street, to 1996, when Dr. Homer Neal assumed leadership of the University of Michigan as its interim president. This integral but little-known part of Ann Arbor area history is preserved in Another Ann Arbor.

Blacks in Detroit, 1736-1833: The Search for Freedom and Community and Its Implications for Educators / Norman McRae.  University of Michigan Doctoral Dissertation, 1982.  197pp.  Online resource

Detroit : the Black Bottom community

Detroit : the Black Bottom community / Jeremy Williams.  Charleston, SC : Arcadia Pub., c2009. 127pp.  Main Library F574.D4 W553 2009 : Between 1914 and 1951, Black Bottom's black community emerged out of the need for black migrants to find a place for themselves. Because of the stringent racism and discrimination in housing, blacks migrating from the South seeking employment in Detroit's burgeoning industrial metropolis were forced to live in this former European immigrant community. During World War I through World War II, Black Bottom became a social, cultural, and economic center of struggle and triumph, as well as a testament to the tradition of black self-help and community-building strategies that have been the benchmark of black struggle.

Detroit's Paradise Valley

Detroit's Paradise Valley / Ernest H. Borden. Charleston, SC : Arcadia, c2003. 128pp.  Main Library F574.D4 B673 2003 {C}{C}  : One of the most prominent and dynamic African-American neighborhoods in U.S. history, Paradise Valley served as a social and cultural mecca for Detroit's black community from the 1920s through the 1950s. Now the site of stadiums and freeways, the area was once home to places like the Gotham Hotel and the Surf Club, and welcomed the likes of Billie Holiday, Joe Louis, and Sammy Davis Jr. This book uses more than 200 previously unpublished photographs to take readers on a rare tour of the entertainers, entrepreneurs, businesses, and events that made the now-lost Paradise Valley legendary.

From Slavery to Freedom : a History of African Americans

From Slavery to Freedom : a History of African Americans / John Hope Franklin, Alfred A. Moss, Jr. Boston : McGraw-Hill, c2000.  8th edition, 742pp. Main Library E185 .F825 2000 : Describes the rise of slavery, the interaction of European and African cultures in the New World, and the emergence of a distinct culture and way of life among slaves and free blacks. The authors examine the role of blacks in the nation's wars, the rise of an articulate, restless free black community by the end of the eighteenth century, and the growing resistance to slavery among an expanding segment of the black population....The book deals in considerable detail with the period after slavery, including thearduous struggle for first-class citizenship that has extended into the twentieth century. Many developments in recent African American history are examined, including demographic change; educational efforts; literary and cultural changes; problems in housing, health, juvenile matters, and poverty; the expansion of the black middle class; and the persistence of discrimination in the administration of justice....All who are interested in African Americans' continuing quest for equality will find a wealth of information based on the recent findings of many scholars. Professors Franklin and Moss have captured the tragedies and triumphs, the hurts and joys, the failures and successes, of blacks in a lively and readable volume that remains the most authoritative and comprehensive book of its kind.

Idlewild : the Black Eden of Michigan

Idlewild : the Black Eden of Michigan / Ronald J. Stephens. Chicago, IL : Arcadia Pub., c2001.  128pp.  Main Library F574.I34 S84 2001 : Once considered the most famous African-American resort community in the country, Idlewild was referred to as the Black Eden of Michigan in the 1920s and '30s, and as the Summer Apollo of Michigan in the 1950s and '60s. Showcasing classy revues and interactive performances of some of the leading black entertainers of the period, Idlewild was an oasis in the shadows of legal segregation. Idlewild: Black Eden of Michigan focuses on this illustrative history, as well as the decline and the community's contemporary renaissance, in over 200 rare photographs. The lively legacy of Lela G. and Herman O. Wilson, and Paradise Path is included, featuring images of the Paradise Club and Wilson's Grocery. Idlewild continued its role as a distinctive American resort throughout the 1950s, with photographs ranging from Phil Giles' Flamingo Club and Arthur Braggs's Idlewild Revue.

Basic Info

The African American community is composed of persons with ancestral origins in over 50 countries of the African continent. It does not include, however, descendants of persons from Egypt, white, Indian or Arab immigrants from the African continent. African Americans share a geographic origin with the African continent but because of diasporic movements, many also share a more recent tie to the Caribbean Islands, Latin America and other parts of the world. Blacks from non-African countries such as Haiti, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic are usually referred to by their nation of origin and not “African American”, but in general in the U.S. if a person is Black, a native English-speaker and lives in the United States, he or she is referred to as "African American."

For more information, see African - Americans Encyclopedia entry from Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (2006) shared by the History Channel.

SUBJECT HEADINGS : “African American” is the most common self-identifying term in use.

Other related terms useful to identify populations when searching the MSU Library online catalog and other databases like WorldCat include: racially mixed people, bi-racial/biracial persons, multiracial people, mulattos and Black race.

A geographic or thematic qualifier may also be included to narrow the search in a very expansive subject area. A Geographic qualifier such as African Americans Michigan Battle Creek and thematic qualifiers such as African Americans Education, African Americans Fiction may be used.

Library of Congress Subject Headings for African American Studies

The following subject headings and terms can be useful search terms in many of the databases including the library catalog.

The following lists of terms are by no means complete lists of subject headings related to African American Studies. Additional subject headings can found in the Library of  Congress Subject Headings books. These are the large red books located behind the Reference Desk. If more help is needed, please ask a librarian.

According to the Library of Congress subject headings, the standard search term for African American or Black American is African American.

Works may also be listed under African Americans (plural) when the subject deals with African Americans as a group. The term African American is used primarily as an adjective modifying another group designation. In other words, African Americans -- Civil rights deals with the civil rights of African Americans, while African American Civil rights workers refers to civil rights workers who are African American.

In the Michigan State University Libraries stacks and reference collectiona, books with African Americans as the primary subject heading have call numbers beginning with E185.  You can browse our collection or other library’s collections that use the Library of Congress Classification System by going to the E185 sections of the stacks.

NOTE : Many other books with African Americans as subject heading will be located elsewhere in the stacks depending upon it’s other subjects.  To be sure you don’t miss items available under other call numbers, it’s a good idea to search the catalog.

When searching for groups who temporarily reside in the United States (such as resident aliens, students from abroad, etc.), use Blacks -- United States. For searches involving blacks who do not reside in the United States, use Blacks -- [country, city, etc.]. For example: Blacks -- Brazil.

Subject headings can be narrowed by subdivisions.  Read on for some examples.

Geographical Subdivisions:

Many subjects may be narrowed by geography. This may be done by adding the country, state or city to the end of the subject.

  • Civil rights - United States

"Free-Floating" Subdivisions:

A variety of standard options exist for narrowing searches. These may be appended to the end of a subject heading. For example, works about African American persons may be searched by the subject heading African Americans Biography.

Commonly used free-floating subdivisions include:

  • Anniversaries
  • Bibliography
  • Biography
  • Civil rights
  • Correspondence
  • Intellectual life
  • Diaries
  • Education
  • Folklore
  • History
  • Literature
  • Periodicals
  • Political activity
  • Religion
  • Social conditions
  • Social life and customs
  • Societies, etc
  • Songs and music

A few more possibilities:

  • African Americans -- Suffrage
  • American drama -- African American authors
  • Black English
  • Black power -- United States
  • Civil rights workers -- United States
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Poor People's Campaign
  • Selma-Montgomery Rights March, 1965
  • Slaves' writings, American
  • Free African Americans

Sample Headings related to music:

  • African American church musicians
  • African American music [In place of African American songs]
  • Hip-hop
  • Rap (music)
  • Spirituals (Songs) [In place of African American spirituals]

Sample Headings specific to African American women:

  • African American women abolitionists
  • African American women clergy
  • African American women social reformers

Sample Headings specific to families and students:

  • African American families
  • African American college students

African American Literature Book Club

African Amerivcan Literature Book Club:  Favorite 100 Titles of the 20th Century

African American Books in Series

Monographic series (alternatively, monographs in series) are scholarly and scientific books released in successive volumes, usually issued under a collective title by a university press or scholarly society.  Kathleen Bethel, African American Studies Librarian at Northwestern University, has created a libguide called Monographic Series in African American Studies.

Book Awards

The following list of Book Award links focus on sites that highlight books with African American themes:

Subject Guide

Erik Ponder's picture
Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Dr. (E 224B)
East Lansing, MI 48824

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