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Michigan State University

African American Studies Research Guide: Print Primary Sources

Sample Print Primary Resources

The African-American archive : the history of the Black experience in documents / edited by Kai Wright.  New York : Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers : Distributed by Workman Pub. Co., c2001.  805pp.  Main Library E184.6 .A33 2001 : Destined to become the bible of writings on and about African-American culture, politics and history, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN ARCHIVE portrays the stark realities, great moments and fascinating particulars of being black in America, through the minds and pens of those who lived it. Featuring letters, articles, pamphlets and papers of all kinds, every important document is here-the Emancipation Proclamation, the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech and-along with scores of enlightening personal documents-harrowing accounts from slaves who suffered the passage from Africa, letters from black soldiers in the Civil War, journal entries from civil rights workers in the '60s and Louis Farrakhan's speech at the 1995 Million Man March. Arranged chronologically from the 1600s to the present, each document is introduced with a careful discussion, providing historical background and context.

African American Lives : The Struggle For Freedom / Clayborne Carson, Emma J. Lapsansky-Werner, Gary B. Nash.  New York : Pearson/Longman, c2005.  554pp.  Main Library E185 .C356 2005b :  African American Lives: The Struggle for Freedom uses a unique biographical approach to present the history of African Americans as active and thoughtful agents in the construction of their lives and communities. The text places African American lives and stories at the center of the narrative and as the basis of historical analysis. Each chapter opens with a vignette focusing on an individual involved in a dramatic moment or event. Personal stories are told throughout the narrative, as the lives and experiences of individuals provide the lens through which the story of African American history is viewed.  Textbook and study guide.

African American Slave Narratives : An Anthology / edited by Sterling Lecater Bland, Jr.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2001.  3 v. (xv, 1004 p.) Main Library E444 .A23 2001 : The slave narratives of the 19th century recorded the atrocities of the antebellum South and provided a solid foundation for the African American literary tradition. By presenting 16 slave narratives in their entirety, this collection conveniently documents this historically significant literary genre. This reference intentionally avoids well-known narratives and instead collects unavailable and otherwise difficult-to-find texts. Each narrative is preceded by a preface, explanatory notes, and suggestions for further reading.
Volume I contains slave narratives from Nat Turner, Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Lewis & Milton Clarke, and William Hayden.
Volume 2 contains slave narratives from William Wells Brown, Henry Walton Bibb, Henry “Box” Brown, Josiah Henson, James W.C. Pennington, William Green.
Volume 3 contains slave narratives from John Thompson, Austin Steward, Reverend Noah Davis, William & Ellen Craft, James Mars

African American Voices : A Documentary Reader, 1619-1877 / edited by Steven Mintz.  Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.  4th edition, 241pp.  Main Library E443 .A37 2009  : A succinct, up-to-date overview of the history of slavery that places American slavery in comparative perspective.
(1) Provides students with more than 70 primary documents on the history of slavery in America; (2) Includes extensive excerpts from slave narratives, interviews with former slaves, and letters by African Americans that document the experience of bondage; (3) Comprehensive headnotes introduce each selection; (4) A Visual History chapter provides images to supplement the written documents; and (5) Includes an extensive bibliography and bibliographic essay.

The American Slave : a Composite Autobiography. : From 1936 to 1938, many ex-slaves in the United States told, for the first time, stories of what it was like to be a slave in America, and what life was like when freedom finally came. These interviews and narratives were collected under the auspices of the Work Projects Administration (and are therefore known as the WPA Slave Narratives), and were originally edited by George P. Rawick and published by Greenwood Press in an 18 volume set titled The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography in the early 1970s. Two supplements to this set (“Series 1” with 12 volumes, and “Series 2” with 10 volumes) were collected by Rawick and published by Greenwood in 1978 and 1979.  The following volumes are available either in the MSU Main Library or at the Library of Michigan.

The American Slave : A Composite Autobiography / [edited by] George P. Rawick. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Pub. Co. [1972- Vol. 1, From sundown to sunup; the making of the Black community [by] George P. Rawick.  Main Library E441 .R388 : Note: This is an introduction to the American Slave: A Composite Autobiography set. Rather than any slave narratives, this title contains introductory essays about African American and slave history, and an introduction specific to Volumes 2-18.

The American Slave : A Composite Autobiography / [edited by] George P. Rawick.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Pub. Co. [1972-  Vol. 6, 7, and 10 available at Library of Michigan Genealogy Collection (2 S) E 444 .A45 1972  v. 6. Alabama and Indiana narratives. -- v. 7. Oklahoma and Mississippi narratives. -- Series 2: v. 8-10. Arkansas narratives, Pt. 1 and 2, Pt. 3 and 4, Pt. 5 and 6. 

The American Slave : A Composite Autobiography : Supplement, Series 1 / George P. Rawick, general editor ; Jan Hillegas, Ken Lawrence, editors.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Pub. Co., 1977. 12 vols.  MSU Reserves (3 West) E444 .A45 suppl.1 : The slaves narratives in these volumes come from the Federal Writers Project.  v. 1. Alabama narratives.--v. 2. Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, and Oregon and Washington narratives.--v. 3. Georgia narratives, part 1.--v. 4. Georgia narratives, part 2.--v. 5. Indiana and Ohio narratives.--v. 6. Mississippi narratives, part 1.--v. 7. Mississippi narratives, part 2.--v. 8. Mississippi narratives, part 3.--v. 9. Mississippi narratives, part 4.--v. 10. Mississippi narratives, part 5.--v. 11. North Carolina and South Carolina narratives.--v. 12. Oklahoma narratives.

The American Slave : A Composite Autobiography : Supplement, Series 2 / George P. Rawick.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1979. 10 vols. MSU Reserves (3 West) E444 .A45 suppl.2 : The slave narratives in these volumes come from the Federal Writers Project. v. 1. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington narratives.--v. 2-10. Texas narratives.

Aunt Phebe, Uncle Tom and others : character studies among the old slaves of the South, fifty years after / by Essie Collins Matthews ; illustrated from photographs made by the author in the cabins and on the plantationsColumbus, Ohio : Champlin Press, 1915.  140pp.  Available online as part of Slavery and anti-slavery: a transnational archive. ; Aunt Phebe, Uncle Tom and Others looks at the issue of slavery in America from a "Pro-Slavery" perspective. According to the author, this work examines slavery from the "Southern Viewpoint". It argues that slavery provided negroes the opportunity to learn a language and become citizens of America. Matthews refers to the relationship between slave and master as a "tie of love" that could never be understood by those that oppose the institution of slavery. Published in 1915, this rare work includes several photographs of the quality of life for slaves on the plantation (unfortunately they don't show up very well electronically).

Black Abolitionist Papers, 1830-1865 (Microfilm Collection).  17 microfilm reels.  Available in Photocopy Center (2 West) 21950 Microfilm : For microfilm print guide, see "Black abolitionist papers, 1830-1865, a guide to the microfilm" / editor George E. Carter, editor C. Peter Ripley, Microfilm Guide Collection E449.B625 1981.

The Black Abolitionist Papers / C. Peter Ripley, editor ; Jeffrey S. Rossbach, associate editor ... [et al.]. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1985-   Main Library E449 .B624 1985 vols. 1-5 : Contents - v. 1. The British Isles, 1830-1865--v. 2. Canada, 1830-1865--v. 3. The United States, 1830-1846 -- v. 4. The United States, 1847-1858 -- v. 5. The United States, 1859-1865.

Center for Research Libraries Black Studies Collections : MSU students may request any of the collections available at the Center for Research Libraries since we are a participating member.  Sample collections include the George Washington Carver Papers, 1860-1975; Papers of the NAACP. Part 6, The Scottsboro case, 1931-1950; Papers of the NAACP. Part 7, The anti-lynching campaign, 1912-1955 ,

The Classic Slave Narratives / edited and with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin, c1987.  518pp.  Main Library E444 .C63 1987b : Contents - The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, the African -- The history of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave -- Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an African slave -- Incidents in the life of a slave girl / [Harriet Jacobs, writing as Linda Brent].

A Domestic Cook Book : Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts For the Kitchen / by Malinda Russell ; introduction by Janice Bluestein Longone. Ann Arbor, Mich. : Longone Center for American Culinary Research, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, c2007.  39pp.  Special Collections Rare Book Room TX715 .R964 2007 : A facsimile of the first known cookbook by an African American.  Reprint. Originally published: Paw Paw, Mich. : M. Russell, 1866.

Father Henson's story of his own life  / with an introduction by Mrs. H. B. Stowe.  Boston : J.P. Jewett and company ; Cleveland, O. : H.P.B. Jewett, 1858. 212pp.  Available online as part of Slavery and anti-slavery: a transnational archive.  a slave narrative detailing the events in the life of Josiah Henson. Henson was born to slavery in the state of Maryland. It is widely reported that it is his story for which Uncle Tom's Cabin was based. The preface is written by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  A print edition is available in Special Collections.

Federal surveillance of Afro-Americans (1917-1925) : the First World War, the Red scare, and the Garvey movement / edited by Theodore Kornweibel, Jr. ; associate editors, Randolph Boehm and R. Dale Grinder ; guide compiled by Martin Schipper.  Frederick, MD : University Publications of America, c1986.  78pp.  Main Library E185.61 .F33 1986b : Contains FBI documents concerning Marcus Garvey, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

History of the first African Baptist Church, from its organization, January 10th, 1788, to July 1st, 1888  Including the centennial celebration, addresses, sermons, etc. / By Rev. E.K. Love. Savannah, Ga. : The Morning News Print, 1888. 360pp.  Available online as part of the HathiTrust : Love, Rev. Emmanuel King. The book begins with the Savannah, Georgia church's organization January 20, 1778 through July 1, 1888. The text details the historical events leading to the ordaining of George Leile as the first African American minister in 1802.

Let nobody turn us around : voices of resistance, reform, and renewal : an African American anthology / editors, Manning Marable, Leith Mullings.  Lanham [Md.] : Rowman & Littlefield, c2000.  674pp.  Main Library E184.6 .L48 2000 : Marable and Mullings's collection takes in examples of African American social and political writing over the last three centuries. The anthology's first section, covering the years 1789 to 1865, opens with an excerpt from Nigeria-born Olaudah Equiano's memoir of slavery, which became a key document in the abolitionist movement; the section includes passages from writings and testimonials by Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass, among others. The second section visits the era of reconstruction and the emergent nationalist and civil rights movements, with contributions from Booker T. Washington, William Monroe Trotter, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others. The third and fourth sections address the relocation of African Americans from predominantly rural settings to the industrial centers of the Northeast and Midwest, a time of revolutionary and artistic ferment, while the fifth section takes readers to the present, guided by the remarks of Cornel West, Jesse Jackson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and other contemporary thinkers.

Milestone Documents in African American History : Exploring the Essential Primary Sources.  Dallas, Tex. : Schlager Group, c2010.  4 volumes.  Main Library E184.6 .M55 2010 : Here, the chronologically arranged documents portray the story of African Americans from the introduction of slavery in the 1600s to the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The 125 signed entries, which have been prepared by experts in history and law, include correspondence, essays, reports, tracts, manifestos, petitions, proclamations, legal opinions, legislation, military orders, narratives, presidential and executive documents, speeches and addresses, and testimony. In addition to document text, each entry includes context, a time line, a biographical profile, explanation and analysis, intended audience, impact, quotes, and more. This content guides readers’ understanding of each document’s role in shaping African American history. The inclusion of 223 photographs and illustrations in the entries helps engage reader interest. Following each entry are citations containing both general and academic sources. For example, the entry on Shirley Chisholm’s 1974 keynote speech for a national conference of black women at the University of Missouri is followed by citations that include Chisholm’s books, an entry in African American National Biography (2008), a scholarly journal article, a bibliography of Chisholm’s writings and life, and two Web sites. The documents and analyses will be useful to students and researchers of differing abilities and experience. Researchers of history will be interested in the quality of the documents, which contain all original spelling and syntax. Novice history readers will appreciate the glossaries of terms that appear after documents using specialized language. High-school teachers will want to utilize the “Teacher’s Activity Guides,” in volume 4, which provide focus questions connecting the primary documents in the collection to the National History Standards established by the National Center for History in the Schools. Undergraduate and high-school students looking for paper topics will appreciate the “Questions for Further Study” provided for each document. Purchase of the print books also includes access to the online content, at This resource is essential for high-school, public, and undergraduate libraries.

Narrative of Sojourner Truth : a northern slave, emancipated from bodily servitude by the state of New York, in 1828 / with a portrait.  New York, Arno Press, 1968. 320pp.  Main Library E185.97.T85 G5 1968   :  Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Northern slave, is one of the key abolitionist books. Sojourner Truth was an incredible speaker often appearing with her friend Frederick Douglass and other famous abolitionist like William Lloyd Garrison. This work also served as a platform for women's rights. Truth's famous Ain't I a Woman? speech chided men for opposing equal rights for women.  Also available in many other online editions, including this one from the Slavery and anti-slavery: a transnational archive.

Narrative of the life and adventures of Henry Bibb : an American slave / Henry Bibb ; introduction by Lucius.  Mineola, N.Y. : Dover Publications, 2005.  134pp.  Main Library E444 .B58 2005 : Henry Bibb was born a slave in Kentucky, escaped to Canada, returned to get his wife, was recaptured in Cincinnati, escaped again, was recaptured again and sold into slavery in New Orleans, and removed to Arkansas, where he escaped yet again, this time for good. His narrative was so hair raising that an investigation was conducted which bore out Bibb's account. He subsequently lectured and was active in the abololitionist movement.  Note:  The MSU Libraries have other formats of this book as well, including an 1850 edition in Special Collections as well as electronic and microfiche copies.

Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave, written by himself : a new critical edition / by Angela Y. Davis.  San Francisco, CA : City Lights Books, c2010, [2009]  254pp.  Main Library E449 .D749 2009b : A masterpiece of African American literature, Frederick Douglass's Narrative is the powerful story of an enslaved youth coming into social and moral consciousness by disobeying his white slavemasters and secretly teaching himself to read. Achieving literacy emboldens Douglass to resist, escape, and ultimately achieve his freedom. After escaping slavery, Douglass became a leader in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements, a bestselling author, and U.S. diplomat.
In this new critical edition, legendary activist and feminist scholar Angela Davis sheds new light on the legacy of Frederick Douglass. In two philosophical lectures originally delivered at UCLA in autumn 1969, Davis focuses on Douglass's intellectual and spiritual awakening, and the importance of self-knowledge in achieving freedom from all forms of oppression. With detailed attention to Douglass's text, she interrogates the legacy of slavery and shares timeless lessons about oppression, resistance, and freedom. And in an extended introductory essay written for this edition, Davis comments on previous editions of the Narrative and re-examines Douglass through a contemporary feminist perspective. An important new edition of an American classic.  Many other editions are available in the MSU Libraries, in varying formats.

Narrative of William Hayden, [Microform] containing a faithful account of his travels for a number of years, whilst a slave, in the south. Written by himself ...  Cincinnati [Pub. for the author] 1846.  156pp. on 4 microcards.  Microforms Collection (2nd Floor, West)   E444 Microcard : A very rare narrative, its Cincinnati imprint is uncommon and because of its proximity to the South slave hunters swept the city looking for runaway slaves. Hayden includes his own poetical works in this book, making him one of the earliest African American poets in print.

Presidents and Black America : a documentary history / [edited by] Stephen A. Jones, Eric Freedman.  Thousand Oaks, Calif. : SAGE/CQ Press, c2012.  546pp. Main Library   E176.472.A34 P74 2012  :  Jones (history, Central Michigan U.) and Freedman (journalism, Michigan State U.) document the wide range of relationships of all the US presidents with African Americans and their views on issues such as slavery, segregation, racial violence, voting rights, and other civil liberties, and the growth of black political power and influence. The presidents' perspectives are illustrated through letters, speeches, executive orders, presidential proclamations, diary entries, articles, editorials, political cartoons, and congressional testimony and debates. Discussion of primary documents such as Washington's letter to poet Phillis Wheatley, John Quincy Adams's Supreme Court argument in the Amistad slave case, a petition from African Americans to Lincoln promoting black colonization in the rebel states, Truman's executive order that desegregated the armed forces, Reagan's remarks signing the bill making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, and Obama's Independence Hall speech on race are included.

Three Narratives of Slavery.  Mineola, N.Y. : Dover Publications, c2008.  305pp.  Main Library E444 .N37 2008 : Narrative of Sojourner Truth -- Incidents in the life of a slave girl / Harriet Jacobs -- The history of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave narrative.

The underground rail road; a record of facts, authentic narratives, letters, &c. narrating the hardships hair-breadth escapes and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts for freedom, as related by themselves and others, or witnessed by the author; together with sketches of some of the largest stockholders, and most liberal aiders and advisers of the roadChicago, Johnson Pub. Co., 1970.  812pp.  E450 .S85 1970  :  Also available online  Fugitive slaves relate their personal experiences during their flight to freedom, in authentic accounts of the underground railroad operated by the Pennsylvania Anti-slavery Society

Untold Glory : African Americans in Pursuit of Freedom, Opportunity, and Achievement / Alan Govenar.  New York : Harlem Moon/Broadway Books, c2007.  400pp.  Main Library E185.96 .G68 2006 : offers a fresh perspective on one of the most fundamental elements of American history—the conquest of new frontiers. In twenty-seven fascinating first-person accounts, African Americans from different eras, backgrounds, and occupations explore and reflect on the meaning of frontier, both literally and metaphorically....This collection chronicles the search for freedom and opportunity and the achievement of success in a wide variety of fields. The contributors all pushed beyond self-imposed or culturally enforced boundaries to pursue their dreams and ambitions. They include Mark Dean, an IBM vice president and member of the Inventors Hall of Fame, who holds three of the original patents upon which the personal computer is based; the civil-rights attorney Oliver W. Hill, one of the architects of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case; the classical pianist and museum founder Josephine Love; and L. Douglas Wilder, the grandson of slaves who became the first African American governor of Virginia.

Voices of the African American Experience / edited by Lionel C. Bascom. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, c2009.  3 volumes.  Main Library E184.6 .V65 2009 : This three-volume anthology presents readers with a road map of the struggle and triumphs in US history that eventually made the election of the first African-American president possible. The compilation of primary documents is broad in scope, spanning four centuries, which enhances its usefulness to undergraduate and graduate students of American history. Editor Bascom (Western Connecticut State Univ.) builds on and refreshes older compilations such as A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States (1951-94), ed. by Herbert Aptheker; and The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1973 (1975), edited by Philip Foner. Bascom animates the voices of the famous and the unknown in a way that is reminiscent of the style of his earlier work, A Renaissance in Harlem: Lost Voices of an American Community (1999). The documents are arranged in chronological order with brief introductions to most entries that add context and perspective. A table of contents for the entire work appears in each of the three volumes. The third volume features a chronology of significant events, a selected bibliography, and the index. Some of the oral histories in volume 3 are interviews with minor celebrities, a curious choice in an otherwise serious work.

What the Negro wants / with a new introduction and bibliography by Kenneth Robert Janken ; edited by Rayford W. Logan.  Notre Dame, Ind. : University of Notre Dame Press, c2001.  352pp.  Main Library E185.61 .W57 2001 : Rayford Logan served as editor, and selected the participants of this of prominent group of Negro leaders. They gathered to respond to the strained race relations in the United States, 1944. The contributors -- Mary McLeod Bethune, Sterling A. Brown, W. E. B. DuBois, Gordon B. Hancock, Leslie Pinckney Hill, Langston Hughes, Rayford W. Logan, Frederick D. Patterson, A. Philip Randolph, George S. Schuyler, Willard S. Townsend, Charles H. Wesley, Doxey A. Wilkerson, and Roy Wilkins -- selected by Logan, consisted of individuals from varying political perspectives. Some were viewed as liberals or conservatives, while others were labeled radicals.  The original edition published at UNC is available in print and online (as part of Black Thought and Culture collection).

Who Speaks for the Negro? / Robert Penn Warren.  New York, Random House [1965]  454pp.  Main Library E185.61 .W22 :  Robert Penn Warren's Who speaks for the Negro?, takes this question and many others to the leaders of the then Negro movement. Published in 1965, Warren interviews prominent writers, business people whose ideas shaped the movement. Warren described this work as a "transcript of conversations, with settings and commentaries." His conversations include James Baldwin, Izell Blair, Stokely Carmichael, Dr. Kenneth Clark, Ralph Ellis, Carl T. Rowan and many others.  Also available : an archival collection of recorded interviews conducted for Robert Penn Warren's seminal book.

Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. Primary Documents / edited by Jeffrey Lehman.  Detroit, MI : Gale Group, c1999.  2 volumes.  Main Library E184.A1 G15 1999 : Primary documents, including letters, articles, cartoons, photos, and songs, illuminate the experience of culture groups in the U.S. from colonial times to the present. 

Subject Guide

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

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