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African American Communities

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"Not to be missed! For years if scholars and enthusiasts wanted to get a sense of how African American communities came to take shape they would have to travel all over the country piecing together this experience from a range of wonderful archives that have not received the same support as other repositories of the mainstream historical experience. But now this digitization of African American community materials brings together a wide array of archival materials into one database that can be accessed at the convenience of a mouse click. With this database we now have the capacity to write new histories and understand the formation of African American communities in entirely new and innovate ways. This new digital platform is an invaluable treasure trove of new possibilities.’

Davarian L. Baldwin
Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies Trinity College

Editorial Board

Jennifer Scott,
Weeksville Heritage Center

Davarian L. Baldwin,
Trinity College

Clarissa Myrick-Harris,
Morehouse College

Priscilla A. Dowden-White,
University of Missouri

Tomiko Brown-Nagin,
Harvard Law School

Kenneth Janken,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Source Archives

  • Atlanta History Center

  • Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Richard J. Daley Library, University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Washington University, St. Louis

  • The Newberry Library

  • Weeksville Heritage Center

Nature of the Material

This resource features a wide range of material, including:

  • Correspondence

  • Leaflets and pamphlets

  • Magazines and periodicals

  • Oral histories

  • Objects

  • Scrapbooks

  • Photographs

  • Legal documents and official records

  • Maps

  • Ephemera

Scope of the Collection

African American Communities showcases a diverse range of primary source material focusing on race relations across social, political, cultural and religion arenas. Exploring various US communities, the collection covers themes such as migration, the education of freedmen, poverty and discrimination, desegregation, civil rights activities, protests, race riots, urban renewal, industry and African American culture.

Collection highlights include:

  • Chicago Urban League Papers, c.1916-1985, showing the major impact the League had on improving social conditions for black Chicagoans.

  • A special exhibition on the African American community of Weeksville in Brooklyn and the Hunterfly Road Houses at Weeksville Heritage Center, depicting African American life and culture in the 1860s, 1900s and 1930s. 

  • Material on the legal battles for the desegregation of public schools and buses from the papers of Thomas J. Pearsall, James B. McMillan and Algernon Lee Butler.

  • A complete run of The Messenger, 1925-1928, a popular civil rights magazine published by activist A. Philip Randolph.

  • The Long, Rucker and Aiken family papers, providing records of three prominent African American families in Atlanta, c.1870-1965, and featuring rich photographic collections. 

  • Urban League of St Louis records, 1918-1986, showing the strategies implemented to improve the socio-economic and cultural conditions of the African American community.

  • Material related to the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, internationally famed for its poverty, crime and segregation. 

  • Oral histories of individuals in the civil rights movement in Atlanta, personal accounts from members of the Weeksville community, and interviews with African American writers, dancers, artists, actors and musicians.

Additional Features

  • Interactive photographic exhibition and map

  • Contextual essays

  • Visual galleries

  • Thematic guides

  • Community case studies

  • Oral histories

  • Chronology