African American Communities

From communal struggle to creative outpourings; uncover the everyday lives of African Americans spanning two turbulent centuries.

A diverse range of primary source material is showcased in this collection that focuses on race relations across social, political, cultural and religious arenas.

Focusing predominantly on Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and towns and cities in North Carolina this collection presents multiple aspects of the African American community.

Through pamphlets, periodicals, correspondence, official records and in-depth oral histories, it reveals the challenges of racism, discrimination and integration, and the expressions of a unique African American culture and identity.

  • 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
  • Oral histories of individuals in the civil rights movement in Atlanta and personal accounts from members of the Weeksville community

Key data

Period covered


Source archives

  • Atlanta History Center
  • Richard J Daley Library, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • The Newberry Library
  • Weeksville Heritage Center
  • Race relations and community integration
  • African American culture
  • Migration of African Americans from the South into northern cities
  • Education of freedmen after the Civil War
  • Community protest and race riots
  • Poverty and discrimination
  • Demographics
  • Urban renewal and housing problems
  • Desegregation
  • Health care and welfare programs
  • Role of the church in African American communities
  • Self-help projects
  • Voting rights
  • Civil rights activities in Chicago and Atlanta
  • Student protests
  • Crime
  • Police brutality
  • Police and community relations
  • African Americans in the military
  • Sharecroppers in Missouri
  • Correspondence
  • Leaflets and pamphlets
  • Magazines and periodicals
  • Oral histories
  • Objects
  • Photographs
  • Legal documents and official records
  • Maps
  • Ephemera
  • Davarian L Baldwin, Trinity College
  • Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Harvard Law School
  • Priscilla A Dowden-White, University of Missouri
  • Kenneth Janken, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Clarissa Myrick-Harris, Morehouse College
  • Jennifer Scott, Weeksville Heritage Center
  • Communities, Peoples and Nations
  • Ethnic and Indigenous Studies
  • North American Studies
  • Interactive exhibition on the African American community of Weeksville in Brooklyn
  • Oral histories
  • Contextual essays from academics and collection specialists
  • Visual galleries
  • Thematic guides
  • Community case studies


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