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African American Digital Archives

The purpose of this guide is to recommend electronic digital collections for researching African American history.

Washington DC & Maryland

Anacostia Community Museum

The Anacostia Community Museum collects artifacts, works of art, photographs, documents and paper records, audiovisual media, and other materials that help us understand how communities work. ACM also houses extensive object and archival collections related to African American history, stemming from our many years as the Smithsonian Institution's host museum for the Center for African American History and Culture.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum

Located in the heart of Downtown Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is the premier experience and best resource for information and inspiration about the lives of African American Marylanders. Our Exhibits explore local African-American heritage through themes of family, community, slavery & art.


National Museum of African American History and Culture 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans.

Georgia (GA)

African American Funeral Program From The East Central Georgia Regional Library

The African American Funeral Programs from the East Central Georgia Regional Library online collection consists of over one thousand funeral programs ranging from 1933 to 2008 (with the bulk of the collection beginning in the 1960s) from the Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection. A majority of the programs are from churches in Augusta, Georgia, and the surrounding area, with a few outliers in other states such as New York and Florida. The programs typically contain a photograph of the deceased, an obituary, a list of surviving relatives, and the order of service.

The collection provides extensive genealogical information about the deceased, including birth and death dates, maiden names, names of relatives, past residences, and place of burial. Alongside this genealogical information, the obituaries provide a rich source of local history about African Americans. Many of the people included in this collection were prominent in their communities, and many were involved locally in the struggle for civil rights.

Missouri (MO)

African American Community of Northeast Missouri 1880-1960

In an effort to preserve and document the history of the African American Community of Northeast Missouri, the Hannibal Free Public Library applied for and received a digitization grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Missouri State Library. The library owned some items but wanted more from the community. The project was advertised in the newspaper and letters were sent to organizations and individuals asking for their help.

Missouri's African American History Initiative

The Missouri State Archives' African American History Initiative began in October 2001. The initiative aims to create a broad public awareness of the rich contributions of African Americans to the state, as well as offer new resources to historians and others studying Missouri's black history.  Topics include Missouri slave laws, U.S. Colored Troops in Missouri,  antebellum freedom suits before the Dred Scott decision, and African Americans in the state, 1880-1920.

 Also includes a curriculum for: 

Black Archives of Mid America

The mission of the Black Archives of Mid-America is to collect, preserve and make available to the public materials documenting the social, economic, political and cultural histories of persons of African descent in the central United States, with particular emphasis in the Kansas City, Missouri region. Black Archives of Mid-America is an educational resource and provides access to its collections for research, exhibition and publication to honor our community heritage and to catalyze public awareness.

New York (NY)

Digital Harlem - Everyday Life, 1915-1930

The Digital Harlem website presents information, drawn from legal records, newspapers and other archival and published sources, about everyday life in New York City's Harlem neighborhood in the years 1915-1930. An ethnographic study of everyday life in Harlem as it became the black capital of the world. Analysis of this material pays particular attention to the spatial dimensions of black urban life, breaking new ground in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map cultural life. Those maps form the basis of a web site, "Digital Harlem," derived from this research.

"The Unwritten History": Alexander Gumby's African America

More than 150 scrapbooks comprise the core of the Alexander Gumby Collection of Negroiana, part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University. Together, these volumes contain a diverse array of manuscripts, photographs, pamphlets, artwork, clippings, and ephemera primarily related to African-American history from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. At the time of its creation from about 1900 to 1950, the collection's curator, L.S. Alexander Gumby, explained that this "History of the Negro in Scrapbook . . . could well be called 'The Unwritten History.'  

This exhibition introduces visitors to the remarkable Gumby and situates his life and project in the context of the Harlem Renaissance. Showcasing pages from nearly fifty of Gumby's scrapbooks, it highlights both the rare and the seemingly mundane items that Gumby argued could combine to document an otherwise forgotten history of the United States and its African American contributors.

Ohio (OH)

African American Experience in Ohio: 1850-1920

The African-American Experience in Ohio 1850-1920 is a digital collection brought together from a number of individual sources specifically for this project. The collection illuminates specific moments in the history of Ohio's African-Americans and provides an overview of their experiences during the time period 1850 to 1920 in the words of the people that lived them. These sources include manuscript collections, newspaper articles, serials, photographs, and pamphlets.  This digital collection of historical documents is part of "American Memory", an online resource by the Library of Congress National Digital Library Program.

Tennessee (TN)

Volunteer Voices Statewide Digitization Project

Volunteer Voices is a state-wide digitization project that will provide access to primary sources that document Tennessee's rich history and culture. Volunteer Voices combines the collaborative efforts to Tennessee archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and schools. Includes letters, photographs, flyers, and newspaper articles.

Texas (TX)

Houston Negro Hospital

The Houston Negro Hospital, located in Houston’s Third Ward, opened to patients on May 14, 1927, and provided a place for African American physicians, who were not allowed to admit patients to the African American wards in Houston’s other hospitals, to practice medicine and train students and nurses.

This collection contains the documents of Joseph Cullinan related to the founding and early operation of the Houston Negro Hospital. Cullinan, a Houston businessman, helped start the hospital with a monetary donation to be used in the construction of the building. The hospital was the first nonprofit hospital for African Americans in Houston, and these varied documents provide insight into the founding, construction, initial problems, and political and social forces at play during its early years.

Wisconsin (WI)

Glimpses of African-American Life, 1865-1934

The photographs in the Caroline Webb Papers document an African-American family living in the Midwest from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. Webb (1883-1975) was the daughter of Missouri slaves who moved their family north after the Civil War. Their photograph albums reveal three generations engaged, as Caroline Webb's son put it, in "a new struggle, as free people, for an independent existence" in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. This gallery features 39 images (out of approximately 210 originals, including some album pages with multiple images).