African American History – Finding free, quality resources online

African American History – Finding free, quality resources online

What are Open Access Resources (OARs)? These are research materials that have been made freely available to the public, allowing users online access to information that otherwise may not be available. Here we feature a curated list of Open Access Resources about African American History.

The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (AARL) was the first public library in the Southeast U.S. to offer specialized reference and archival collections dedicated to the study and research of African American culture and the history of those who are of African descent. Every Thursday, the AARL hosts a series of instructional workshops supporting the ongoing “development of foundational information and literacy and research skills, while promoting library resources and fostering culturally-relevant lifelong learning.”

The Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade is a multi-phased project spearheaded by Michigan State University that seeks to “change the way scholars and the public understand African Slavery.” This project looks to link together databases from all over the world to allow people to “search millions of pieces of slave data to identify enslaved individuals and their descendants from a central source.” This project is slated to open in 2020.

For most descendants of slaves, it is difficult to trace their ancestry further back than 1870 as this was the first year that African Americans were listed by name on the Census. However, the Freedman’s Bureau Projects has been working to disclose the histories of enslaved people in America by making 1.5 million documents available to the public in a searchable database that combines scholarship with digital crowdsourcing.

In the Digital Collection of Georgia, you will find the Atlanta Funeral Programs Collection containing more than 3300 funeral programs documenting the funeral services of Georgia residents primarily from the Atlanta, Georgia area. Most items in the collection contain a photograph, an obituary, a list of surviving relatives, as well as information about the service. This collection provides extensive genealogical information about the deceased, including birth and death dates, maiden names, names of relatives, past residence, and place of burial, while also providing interesting resources about local history. 

The Freedom Narratives site provides testimonies of West Africans from the Era of Slavery in the 16th-19th centuries. Here you will find bibliographical data and autobiographical testimonies of where slaves came from, why they were enslaved, whether they freed themselves, and what happened to them. Currently, the Freedom Narratives, an archived website, is being transferred from Michigan State University to the SHADD (Studies in the History of African Diaspora – Document Hub) at York University.

African American History: From Emancipation to the Present is a freely available course from Yale University, consisting of 25 class sessions. Students will “examine the African American experience in the United States from 1863 to the present” and will touch on subjects such as the end of the Civil War, civil rights movement, and the leadership of Booker T. Washington, Ida B Well-Barnett, Malcolm X, and other leaders.

Visit the Michigan State University Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences where you will find several research collection projects. The project Enslaved focuses on individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading. The African Online Digital Library contains “tens of thousands of digitized photographs, videos, archival documents, maps, interviews and oral histories in numerous African languages” while the Nigerian-Biafran War contains oral histories from those affected by the war, and Africa Past & Present is a podcast that talks about the history culture, and politics in Africa.

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