African American Archives and Libraries

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African American Genealogy Wiki Topics
African American Image 5.jpg
Beginning Research
Original Records
Compiled Sources
Background Information
Finding Aids

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati
Most archives and libraries collect records about local residents (biographies, family histories, local histories) and about nearby places (maps, gazetteers, place-finding aids). They often compile reference helps and special indexes to important local sources. In many communities they serve as a meeting place for local historical and genealogical societies, and may provide referrals to people who are willing to look up information in local records. Before you visit an archive or a library, contact them and ask for information on their collection, hours, services, and fees.

When one of these institutions is referred to elsewhere in the African American Research Wiki pages, return to this section for the address.

The Family History Library has copies of many of the records found in archives and libraries, but most repositories will have additional sources.

The following archives, libraries, centers, institutes, and museums preserve sources, maintain indexes, and provide services to help genealogists document their African American ancestors.

Wiki Articles on Major Repositories for African Americans[edit | edit source]

Allen County Public Library · Family History Library · Library of Congress · National Archives I · National Archives Regional Branches · National Underground Railroad Freedom Center · Birmingham Civil Rights Institute · Black Archives of Mid-America · Duke Univeristy Rubenstein Library · Family History Centers · Godfrey Memorial Library · Kalamazoo College Black History Mobile Museum · New England Historic Genealogical Society · Newberry Library · John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library at Colonial Williamsburg · Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture · Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum · University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Libraries · University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center · University of Pittsburgh Hillman Library

Online Records for African American Research[edit | edit source]

Links to online databases and indexes that may include vital records, biographies, cemeteries, censuses, histories, immigration records, land records, military records, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, or probates.
Allen Co Public Lib in IN

National Repositories[edit | edit source]

Allen County Public Library[edit | edit source]

Allen County Public Library
900 Library Plaza
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Telephone: 260-421-1225
Website: Genealogy Center ACPL

Allen County Public Library is the second-largest genealogy collection in the United States[1] and the largest genealogy collection in a public library. Its holdings include more than 350,000 printed volumes and 513,000 items on microfilm and microfiche.[2] It has a premier genealogical periodical collection, local histories, genealogies, databases, military, censuses, directories, passenger lists, ethnic sources including African Americans, and Canadians. They have a great African American collection.[3]
Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
35 N. West Temple St.
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150
Telephone: 801-240-6536
Website: FamilySearch

They have federal and state censuses showing where African Americans lived, vital records, biographies, cemeteries, church records, Freedman's Bank, Freedmen's Bureau, court records, directories, genealogy, local histories, land and property (may include lists of free Blacks and slaves, bills of sale), manumissions, maps, military records, newspapers, obituaries, periodicals, probate records (may list slaves freed or bequeathed), slavery and bondage, and societies. Holds 450 computers, 3,400 databases, 3.1 million microforms, 4,500 periodicals, 310,000 books of worldwide family and local histories, civil, church, immigration, ethnic, military, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) records.

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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

Library of Congress[edit | edit source]

Library of Congress

Library of Congress Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.

101 Independence Ave. SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ G4
Washington, D.C. 20540-4660
Telephone: Reading Room: 202-707-5537
Fax: 202-707-1957
E-mail: Ask a Librarian form
Website: Library of Congress

See the tutorial at the FamilySearch Learning Center on "African American Genealogical Research at the Library of Congress". The Library of Congress "Local History and Genealogy Reading Room" has moved to the main reading room, but services are unchanged. They are part of the world's largest library including 50,000 genealogies, 100,000 local histories, and collections of manuscripts, microfilms, maps, newspapers, photographs, and published material, strong in North American (including African Americans), British Isles, and German sources.[4]

National Archives I[edit | edit source]

National Archives I in Washington, D.C.

National Archives and Records Administration (Archives I)
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC
Telephone: 1-866-272-6272
Fax: 301-837-0483
E-mail: National Archives and Records Administration inquiry form
Website: National Archives

Nationwide censuses, pre-WWI military service and pensions, passenger lists, naturalizations, passports, federal bounty land, homesteads, bankruptcy, ethnic sources (including African Americans) , prisons, and federal employees. The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I), houses textual and microfilm records relating to genealogy, American Indians, pre-World War II military and naval-maritime matters, the New Deal, the District of Columbia, the Federal courts, and Congress.[5]

National Archives Regional Branches[edit | edit source]

National Archives Regional Branches
Website: National Archives Locations Nationwide

There are 2 main branches, 11 regional branches, 16 records centers, 2 personnel records centers, and 15 presidential libraries nationwide, as well as "affiliated archives." Each regional branch has copies of key records in Washington, as well as their own regional records. For example, the Atlanta Regional Branch for the Southern States region preserves records of Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, and African American history.[6]

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.jpg

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center[edit | edit source]

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
50 East Freedom Way
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Telephone: 513-333-7500 or toll free 877-648-4838
E-mail: Contact Us form
Website: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is more a museum (few original manuscripts) than an archive. However, it has a family history center for research help and access on the Internet. They tell the history of the guides, safe houses, and transportation network used to smuggle runaway enslaved African Americans out of the slave states to freedom in the North before the American Civil War. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center reveals stories about freedom’s heroes: the men, women and children who challenge inequities to pursue greater freedom for their brothers and sisters.[7]

Regional Repositories[edit | edit source]

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute[edit | edit source]

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
520 Sixteenth Street North
Birmingham, Alabama 35203
Telephone: 205-328-9696 ext. 203
Telephone toll free: 1-866-328-9696
Fax: 205-251-6104
Website: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Papers of civil rights activist leaders (ministers, organizers, judges, politicians, newspaper editors, educators), school desegregation, 500 desegregation oral history interviews, 1,260 Jim Crow era oral histories, vertical files, TV documentaries, and legal cases collection.[8]

Black Archives of Mid-America[edit | edit source]

Black Archives of Mid-America in KC, MO

Black Archives of Mid-America
1722 E. 17th Terrace (PO Box 270333)
Kansas City, MO 64127
Telephone: 816-221-1600
Website: Black Archives of Mid-America homepage

By appointment only. Resources regarding the social and cultural experience of African Americans in the Kansas City metropolitan area and in the surrounding region. This includes oral histories, valuable rare books, and a reference collection, personal papers, records of civil and health service organizations, schools, churches, political organizations, sports groups, and clubs and other voluntary associations.[9]

Duke University Perkins Library[edit | edit source]

Duke University Perkins Library in Durham NC

Duke University Perkins Library
Franklin Research Center
Durham, North Carolina 27708-0185
Telephone: 919-660-5922
Fax: 919-660-5934
Website: John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture

Largest manuscript collection in the South, including newspapers, county records, Bibles, and journals. They also have many census records originally at the National Archives.[10]
  • Nannie M. Trilley, and Noma Lee Goodwin, Guide to the Manuscript Collections in the Duke University Library (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1947). At various libraries (WorldCat). FHL Film 899894; Book 975.6 B5d ser. 27–28. This guide lists about 8,000 names of individuals, families, and historical subjects, and it is indexed.
  • John Hope Franklin Research Center collects, and preserves published and unpublished primary sources for understanding the history and culture of Africa and people of the African Diaspora in the Americas.[11] The Franklin Center is part of the Rubenstein Special Collections Library on the 3rd floor of the Perkins Library.

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

A Family History Center in Fayetteville NC

Family History Centers (FHCs) have premium online services for genealogists for free and offer research suggestions. These microfilms include a good collection of African American records including censuses, vital records, cemeteries, church records, biographies, Freedman's Bank, Freedmen's Bureau, funeral homes, military records, oral history, probate records, slavery and bondage records, and the Southern Claims Commission records.

There are more than 4,700 FHCs in 134 countries. There is no cost to visit a Family History Center or Family History Library. They are open to anyone with an interest in genealogical research. They are operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click on Find a family history center to locate the the center nearest you.[12]

Each center has unique hours of operation, and may have changed from the hours posted on our site. It is a good idea to call the center for their scheduled hours before you visit.

Godfrey Memorial Library[edit | edit source]

Godfrey Memorial Library
134 Newfield St.
Middletown, Connecticut 06457
Telephone: 860-346-4375
Fax: 860-347-9874
E-mail: Reference Librarian
Website: Godfrey Memorial Library

Their collection features digital copies of six African American newspapers in the 1800s.[13] The overall collection is national in scope with many online records in addition to its physical collection. They compiled the American Genealogical and Biographical Index (AGBI) including many African American biographies and autobiographies. This library is an excellent genealogical facility including many New England town records, guidebooks, indexes, biographies, and genealogies.[14]

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library[edit | edit source]

Rockefeller Library in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library at Colonial Williamsburg
PO Box 1776
313 First Street
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776
Telephone: 757-565-8542
Fax: 757-565-8548
Website: John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library

Emphasis is on the history of colonial British America, the American Revolution, and the early United States with books, manuscripts, images, Civil War materials, family Bibles, and databases for research in the political and economic life of the thirteen colonies, the new republic, and African American studies.[15]

Kalamazoo College Black History Mobile Museum[edit | edit source]

Kalamazoo College Black History 101 Mobile Museum
1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49006
Telephone: 269-337-7000
Website: Facebook: Black History 101 Mobile Museum History Museum

Prominent artifacts include documents signed by Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, Fredrick Douglas, Dorothy Height, Elijah Muhammad, Ralph Bunche, Coretta Scott King, Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, and Angela Davis.[16]

NEHGS 101 Newbury St in Boston

New England Historic Genealogical Society[edit | edit source]

New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)
101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116-3007
Telephone: 617-536-5740; Library 617-226-1231
Fax: 617-536-7307

Best overall collection for New England vital records and probates, and excellent collection for Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and Europe. The manuscript collection for members-only has diaries, letters, account books, business papers, church and town records, sermons, maps, wills, deeds, unpublished town and family genealogies, photos, and papers of the region's best genealogists since 1850.[17] [18] [19]

Newberry Library[edit | edit source]

Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois

Newberry Library
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Telephone: 312-255-3512
E-mail: reference@.
Website: Newberry Library Genealogy and Local History

The Newberry is a private, non-circulating library free and open to the public. It is a research library for humanities and social sciences with 1.5 million books, 5 million manuscript pages, and 500,000 maps. This includes good African American, American Indian, railroad archives, Chicago history, and cartography collections.[20]
NYPL Schomburg Center in Harlem, New York

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture[edit | edit source]

Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture
A Unit of the New York Public Library
515 Malcolm X Blvd
New York, NY 10037
Website: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture located in Harlem, New York, is a research unit of The New York Public Library system. It focuses exclusively on African-American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. It accomplishes this through art, artifacts, research and reference collections, manuscripts, archives, rare books, photos, moving images, sound recordings, educational programs, and digital collections.[21]

Anacostia Comm Museum in Washington DC

Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum[edit | edit source]

Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
1901 Fort Place SE
Washington, D.C. 20020
Telephone: 202-633-4820
Website: Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

The Anacostia Museum Branch Library has over 5,000 books, and close to 100 periodical titles in various formats. It collects materials relating to the preservation of family and community history through education, advocacy, and documentation. Primary focus is on east of the Potomac River communities. Their new focus is community museology, urban communities, issues that impact urban communities, and the people who reside in urban communities.[22]

UNC Wilson Library in Chapel Hill, NC
UNC Davis Library

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Libraries[edit | edit source]

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Libraries

Wilson Special Collections Library
200 South Road Wilson Library (Campus PO Box #3948)
UNC Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890
Telephone: 919-962-1172
Davis Library
208 Raleigh Street (Campus PO Box #3916)
UNC Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Telephone: 919-962-1151
E-mail: E-mail a Question form

Website: UNC Chapel Hill Libraries

Wilson Special Collections Library is home to: the famed Southern Historical Collection with strengths in plantation records, slavery, the Civil War, Civil Rights, communities, family, race relations, and religious communities[23]; the North Carolina Collection of published works on North Carolina and its people and biographical index[24]; the Rare Book Collection; the Southern Folklife Collection; the Manuscript Department collection of personal papers, letters, and diaries of early North Carolina residents; and the Map Department.[10]
Davis Library has humanities, and foreign language materials, maps, a federal documents depository, and microforms.[25]
Digital Online: Documenting the American South digital project description, and Collections descriptions of 16 thematic digitized collections.

University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center[edit | edit source]

University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center
647 Williams Hall
255 S 36th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6305
Telephone: 215-898-6971
Fax: 215-573-7379
Website: The Africa Center Home

The African Studies Center coordinates course offerings in anthropology, demography, economics, history, language, literature, politics, religion, and sociology. The Van Pelt Library holds most of the African collection. For more details see African Collection at Penn.[26]

University of Pittsburgh Hillman Library in PA

University of Pittsburgh Hillman Library[edit | edit source]

University of Pittsburgh Hillman Library
3960 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260
Telephone: 412-648-7756
Website: University of Pittsburgh Library System African American Collection

The library houses material on the African Americans, Africans, and Caribbean cultures in the following disciplines: Arts, Education, History, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Sociology, Sports, and Religion.[27]

International African American Museum[edit | edit source]

Charleston, South Carolina 29401

Center for Family History
113 Calhoun Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29401
(843) 872.5352

Various State Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

See also the state "Archives and Libraries" wiki articles (links below) for descriptions of repositories with further African American material in each respective state.

Archives and Libraries in Each State

Territories and Federal District

Guides[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Allen County Public Library in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 28 April 2010).
  2. Genealogy Center in Allen County Public Library (accessed 28 April 2010).
  3. Genealogy Center Collections in Genealogy Center (accessed 27 February 2015).
  4. The Collections in Local History and Genealogy Reading Room in The Library of Congress (accessed 8 January 2014).
  5. Information for Researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC in National Archives (accessed 31 December 2013).
  6. National Archives at Atlanta in National Archives (accessed 30 May 2016).
  7. Enabling Freedom in National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (accessed 30 May 2016).
  8. BCRI Archives Collections Guide in Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (accessed 30 May 2016).
  9. Resources in Black Archives of Mid-America (accessed 30 May 2016).
  10. 10.0 10.1 William Dollarhide and Ronald A. Bremer. America's Best Genealogy Resource Centers (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998), 85. At various libraries (WorldCat). FHL Ref Book 973 J54d.
  11. John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture in Duke University Libraries (accessed 30 May 2016).
  12. Introduction to Family History Centers in Family History Research Wiki (accessed 29 February 2016).
  13. "African American Records" in INTERNET Genealogy (June/July 2008): 85.
  14. Dollarhide and Bremer, 25.
  15. John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library in Colonial Williamsburg (accessed 7 January 2014).
  16. Facebook Timeline photo in Black History 101 Mobile Museum History Museum (accessed 30 May 2016).
  17. "New England Historic Genealogical Society" in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 30 August 2010).
  18. Using the NEHGS Library in American Ancestors" (accessed 21 September 2015).
  19. Dollarhide and Bremer, 5, 57, and 59.
  20. Wikipedia Contributors, "Newberry Library" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 29 October 2010).
  21. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York Public Library (accessed 30 May 2016).
  22. Anacostia Community Museum Library in Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (accessed 30 May 2016).
  23. About the Southern Historical Coillection in UNC Chapel Hill Libraries (accessed 11 February 2014).
  24. Family History and Genealogy Resources in the North Carolina Collection in UNC Chapel Hill Libraries (accessed 11 February 2014).
  25. Davis Library in Libraries and Hours in UNC Chapel Hill Libraries (accessed 11 February 2013).
  26. African Collection at Penn in Penn Libraries (accessed 30 May 2016).
  27. African American Collection in University of Pittsburgh Library System (accessed 30 May 2016).