This webpage provides information about collections held in the Kislak Center which help document the experiences and histories of African American, African, and African-descended peoples and which provide source material for global Black studies.
The following broad categories are meant primarily as starting points and general guides for researchers and students, focusing on particular collection strengths. Note that updates to this listing are ongoing.
- Marian Anderson Collection: Anderson's personal papers--including letters, music scores, programs, photographs, and sound recordings--and affiliated materials from her entire career.
- Joanna Banks Collection of African American Books: over 10,000 published works, mainly from the 1970s to the present, including women's writing, children's literature, cookery, and African American periodicals
- Ashley Bryan Archive: artwork, correspondence, and related materials documenting the long career of the artist and children's book author.
- Arthur Huff Fauset collection: writings of this African American anthropologist, folklorist and writer.
- Freedoms Foundation political pamphlet and periodical collection: this broad collection includes political literature relating to decolonization movements in Africa and to Civil Rights movements in North America
Overview of collections by historical time period:
Please note: revisions and additions to this webpage are ongoing.
This webpage provides an overview of collections held in the Kislak Center which help document the experiences and histories of African American, African, and African-descended peoples and which provide source material for global black studies.
Note that updates to this listing are ongoing. It is meant primarily as a starting point and general guide for researchers and students.
Premodern materials from or relating to Africa
Among the manuscripts in the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection are some that were created in Muslim North Africa, primarily in Arabic and from Morocco and Egypt. Additional manuscripts in the collection from the Muslim world were also created in Africa.
European-created materials include printed accounts and some manuscripts referencing history of or travel to Africa. For example, we hold two editions of Giovanni Ramusio's Delle Navigatione et viaggi, a travel compendium which includes the account of the captive-convert known as Leo Africanus. Also present in the collection are early modern editions of classical sources on Africa, like the writings of Julius Caesar.
Primary Sources on the global slave trade
Held in various manuscript and print collections are a number of sources relating to the slave trade. Examples include:
- References to the slave trade in Medici papers and papers of other early modern Italian families, including a seventeenth-century list of slaves captured by Italian galleys
- A 1585 contract for the sale in Guatemala of an enslaved African woman transported from Guyana
- An eighteenth-century manuscript from the Compagnie des Indes including information on the African slave trade
Debates on enslavement and the abolition of the slave trade
Sources from Great Britain, North America, France, and elsewhere, ca. 1770s-1830s, document the increasing power of the abolitionist movement in England and, to a lesser extent, in the American colonies and the new republic of the United States. Notable examples include editions of the writings of Thomas Clarkson and Anthony Benezet, but there are many other lesser known examples. Writings include polemical tracts but also literature and travel accounts.
It is possible to browse the records for these books and pamphlets on slavery and the slave trade by decade of publication:
1770s | 1780s | 1790s | 1800s | 1810s | 1820s | 1830s
Travellers' accounts of Africa, 16th-20th centuries
Accounts of African peoples by non-Africans--Europeans in particular, but not exclusively--represent an important set of documentary sources, albeit ones that must be interpreted cautiously. The rare book collection holdings of the Kislak Center include numerous printed accounts that include travellers' descriptions: authors include merchants, missionaries, scientists, settlers, imaginative writers, and others. Researchers can also search names of individual countries, which may yield additional search results.
- Browse a list of travel accounts of Africa held in the Kislak Center, in chronological order, ca. 1550s-1950s
African sources, modern period
One important early narrator of his life as an enslaved person is Olaudah Equiano: in the collections are editions of Equiano's Interesting Narrative printed in Edinburgh and London in 1792, and in London in 1793.
The Fez Lithographs Collection documents the earliest printing in Morocco, with over 170 titles dating from 1865 to 1936.
Nineteenth-century America and the Civil War era
For further information see: Guide to Civil War Collections, Kislak Center
The rich and varied music collections in the Kislak Center include a number of significant works, in print and in manuscript, by African American musical figures. The following broad subject search returns results including items in the Anderson Collection and other collections by and about Africans Americans and music.
Here are some of the important figures represented in the collections:
- The Kurt Stein collection of Francis Johnson sheet music contains numerous published scores by Johnson (1792-1844), a renowed African American band leader.
- The Marian Anderson Collection includes a vast array of documents, music, photographs, and related material documenting Anderson's spectacular career and her world. Learn more about the Anderson Collection.
- Florence Price (1887-1953): composer, arranger, teacher, and close connection of Marian Anderson. View works by Price and related to Price and Anderson.
- Margaret Bonds (1913-1972): composer, pianist, teacher, and friend of Price and Anderson. Anderson performed works by both Bonds and Price. View works by and related to Bonds in the Anderson Collection.
- H. T. Burleigh [Harry Thacker Burleigh] (1866-1949): printed scores, manuscript music copies, correspondence, and recordings by Anderson of spirituals by Burleigh, a singer who became famous for his arrangements of African American spirituals. View works by Burleigh held in the Anderson collection.
- Hall Johnson (1888-1970): manuscript and printed scores, largely spirituals, arranged by Johnson, a choral director and composer, and some related correspondence. View works by Johnson in the Anderson Collection.
Theater and performance history, race, and Shakespeare studies
The Furness Shakespeare Library is a broad collection of William Shakespeare, his contemporaries, Elizabethan and early modern history, and the long tradition of Shakespearean criticism. As part of its collecting focus, the collection acquires recent scholarship on Shakespeare in global contexts, including materials on race in literature and in performance and theater history. Also in the collection are historical materials on performance.
- Browse recent titles available in the Furness Shakespeare Library on early modern race and Shakespeare
- Browse holdings in the Kislak Center related to African American actors
20th and 21st century collections
In addition to the Music and Theater collections described above, the modern holdings in the Kislak Center in this field stretch across a range of subjects.