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Africana studies and African American studies special collections

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  • Marian Anderson, Vienna, 1935 (Photographer: Lotte-Meitner-Graf)
    Marian Anderson, Vienna, 1935 (Photographer: Lotte-Meitner-Graf) (Ms. Coll. 198: Box 89, Folder 3, Item 1)
  • World map with Arabic text
    World map showing Africa (at top), Asia, and Europe, from Ibn al-Wardī, cosmography (ca. 1450-1550, LJS 495, f. 3v-4r)

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.

Major Collections

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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

Sociology, social sciences, folklore, and criminology
Civil Rights struggles
Graphic Arts