Researching Black Heritage with NYPL's E-Resources

By Rhonda Evans, Assistant Chief Librarian
February 2, 2018
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Study Black History

 "ASALH" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1920 - 2000.  Image ID 57281859

The New York Public Library has created this list of online resources to help you explore all aspects of Black heritage—from genealogy to LGBT history to current popular culture. These online resources are accessible to anyone with a  New York Public Library card.  

1. Genealogy

Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874The New York Public Library provides many databases to help you with your genealogical research, such as Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage Quest. However, a great resource for researching African American ancestry is the Freedman's Bank Records. The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was incorporated in 1865 by an act signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the company was to create an institution where former slaves and their dependents could place and save their money. Twenty-nine of the thirty-seven branches of the bank had records that have survived and been digitized. 

2. Historical Newspapers and Magazines

Do it Loud, vol .1, issue 1, 1970. From Independent Voices

Essence, vol .1, issue 8, 1970. From the Women's Magazine Archive

African American Newspapers: The 19th CenturyThis full text database includes nine rare African American newspapers from the 1800s. In this database you can read Freedom's Journal, the first African American newspaper in the United States, as well as Provincial Freeman, a newspaper founded in Canada for African Americans who escaped slavery or chose to leave the United States.

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998This database includes over 270 newspapers from 35 states, including titles such as Alaska Spotlight and Afro-Hawaii News.

ProQuest African American Historical Newspapers. Explore African American historical newspapers from major cities from 1912 to 2005 including the New York Amsterdam News and the Chicago Defender.

Independent VoicesThis database includes independent magazines and journals from the later half of the 20th century, with strong coverage of the Black Power movement and the post-Vietnam era.

Essence Magazine in the Women's Magazine ArchiveRead the first issues of Essence magazine and their coverage of film, literature, politics and culture, from 1970-2005.

3. Current Magazines 

Image result for black enterprise cover

Black Enterprise, Sept./Oct. Issue 2017. From Flipster

Flipster lets you download or read online current issues of popular magazines such as, Ebony, Essence, and Black Enterprise.

4. Historical Research

Blacklisted African Americans

"Blacklisted African Americans." From African American Experience

African America, Communists, and the National Negro Congress, 1933-1947. This database includes digitized archives and manuscripts from the National Negro Congress, an organization established in 1936 to "secure the right of the Negro people to be free from Jim Crowism, segregation, discrimination, lynching, and mob violence" and "to promote the spirit of unity and cooperation between Negro and white people." This digitital archive includes over 98,600 images.

African American Experience. This full-text digital resource explores the history and culture of African Americans, as well as the greater Black Diaspora. This database is a great resource for middle school, high school, and undergraduate researchers.

Fight for Racial Justice and the Civil Rights Congress. This archive, from NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, documents the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) which was established in 1946.

NAACP Papers. This fully-searchable database of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)'s archives contains nearly two million pages of internal memos, legal briefings, and direct action summaries from national, legal, and branch offices.

ProQuest Civil War Era (1840-1865). This database includes more than 2,000 pamphlets and eight newspaper titles for the years 1840-1865, covering a vast range of Civil War Era research topics reflecting points of view of Northern, Southern, and Border States.

Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & LawThis database brings together all known legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world, as well as materials on free African-Americans in the colonies and the U.S. before 1870. Included are every statute passed by every state and colony, all federal statutes, all reported state and federal cases on slavery, and hundreds of books and pamphlets on the subject.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive.  A historical archive of several million cross-searchable pages of books, serials, supreme court records and briefs, and key manuscript collections from the United States, Great Britain, and France concerning debates of slavery and abolition, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Institution of Slavery, and the Age of Emancipation.

5. Scholarly Research

Millie and Christine McKoy, Leeds, England, 1874.

Millie and Christine McKoy, Leeds, England, 1874. Getty Images. From the Black Studies Center.

African American Historical Serials CollectionThis database documents the history of African American life and religious organizations from materials published between 1829 and 1922.  The archive includes 170 titles from 75 different institutions.

African American Periodicals, 1825-1995. This database includes over 170 periodicals, published in 26 states, by and about African Americans, such as academic and political journals, commercial magazines, institutional newsletters, organizations' bulletins, and annual reports. 

Black Studies Center.This fully cross-searchable gateway to Black Studies includes scholarly essays, periodical literature, historical newspaper articles, reference books, dissertations and more.

Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience This resource, developed in cooperation with NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, provides an encyclopedic treatment of the formation and development of Black Studies. This database provides a core collection of primary and secondary resources in Black Studies, including full-text articles, book chapters, dissertations, reference materials, timelines, images and multimedia.


Black Lesbian Newsletter November 1982 Vol. I Issue. 5. From the Archives of Sexuality and Gender.

LGBT Life with Full Text. This database provides complete indexing and abstracting of content related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender studies in over 230 journals, magazines, and newspapers. Users can access publications such as In Life: A Black Gay Anthology and Fighting Words: Personal Essays by Black Gay Men. 

Archives of Sexuality and Gender. This online archive contains 18 digitized archival collections exploring LGBTQ history and culture since 1940. Patrons can access independent LGBTQ publications such as, the Black Lesbian Newsletter and the National Coalition of Black Gays.

The New York Public Library provides more than 500 online research options, many accessible from home with a library card, we challenge you to go beyond the search engine and dig deeper online with NYPL.