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African American studies resources in Special Collections: Introduction

Discover and engage with rare and unique historic materials related to African American studies in Stanford Libraries

Examples of materials that can be found with this guide

Sheet music: Railroad Blues, by Haven Gillespie, Howard Washington, C. Luckeyth Roberts. From a collection of Sheet music by African American writers or published by African-American publishers, 1851-1974.

1950 edition of the The Negro motorist green book : an international travel guide published by Victor H. Green

Photograph of the Meredith March Against Fear outside Jackson, Mississippi, June, 1966. From the Bob Fitch photography archive

About this guide

The Department of Special Collections holds a rich and growing collection of diverse materials that document and depict African American history and culture. 

This guide presents selected works, including collections of personal papers, photographs, manuscript drafts, rare books and many other materials that can be found in Special Collections.  A selected list of electronic resources providing  access to unique materials related to African American Studies is also included.  

With many thanks to Elizabeth Ryan, Library Conservator, for conceiving and building this guide, and to colleagues Felicia Smith, Rebecca Wingfield, Franz Kunst, Josh Schneider, Ann Myers, Mario Pamplona, and Ray Heigemeir for their input!


Identify and access materials

Select a category from the left hand pane to explore related resources.

Note that this guide is not meant to be exhaustive; additional materials may be discovered and accessed via Searchworks, the Online Archive of California (OAC), and Spotlight

Many collection materials have been digitized and can be viewed directly in SearchWorks and Spotlight.  For access to physical materials, please refer to guidelines for accessing materials through Special Collections & University Archives on the Stanford Libraries website.

Terms to know

Special collections

An institution or an administrative unit of a library responsible for managing materials outside the general library collection, including rare books, archives, manuscripts, maps, oral history interviews, ephemera and more.*

Manuscript collection

Although manuscript literally means handwritten, 'manuscript collection' is often used to describe collections of mixed media in which unpublished materials predominate. Manuscript collections may also include typescripts, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, born digital and printed works. *

Finding aid

A description of the contents of an archival resource or manuscript collection.

Rare book

A book that is valuable because of its importance, scarcity, age, condition, historical association, unique physical characteristics or other association. 

Artists' book

A book that is conceived and interpreted as a work of art.  An artists' book may exist as a single copy or part of a limited edition.

Primary sources

Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness. Example of primary sources are letters, drafts of poems or novels, and photographs.*

 *From the Society of American Archivists' Dictionary of Archives terminology