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Proquest Black Studies: Your Spot for 20th Century Primary Sources in African American History

This database includes complete runs of some of the most impactful Black newspapers of the 20th century, archives from major civil rights organizations, government documents, and more.

A collage of clippings from newspapers. Only fragments of text are visible. On the far right is the corner of a cartoon featuring a girl looking over her shoulder; on the right is a newspaper print photo of a crowd of people holding protest signs.

Which of the plethora of primary sources available on the public internet are useful? Which are appropriate for a given project? What am I missing when I limit my search to Google and avoid using resources only available through the Penn Libraries? There are no easy answers for these questions, but when looking for primary sources online, we must keep two important facts in mind: 1) not everything is available on the open web—the most important primary sources are often only available through educational institutions; 2) not every primary source is equal, and the things that seem ‘good enough’ when Google finds them are sometimes the bottom of the primary source barrel.  

Proquest Black Studies is one database that addresses this conundrum. Proquest is a large corporation that has been selling enormous primary source databases to libraries for decades. Proquest Black Studies puts the content relating to African Americans in one simple platform that searches all these databases at once. Contents include complete runs of some of the most impactful Black newspapers of the 20th century, including the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, New York Amsterdam News, Atlanta World, and Michigan Chronicle. Also included are enormous archives from civil rights organizations such as NAACP, SNCC, CORE, and SCLC, as well as government documents from the Theodore Roosevelt through George H.W. Bush presidencies. In addition, you can use Proquest Black Studies to search documentaries, news footage, and magazines from Proquest’s substantial collections.

As an added bonus, Proquest Black Studies covers important topics in the 19th century as well, but not as comprehensively. Ask your friendly neighborhood librarian to learn more!

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August 9, 2023

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