Exploring Black History in Archival Collections

In celebration of Black History Month, we invite you to explore a few newly-available collections and recent acquisitions in our Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) that showcase the deep contributions of Black historians, thought leaders, and important figures in our archives.

Amiri Baraka

The RBML holds the papers of writer Amiria Baraka and an audio-visual collection that includes pieces from his work in film and media. Baraka authored numerous works of drama, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry and played an important role in the Black Arts Movement.

A memo from Toni Morrison regarding the memoir of Angela Davis.

Archivists in the RBML recently re-processed a series of editorial files from Random House Books, specifically a collection of notes from author Toni Morrison, who was an editor at the publisher from 1965 through 1983. Among other works, Morrison edited the memoir of activist Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography, originally published in 1974 and re-published in January 2022. A blog post from archivist Celeste Brewer considers Morrison’s efforts to support and advocate for the writing of fellow Black women.

L.S. Alexander Gumby

Work is underway in the RBML to digitize the scrapbooks of archivist and historian L.S. Alexander Gumby. (View a selection of his scrapbooks in the online exhibition, “‘The Unwritten History’: Alexander Gumby’s African America.”) The papers of Trinidadian-born, Black-British activist and journalist Darcus Howe, a founding member of the Race Today Collective and editor of its journal, Race Today, as well as a producer of television series and documentary films in Great Britain, will also be digitized.

The Oral History Archives opened the Sheila Michaels Civil Rights Organization Oral History Collection for use by faculty, researchers, and students. The collection contains interviews with members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) from chapters across the United States, as well as other civil rights organizations.