African-American History Digitized by ProQuest

Two initiatives from ProQuest widen the range of primary-source material that is available to students, scholars, and teachers in the United States, and make the study of African-American literature, history, and society that much easier.

As part of a larger partnership to preserve the archives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), ProQuest is teaming with the organization to digitize records created from its inception in 1909 until 1972. PDFs of nearly 2 million pages of internal memos, legal briefings, and direct action summaries from national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country, will be available through ProQuest’s History Vault file. The digitized collection will maintain the arrangement of the original microfilm, which is now housed at the Library of Congress and is the Manuscript Division’s heaviest-used material.

The massive trove charts the course of the Civil Rights movement and includes papers documenting, for example, the relationships between the organization’s leaders and Congress and with U.S. Presidents, and orders given during important Civil Rights actions. The material covers not only events of national importance, but, since it includes records from NAACP offices all over the country, actions and decisions taken at the local level, many by individuals who have been unknown to the wider public until now.

In a smaller, related initiative, users of Black Literature, 1827-1940, a microfiche collection assembled by scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, can now access much of its content through ProQuest’s Black Studies Center and Historical Black Newspapers. Black Literature offers copies, from 110 black periodicals and newspapers, of novels, short stories, poems, and reviews. Up till now, the sole digital component of the collection was a finding aid‚ a digital index, with full text residing only on microfiche. Since 27,000 of the articles in Black Literature‚ which includes gems such as early works by Zora Neal Hurston and Gwendolyn Brooks that are not found elsewhere‚ are also available through ProQuest, the company has created links from the index to that content.

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.


  1. Could you tell me separate pricing for this database. We get proquest products through Galileo, and this would be an add-on for us separately. It would need to be available as a networked product for our students/staff only behind a log in.

    • Henrietta Thornton-Verma says:

      You’ll have to contact ProQuest about that. They didn’t provide us with pricing details, sorry.