written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland


For many years, employees at the National Archives have participated in the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) annual conferences. They’ve shared information on records relating to the black experience that can be found at the National Archives. Panels in the past have addressed various topics including pension files, naval records, African-American women, civil rights, the Panama Canal, and genealogy.

ASALH 2014
ASALH 2014 panel on records relating to the black experience at the National Archives. Pictured left to right Trichita Chestnut, Tina Ligon, Lopez Matthews, and Netisha Currie.

ASALH was founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915 to celebrate the legacy of the African-American experience. The mission of the organization is to promote research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about black life, history and culture to the global community. The annual conferences allowed scholars, researchers, and students to come together and discuss issues and scholarship on black life. The theme this year is “Civil Rights in America” and the conference is taking place in Memphis, Tennessee at the historic Peabody Hotel.

Carter G. Woodson

Dr. Debra Newman Ham compiled and published Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives in 1984. In 2012, a committee of about 20 NARA employees, which include archivists, archives specialists, students, and interns assisted with the update of the guide by writing descriptions, editing entries, and contributing to the Rediscovering Black History blog. The new black history guide will be web base and include information on both civilian and military records at NARA, as well as information on related electronic records, moving images, photographs, sound recordings, and a few artifacts.

This year, Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Dr. Trichita M. Chestnut, Ms. Netisha Currie, and former NARA employee Dr. Lopez D. Matthews, Jr. presented a glimpse into the development of the black history guide at the National Archives, along with the factors leading to its creation and issues that have emerged from the project. Each panelists discussed an aspect of the relationship between black history and the National Archives. Lopez spoke about the importance of black history in the archival world. Tina updated the audience on the progress of the guide and showcase select textual series of interest that will be included in the black history guide. Trichita demonstrated how classified records become declassified and how these records will be added to the new black history guide. Lastly, Netisha discussed the creation and function of the webpage and introduced the audience to the Rediscovering Black History public blog. In addition, she solicited suggestions from the audience on what they would like to see with the online resource.


The Rediscovering Black History: Updates to “Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives” presentation took place in Memphis, Tennessee at the Peabody Hotel on Friday, September 26, 2014

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