Bringing Black History into the 21st Century

This post is written by Tina L. Ligon, an Archivist in the Textual Processing Division of the National Archives and Project Lead for the Updated Black History Guide.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is dedicated to preserving the history of the Federal Government and the American people. In 1984, Dr. Debra Newman Ham published Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives to showcase textual documents, special media, and photographs that are related to the black experience held by the National Archives. This award winning guide has assisted numerous graduate students, researchers, and family genealogists in identifying records for various scholarly and genealogical projects within the field of black history.

The cover of the original Black History Guide.

In 2011, a committee of NARA Employees agreed to update Dr. Ham’s black history guide. Each of the committee members is dedicated to providing new and exciting information on selected series, artifacts, and special media at the National Archives. This group of employees consists of Archivists, Archives Specialists and Technicians, and graduate students who have an interest in learning more about black history and sharing this knowledge with the general public.

The plan is to have portions of the guide available electronically to the public by late 2013 or early 2014. The guide will incorporate updates to the original entries in Dr. Ham’s guide, as well as include new information on records that have been accessioned since the first publication and include records from newly created record groups. The updated guide will also consist of Archival Research Catalog (ARC) identifiers, Holding Maintenance System (HMS) identifier, user and access restrictions, and type and extent of the archival material at most NARA locations, including the regional archives and the presidential libraries.

The goal of the updated black history guide is to be more user friendly and to introduce non-traditional researchers to the valuable resources that NARA has to offer regarding the black experience. Various forms of social media will also be used to chronicle the progress of the black history guide. The Rediscovering Black History: Updates at the National Archivesblog is now available to notify researchers on new series descriptions, intriguing collections, and the status of the overall project. In additional, we are considering using Flickr, tumblr, webinars, videos, and other forms of medium or social media to reach out to and to educate the general public.

6 thoughts on “Bringing Black History into the 21st Century

  1. Thank you for initiating and following through on updating this important resource!
    I am also pleased to see such a great line-up of speakers in January, including Dr. Hamm. Kudos to the Afro-American History Society!

  2. I knew of the name Ida B. Wells, but I had never heard the story that went with the name. She did her best to correct one of many outrages that occurred during that period. She writes with a combination of power and restraint, and her argument is so logical in its finding “precedent” for payments to other countries. How monumentally unfair that there was an all-white jury.

  3. The committee’s goal to use all open avenues to get the word out to everyone is excellent! This new blog is also really useful. Thanks!

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