Other Finding Aids Relating to African American History Post The Black History Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives and Records Administration

 Today’s Blog post is by Christina Violeta Jones, Ph.D. Dr. Jones is currently an Archivist in the Textual Records Reference Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD were she specializes in Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement Federal agency records.


There are several other printed findings aids and Reference Information Papers (RIP) published after Dr. Debra Newman-Ham’s Black History Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that describe in detail civilian records that have been declassified and available to researchers relating to African American history and American history from the Civil Rights Period to Genealogical studies.

Beginning with the Civil Rights Era there are three specific finding aids that researchers should consult.  The first is the Lynching and Race Riots Finding Aid [Record Group 60, General Records of the Department of Justice, Straight Numerical, 1904-1937, File Number 158260 (National Archives at College Park, MD, Textual Research Consultation Room).  This comprehensive guide consists of correspondences from Record Group 60, Department of Justice’s Straight Numerical File.  The file list identifies names of individuals and organizations that requested the United States government to support a federal anti-lynching bill in the United States Congress.

Another valuable guide regarding the Civil Rights era is the Federal Records Relating to Civil Rights in the Post World War II Era by Walter Hill and Lisha Penn (RIP 113, 2006). The records cover the span of time between civil rights initiatives undertaken by the Harry S. Truman administration, 1945–52, through the reorganization plan of civil rights programs directed by the Jimmy Carter administration, 1977–81. The focus herein is on the textual records in the Washington, DC, area, the regional archives, and the Presidential libraries of NARA.


The Federal Records Pertaining to Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) by Walter Hill and Trichita Chestnut (RIP 112, 2004)describes from the executive and judicial branches of the Federal Government and are listed chronologically in three distinct periods regarding the Brown case.  First, are the pre-Brown period records, 1896-1953. Second is the 1954 benchmark Supreme Court case itself: Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. And finally, are the records regarding the post-Brown period, 1955-1977, which constitute the legal application of the original 1954 Brown ruling, and the 1955 Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al. II (349 U.S. 294) ruling that desegregation occur with “all deliberate speed.”

For researchers who are interested in doing research relating to genealogy, The Black Family Research, Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives by Reginald Washington (RIP 108, 2010) and the Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publication (2007) are two printed guides that are very useful to researchers.  These aids guide researchers to records that contain information about family relations, marriages, births, deaths, occupations, places of residence, names of slave owners, information concerning black military service, plantation conditions, manumissions, property ownership, migration, and a host of other family-related matters.

In addition, the Black Studies guide includes a listing of over 200 microfilm publications, court records from field offices and the general public concerning election problems, race riots, violence against blacks, civil rights acts, arrests without due process, education, and other legal concerns.


Finally Prologue, the quarterly magazine published by NARA, is another valuable finding aid researchers should consult.  Prologue’s goal is to inform readers on historical events based on the rich holdings and programs of the National Archives from Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to the regional archives, and the Presidential Libraries.  Many of the articles that are published in Prologue feature topics that relate to African American history.

***See Prologue: Special Edition Federal Records and African Americans

(Summer 1997, Vol. 29, No. 2) http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/index.html



The reference guides that are highlighted in this blog are only a select few that stress the history African Americans and their descendants made to the United States Federal Government.   Along with Newman Ham’s Black Guide and the updated version currently being described, researchers at NARA will have a better understanding and access to records that relate to African Americans and the federal government.  From films and documentaries to scholarly books and textbooks these publications have and will continue to assist researchers on African American history at the National Archives and Records Administration.




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