The Documenting the Early History of Black Lives Research Guide offers a gathering of resources for researching African American history, genealogy, and biography. This guide is focused on the Massachusetts section of the Connecticut River Valley, with an emphasis on the eras from European colonization to the U.S. Civil War.
How It’s Organized: This guide offers a detailed discussion of the many resources for this research at local libraries, archives and other repositories, and it is arranged by resource category/record type. Each section offers an introduction to the nature of the genre under consideration, where you’ll find information about how to access, consult, and examine those records as well as advice for using these resources, often created by the property owning class, to locate the stories marginalized communities. We have also provided selected sets of recommended readings for those who wish to learn more about these subjects and about local, state and regional Black history more broadly. A final section gathers resources for those who wish to learn more about the interpretation of histories of enslavement and freedom in museums and historic sites.
Who It’s For: This guide provides technical assistance to support researchers of all kinds: students, scholars, public history practitioners, genealogists, and members of the general public, including those who may be new to this subject area, to these primary sources, or to historical research more generally. Developed as part of the “Documenting the Early History of Black Lives in the Connecticut River Valley” pilot project, this guide also aims to support organizations — including town-based historical societies, libraries, museums and other pastkeepers, like churches and service organizations — that wish to undertake research in local African American history.
Research Support Available! This guide is hosted by the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For help in researching, you can receive reference assistance by phone (413) 545-0151 or online through the Ask A Librarian email and chat services.
Please note that this Guide is only a beginning. It is by no means meant to be exhaustive. In order to both direct users to specific materials in area repositories and also suggest the kinds of things they might look for in their own search through area repositories, it lists known examples of archival material in area collections, in many cases located through publicly-available online resources. But one premise of this project is that similar material resides in collections throughout the Valley: researchers should always check with the small, local historical societies and historians who know their collections best. We welcome and encourage additions to the Guide using the contact info below.
If you have resource to add, fill out this form to suggest resources for the guide.
Photo courtesy of the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield, Massachusetts.