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African American Studies *

Online Reference Sources

African American Biographical Database (1790-1950)

African American Studies Center (Oxford)
Provides access to more than 10,000 articles. Includes Africana: Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895; Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present; Black Women in America, 2nd edition; and African American National Biography. In addition to the full-text of these works, the Center draws on other key resources from Oxford's reference program, including the Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature; the Oxford Companion to Black British History; and selected articles from other major reference titles.
This database also includes over 2,500 images, more than 450 primary sources with specially written commentaries, nearly 200 maps, and more than 150 charts and tables that offer information on everything from demographics to government and politics to business and labor to education and the arts.

African American Music Reference This resource offers the first comprehensive coverage of blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other forms of black American musical expression.

Large Online Reference Collections:

Wiley Online Library  (Formerly Blackwell Reference Online - most also available in print) This extensive multidisciplinary database includes hundreds of key reference titles, including in History, Race and Ethnicity Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Gender Studies, and Geography. Selected African American titles include:

  • A Companion to African American History
  • A Companion to African-American Philosophy
  • A Companion to African-American Studies
  • A Companion to Racial and Ethnic Studies -- an online reference center that makes available materials on African American history. These materials include an online encyclopedia of over 4,000 entries, the complete transcript of more than 300 speeches by African Americans, other people of African ancestry, and those concerned about race, given between 1789 and 2016, over 140 full text primary documents, bibliographies, timelines and six gateway pages with links to digital archive collections, African and African American museums and research centers, genealogical research websites, and more than 200 other website resources on African American and global African history.


Gale eBooks (Formerly Gale Virtual Reference Library)-- this resource includes many reference books, some of which are also available in print. Here's a sampling of African American titles:

  • Contemporary Black Biography (1992-2009) 
  • Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America (2008) 
  • African American Almanac (2008) 
  • Encyclopedia of Black Studies (2005)
  • Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America (2000)
  • Who's Who Among African Americans (multiple eds.) 

Print Reference Sources

USC has hundreds of reference books that provide authoritative background information to help you get started on your research. Here is just a sampling:

Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, 5 vols. (2005)

The Jim Crow Encyclopedia, 2 vols. (2008)

Harlem Renaissance: A Gale Critical Companion 3 vols. (2003)

Encyclopedia of the Middle Passage, (2007)

The African-American Archive: the History of the Black Experience in Documents, (2001)

United States History: A Multicultural, Interdisciplinary Guide to Information Sources, (2003)

Finding Reference Sources

There are several ways to search for reference/background sources on your topic:

1) In the USC Libraries main search box, conduct a keyword search that includes the type of resource you're looking for:

native americans and bibliography

slavery and encyclopedia

In the results page, select the Location: "Reference".

2) Another option is to search Reference Universe, an online tool that allows you to search for both print and online reference collections.

3) Go to the LA Times Reference Room in Doheny Memorial Library and browse the shelves.