The Black Studies Center

The Black Studies Center

Collection to Undergo Major Maintenance During Library Closure

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The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is closed for a three-year modernization. During this time, the Black Studies Collection is undergoing a major collection maintenance to improve access to resources. As a result, some materials will be unavailable. A selection of titles has been added to the DCPL circulating collection and will be available for checkout shortly. Selected Black Studies microfilm materials are available at the Washingtoniana interim location at the Newseum during the MLK Library modernization.
Prior to the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in 1972, there was a growing demand for circulated books by and about African Americans among Washingtonians. In an attempt to meet this need, the DC Public Library Board of Trustees voted to establish an independent Black Studies division in 1970. The Black Studies Center housed over 15,000 books focusing on the Black experience in the United States and throughout the African diaspora. In addition, the Center maintained subscriptions to local and national African American newspapers and a collection of historic Black newspapers on microfilm. Since its inception, the Black Studies Center hosted events featuring authors and public speakers on topics that further the study and discussion of the contributions of African Americans in the United States and abroad. As a unit within the Special Collections Department, the Black Studies Center functioned as a public space for research, reading and community dialogue.
During the MLK Library modernization, the Black Studies Center collections are being cataloged in order to improve access. A re-imagined Black Studies Center will be included in the new MLK Library when it reopens in 2020. To learn more about updates and plans for the center, please sign up for our Special Collections newsletter


Free Access to Online Collections

Use your library card and PIN number to log in from a home or school PC via the links below.  
  • Accessible Archives - A searchable collection of African American Newspapers from 19th Century that includes Washington, D.C. resources.
  • African American Experience - Contains 500 full-text reference and scholarly articles and over 4,000 slave narratives. Includes primary documents, maps and images, lesson plans, searchable timelines and Web links. 
  • African American Studies Center - Contains more than 5,000 biographies, 7,500 articles, and hundreds of maps, documents, images, timelines, Web sites and charts and tables of African-American life, history and culture.
  • Black Studies Gale Virtual Reference Library – Digital versions of selected encyclopedias and reference resources on a wide range of subjects.
  • Ethnic News Watch - Provides full-text coverage of more than 250 publications from the ethnic and minority press.
  • Federal Surveillance of African Americans 1920-1984 - Search more than 88,000 images dealing with the Justice Department's and its Federal Bureau of Investigation's widespread investigation of those deemed politically suspect.
  • Fight for Racial Justice And the Civil Rights Congress - Search more than 56,000 pages of  the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) involvement in notable civil rights and civil liberties issues such as Willie McGee, the Trenton Six, Martinsville Seven and many others. 
  • Historic Black Newspapers - These same publications are also available via the Black Studies Center database that is linked above.
  • Ralph J. Bunche Oral Histories Collection on the Civil Rights Movement - Search more than 700 transcriptions of interviews of individuals who made history in the struggles for voting rights, against discrimination in housing, for the desegregation of the schools, to expose racism in hiring, in defiance of police brutality and to address poverty in the African American communities.
  • See also Black Studies Online Research for an annotated list of all Library holdings
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