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Morris Library

Resources for the Study of African American History in Southern Illinois: Overview of Special Collections

The resources listed here and an ongoing collection effort, the Reclaiming the African American Heritage of Southern Illinois Project, bring together primary source materials to document the long and rich history of African Americans in Southern Illinois

African American History in Southern Illinois

Sandwiched between the former slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and on main routes of the Underground Railroad and the Great Migration, Southern Illinois occupies a unique position in the history of African Americans.  Home to antebellum free Black communities such as Lakeview (Pond Settlement) and Miller Grove and a stopping place for African Americans moving north after the Civil War and during the Great Migrations of the 20th century, the region has a long and rich history of Black activism and community building. But as with many underrepresented communities worldwide, this community has been largely invisible in historical accounts and its contributions to social and political change and developments largely unacknowledged.  The resources listed here and an ongoing collection effort,  the Reclaiming the African American Heritage of Southern Illinois Project, are intended to bring together primary source materials to help correct that imbalance.

Overview of African American history collections in SCRC

This guide identifies manuscript collections, university records and rare books related to African American history and culture in Southern Illinois.  The collections include correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, organizational and business records, scrapbooks, research materials, photographs and films, and ephemera, as well as rare books, periodicals, pamphlets, and other printed matter.  For more, visit the SCRC website.

This guide is not intended to be a complete finding aid to the collections.  It provides a brief description of holdings with basic information on size, inclusive dates, types of records, and broad subject areas.  More detailed descriptions of the sources listed below are available at SCRC and through Morris Library's online catalog.  I-Share contains bibliographic records for most manuscript collections held in SCRC as well as books and other printed material available at SIUC. Finding aids for these sources are also available through SCRC's website in the finding aid database ArchivEra.

Please note that not all manuscript collections are housed in SCRC.  Some collections are located at an off-site storage facility and must be requested in advance.  In addition, some collections have access restrictions.  Researchers are encouraged to contact SCRC to ensure that materials will be available.  We are also happy to pull materials in advance of a research visit.