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Special Collections: Black History and Culture Resources: Archival Material

This guide will help you navigate the Black History and Culture collections in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP)
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Searching for Archival Material

Archival material includes unpublished records such as letters, diaries, financial records, and photographs. Information about our archival collections may be found online in the Subject Guide to the Collections. You can also browse the A-Z list of archival collections (the link is below). Our finding aids are processed at different levels. Some include item-by-item level descriptions and others are processed at the folder or box level. 

Archival Black History and Culture Collections

RBSCP’s Black History and Culture collections encompass subjects including Politics, 19th and 20th Century Social Justice and Activism, Local History, and 20th and 21st Century Literature. While the bulk of our collections relate to African American history and culture, the full scope of our collections includes material from individuals who are Black, but not African American. We are constantly growing our collections, and we intend to be more inclusive in this subject and to acquire more material that represents the more broad topic of Black history and culture.

Rochester had a relatively small African American community until the 20th century, and most of our 19th century African American History and Culture material revolves around Frederick Douglass and slave narratives. There is material related to the abolition and anti-abolition movements in Rochester and beyond including correspondence in the Douglass, Seward, and Post collections from Black friends and colleagues of Douglass.

Our 20th century collections are focused on Rochester politicians, including Ruth Scott, community leaders such as Dr. Walter Cooper and Rev. Franklin Florence, authors including John A. Williams, and events in Rochester, such as the Rochester Uprising of 1964. UR students and other researchers have heavily used these collections, including Laura Warren Hill, whose book, Strike the Hammer: The Black Freedom Struggle in Rochester, New York, 1940–1970, came from research in these collections. There is also interest from local journalists and activists in topics such as redlining, educational inequality, and community organizing, all of which can be found in our collections. The bulk of the material in this subject is Rochester-centric, with limited material, especially 20th century material, related to the national scene. 

Links to Finding Aids

Assistant Director, Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation

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Autumn Haag

Areas of Expertise

  • 19th Century Social Justice and Activism
  • Black History and Culture
  • Literature, including Bibliographic and Book History and Children’s Literature
  • Political History; 19th century and Midge Costanza
  • Rochester and Regional History
  • Women’s History
Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation
Rush Rhees Library
Room 225
755 Library Road
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627