5 Tips for Researching African-American History in Chronicling America

The types of newspaper articles found in historical African-American Newspapers in Chronicling America

Interested in researching African-American history in historical S.C. newspapers, and in other states, in Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers? Within these newspapers, you can find primary source records of African-American lives, African-American owned businesses (owned by both men and women), education, achievements, social organizations, literary societies, religion, evidence of historical trends such as the Great Migration, and much more. These newspapers record historical issues on enslavement, prejudice, disenfranchisement, and crimes perpetrated against African-Americans, as well. Here are 5 tips that will assist you in uncovering the rich and varied details of African-American history waiting to be found in Chronicling America.


 1. Search with historically used terminology

Terminology referring to African-Americans has changed overtime. Try terms more common in the 19th c. and early 20th c. such as “negro,” “colored,” or “Afro-American.” If you are searching for pre-1865 materials, you might also try “slave,” “enslaved,” or “free persons of color” in your search.


2.Browse historical African-American Newspapers published in S.C.

SCDNP has digitized 10 historical African-American newspapers published in S.C. between 1860 and 1922, comprising about 100 separate newspaper issues. This list is a great place to start your research. You can browse and read newspapers in chronological order, as well as view descriptive details about each newspaper. You can access these newspapers by selecting this link, List of Historical African-American S.C. Newspapers in Chronicling America, or by clicking on the image below.

List of Historical African-American South Carolina Newspapers in Chronicling America


3. Browse historical African-American Newspapers published across America.

To date, 30 historical African-American newspapers from several states have been digitized and added to Chronicling America. There are more than 10,000 newspaper issues available in this list of African-American newspapers. States that have digitized African-American newspapers for this project are: Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. You can view the entire list by clicking on this List of All African-American Newspapers in Chronicling America (All States) or on the image below.

Click here to View the Complete List of Historical African-American Newspapers in Chronicling America


4. Get a perspective on South Carolina events by researching S.C. topics in African-American newspapers published outside South Carolina.

By searching South Carolina-related topics in African-American newspapers published outside of South Carolina, you can learn about how Americans perceived these issues differently than within the state of South Carolina. For instance, I performed an Advanced Search and selected to search an African-American newspaper, The broad ax (Salt Lake City, Utah), and searched the phrase “South Carolina.”

I performed an Advanced Search, selecting The broad ax (Salt Lake City, Utah) and searched "South Carolina."

I retrieved some very interesting results! This circa 1907 article depicts Senator Benjamin R. Tillman in a light that one would certainly see less frequently in South Carolina newspapers of that time.

Alternate view of South Carolina politician Ben Tillman in The broad ax (Salt Lake City, Utah)


5. Use the African-Americans in SC Topics page on our SCDNP LibGuide.

The SC Digital Newspaper Project has developed a subject guide, aka LibGuide, on historical S.C. newspapers to assist researchers in beginning their own research and to create interesting points of entry into the newspapers. You can visit the SCDNP LibGuide homepage here.

We also created S. C. History Topics pages, including topics on African-Americans, Education, Civil War, and Reconstruction, all of which have African-American related history to help you in your research. Below is a screen capture of part of the African-American Topics page.

Click on any of the Suggested Search Terms to view imbedded search results. You can also click on the Images, located along the right page, to read its related article.

View of African-American Topics Page in SC Digital Newspaper Program LibGuide


For more help on using Chronicling America, see one of our older posts on Helpful Tips on Researching Chronicling America. Best of luck in your research!

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