African American Studies Research Guide

The resources covered in this guide include some that are available through the Cypress College Library, and others that are available on the open web. This is only a starting point; for more detailed information come to the Library and ask for a consultation at the Reference Desk. Your research strategy might include some or all of the following:

  • Use reference sources to find an overview of your topic, or to find general background information on your topic
  • Use the Library’s online catalog to find books on your topic
  • Use the Library’s licensed databases to find journal, magazine, newspaper, and other types of articles on your topic
  • Use the Internet to find credible web sources on your topic

How do I find an overview or general background information about my topic?

Reference sources are a great place to start a research project. You can use reference sources to find general information about issues, events, organizations and so on.

Listed below are a few examples of reference works available through the Library:

General Sources

African American Almanac
Reference Collection E 185.A37

African-American Firsts: Famous, Little-Known, and Unsung Triumphs of Blacks in America
Main Collection E185.96.P68 African-American Firsts in Science and Technology
Reference Collection Q141.W43 Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to the Present
Reference Collection E185.61.E54 Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History
Reference Collection E185.E54 Encyclopedia of African-American History
Reference Collection E185.E545 Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups
Reference Collection E184.A1 H35


The Routledge Atlas of African-American History
Main Collection E185.E125

We the People: An Atlas of America’s Ethnic Diversity
Atlas Case


Chronology of African-American History: From 1492 to the Present
Main Collection E185.H64 Timelines of African-American History: 500 Years of Black Achievement
Reference Collection E185.C86


My Soul Looks Back, ‘Less I Forget: A Collection of Quotations by People of Color
Reference Collection PN6081.3.M9 Quotations in Black
Reference Collection PN6081.3.Q67


Black Americans: A Statistical Sourcebook
Reference Collection E185.86.B5238 The Black Population in the United States


American Slave: A Composite Autobiography
Main Collection E441.A58 Black American Writers Past and Present: A Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary
Reference Collection Z1229.N39 R87 Black Women in America
Reference Collection E185.86.B542 Notable Black American Women
Reference Collection E185.96.N68

How do I find books about my topic?

Use Cypress College Library’s Online Catalog. You can try typing your search words in the text box, setting the search to “Keyword Relevance Search,” and clicking the “Search” button (this is called a keyword search). Sometimes this method will bring back too many results, some of which might be irrelevant. In that case, try doing a “Subject” search. You can do a Subject search by typing your terms in the text box and setting the search to “Subject”. If you don’t get any results, try using some of the official Library of Congress Subject Headings listed below:

  • African American [followed by noun]
    African American Art
    African American Athletes
    African American Women
  • African Americans–[subheading]
    African Americans–California
    African Americans–Education
    African Americans–History

How do I find journal, magazine, newspaper, and other types of articles on my topic?

You can find full-text articles and biographical information by using these electronic databases:

How do I find credible web sources on my topic?

In this section, “web pages” means the “open web” or websites anyone can access, not web-based research tools like the databases that the library provides. The open web has a lot of great things to offer, but not all the sources found there are appropriate for academic research. How can you determine if the sources you’ve found are credible? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who created the site?
  • Can you determine if the author is an expert in the field?
  • What kind of an audience was the site created for? General adult population? Scholars? 3rd graders?
  • Can you determine if there is any kind of bias expressed in the site? Is the site trying to sell you a particular point of view?
  • When was the web page last revised?
  • What is the date range of the materials covered in the site?
  • What other resources (print & non-print) are available in this area?
  • What is the relative value of the web site in comparison to the range of information resources available on this topic?

You can try looking for relevant web sites on your own using subject directories like INFOMINE, Open Directory Project and ipl2. As well, you can try some of the web sites listed below:

Academic Info
Sections include: digital publications, historic African Americans, Martin Luther King, Jr., Slavery, Civil War, civil rights movements, jazz, museums, and teaching resources.

African American Archaeology, History and Cultures
Provides link to online presentations concerning African-American archaeology projects, with additional links to online resources and presentations concerning African-American history and culture, and much more.

African American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture
Materials on African-American colonization, abolition, migration, and participation in the Work Projects Administration (WPA).

Afro-American Genealogical Research
Bibliographic of resources for researching African American genealogy, including beginner’s guides, guidebooks, case studies, and bibliographies.

Black Press: Soldiers without Swords
Covers the history of black journalism in the United States.

Center of Applied Linguistics (CAL): African American Vernacular English
Includes articles about African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also known as Ebonics.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
Information on Martin Luther King, Jr., including a biography, text of speeches and writings, some audio features, photographs, and a timeline of Dr. King’s life and the civil rights movement.

Violence in the City: An End or a Beginning?
Full text of the McCone Report, a study commissioned by California Governor Edmund G. Brown concerning the August 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles.

Note: the Annotations for the web sites listed above are taken from ipl2.

How do I get more help finding sources for my topic?

If you feel like you need help getting started, finding more detailed materials, or if you have any questions in general, please feel free to come to the library and ask a reference librarian for help.

If you have trouble accessing this page and need help,  please contact a librarian at the reference desk at (714) 484-7069.