An overview of resources at PSU Library for researching Black Studies, with an emphasis on African American Studies.
Last Updated: Oct 2, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Welcome Print Page

Researching Black Studies

Three Friends
Three Friends, circa 1944-45, by William H. Johnson, from the Smithsonian Institute via Flickr Commons.

This research guide focuses on key resources for the Black Studies, with an emphasis on African American experience in the United States. Please see the tab for African and the Diaspora if you are researching Africa or the African diaspora outside of the US. You may also find useful information in the United States History guide.

Because Black Studies is a field that overlaps with many other disciplines, there is no one database that covers all of its literature. The best way to pursue your research a topic is to consider which field concerns itself with your research question. Does it relate to educational settings, history, political science, sociology, or another area? Consider which fields would have researchers writing about your topic and then explore the databases and other research tools that relate to those fields.

Note: The images throughout this guide are drawn primarily from open source collections in the public domain. You may find useful content from these websites for your own research.


A Note on Terminology

The Library of Congress uses the formal subject heading African Americans to describe Americans of sub-Saharan African ancestry, but other terms have been more common at different times in American history. Depending on your research topic, you might find it useful to search with other words. 

Afro-American is a variant of African American. Other terms include blacks, black people, and variants like black women, black men, etc.

In historical research, it helps to know the terms used commonly during the time period you are researching. In early American history and into the early 20th century, many Americans used the term coloreds or colored people, which was gradually replaced by Negro, Negroes, and variants, used through the late 1960.

Consult the Oxford English Dictionary for more information on the historical use of language.


Subject Librarian

Profile Image
Joan Petit
Contact Info
Phone: 503-725-2397
Office: 220A Library
Send Email

Credits and Feedback

This guide was authored by Joan Petit with significant help from Andrea Bullock. If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact Joan.