Africana Studies Senior Seminar



Photograph of South African artist Zanele Muholi's Faces and Phases installed at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany, 2012. Copyright Anders Sune Berg. via



Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective  research for the Africana Studies Senior Seminar.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.



Personal Librarian:
Vani Natarajan
208C Lehman

Finding Books and Media

CLIO includes the online catalog of Columbia University Libraries, Barnard Library, and Union theological Seminary (Law Library and Teachers College Library have separate catalogs). To search within the CLIO catalog, select "Catalog" from the left-hand menu.   CLIO also includes records of CUL materials held offsite, which you can use CLIO to request.

Some CLIO Search Tips:

  • It can often be helpful to start with a more expansive search (i.e. fewer terms entered into the search box), and then use facets and sorting to narrow down your results.
  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card. Decoloniz*  searches for the words decolonize, decolonized, decolonization, etc. 
  • Surround words with quotes to search them together as a phrase, i.e. "critical race theory."
  • If using CLIO to find primary sources, make sure to include a date limit for the time period you are studying.Also, use the Subject (Genre) facets to narrow down to the kind of source you are looking for. Some examples:
    • Correspondence
    • Diaries
    • Interviews
    • Maps 
    • Memorabilia
    • Personal Narratives
    • Photographs


Beyond Barnard and Columbia

BorrowDirect allows you to borrow books directly from the libraries of Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, the University of Chicago, and Yale, in addition to select libraries of Harvard and MIT. Items requested through BorrowDirect typically deliver in 3 to 4 business days, with a 6-week loan period + one 6-week renewal.

Interlibrary Loan lets you borrow books, music scores, and selected audiovisual items (i.e. maps or films) that are not currently available at Columbia University Libraries. You can use ILL to request PDF scans of journal articles, as well. ILL has a larger scope of participating institutions than Borrow Direct.

New York Public Library  offers a variety of ways to search and explore their collections:

  • Classic Catalog searches materials across all branches and divisions of the library.
  • Digital Collections offers access to a limited, yet extensive, selection of digitized images, text, sound, and video from the library's collections.
  • Find Archival Materials searches archival collections across the library's research divisions, in most cases offering full text access to finding aids and further directions for planning visits.

The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, collects, preserves, and provides access to materials related to Black life in Africa and the African Diaspora (including the Americas). You can use the search tools listed above to start exploring the Schomburg's holdings. Five divisions comprise the center:

Worldcat is a union catalog that brings together the collections of over 72,000 libraries around the world. Search here for items held in other libraries.


Primary Source Collections

African Newspapers from the World Newspaper Archive brings together collection of historical African newspapers. Includes newspapers published between 1800 and 1922 in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Titles include: East African Standard, Mombasa Times and Uganda Argus (Kenya), Leselinyana la Lesutho (Lesotho), O Africano (Mozambique), Lagos Standard (Nigeria), Cape Town Gazette and African Advertiser (South Africa), Ilanga Lase Natal (South Africa), and Buluwayo Chronicle (Zimbabwe).

ArchiveGrid is a database that allows users to search over four million records describing archival materials, among them historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more, from over 1,000 different archival institutions.

Black Studies Center describes itself as a “fully cross-searchable gateway to Black Studies.” The database combines Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, The HistoryMakers Videos and full transcripts for interviews with 100 contemporary African Americans, International Index to Black Periodicals (coverage up to 2006), historical black newspapers, Black Abolitionist Papers, and the Black Literature Index.

Black Thought and Culture offers full text access to works of non-fiction, written from colonial times to the present, by African American authors. Sources represented include books, articles essays, interviews and letters. Sources can be browsed by year of publication, historical events, author names, and more. Of note: The database includes fully scanned copies of the Black Panther Party newspaper from 1967-1980.

Center for Research Libraries Catalog has particularly strong holdings of world newspapers on microfilm, including many newspapers from Africa. There's also a strong selection of other periodicals, including African American independent magazines and journals. Use the catalog to search these holdings, and then submit an interlibrary loan request for the microfilm reels you'd like to view (these can be delivered to the Columbia libraries).

Confidential Print. Africa, 1834-1966 provides access to facsimiles of documen ts housed in the UK National Archives and originally generated under British colonial rule in Africa. These documents include letters, telegrams, dispatches, investigative reports, treaties, and photographs. 

Historical Black Newspapers allows users to search and access articles, images, and other content from six leading historical Black newspapers in the US:

  • Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003)

  • Baltimore Afro-American (1893-1988)

  • Chicago Defender (19019-1975)

  • Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005)

  • New York Amsterdam News (1922-1993)

  • Pittsburgh Courier (1911-2002)

Umbra is a growing, searchable digital collection of over 400,000 sources related to African American history, from US cultural heritage institutions, museums, and archives. Umbra is developed by the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota in partnership with the Penumbra Theatre Company.

Women and Social Movements International collects published and manuscript sources documenting women's activism around the world, from the nineteenth century onward. Sources include letters, memoirs, conference proceedings, pamphlets, books, and journal articles, among others.

Women and Social Movements in the Unites States focuses on records of U.S. based movements.


Journal Articles: Subject Specific Databases

EBSCO and Proquest host and aggregate subject-specific databases across a range of disciplines and source types. Search all of the databases in EBSCO or Proquest at once by clicking into either EBSCO or Proquest, search a few in combination, or search them individually.


  • Africa-Wide Information features citations and abstracts to books and journal articles in African Studies, including content from the sources South African Studies, African Studies, and African HealthLine.
  • America: History and Life indexes journal articles covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistoric times to the present, while Historical Abstracts covers world history (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present. Both of these can be searched simultaneously on the EBSCOHost Platform.
  • Gender Studies combines databases in women's studies, men's studies, and child development & adolescent studies, along with selected material on sexuality studies. Sources covered include journal articles, books, conference papers, reports, dissertations, web sites, and more.
  • Social Sciences Full Text covers both applied and theoretical aspects of the social sciences, with content from 1983 to the present and full text coverage starting from 1995 to the present.


  • Arts and Humanities Full Text includes articles, in full text, from over 500 journals across a range of disciplines: modern languages and literatures, history, cultural studies, philosophy, art, classics, geography, and anthropology, among others.
  • Ethnic Newswatch
  • GenderWatch offers access to a full-text collection of international journals, magazines, newsletters, regional publications, special reports and conference proceedings devoted to women's and gender issues.
  • International Bibliography of the Social Sciences indexes over 2,700 journals and about 7,000 books each year; fields covered include anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics.


Journal Articles: General Databases

JSTOR includes page images of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences. Coverage spans the late 19th century to the present.

ProjectMUSE provides full text scholarly journal articles, with citations and abstracts, from key sources in the humanities and social sciences. Content is updated daily, and coverage is extremely current.


News posts over 700 stories daily in English and French and offers a diversity of multi-lingual streaming programming as well as a 400,000-article searchable archive (which includes the archive of Africa News Service dating from 1997). Fully accessible ONLY on campus.

Contemporary women’s issues provides full-text journal and magazine articles, fact sheets, and reports about women in over 190 countries, from U.S. and international sources.

Lexis/Nexis Academic provides access to a wide array of news and legal information resources including tv and radio transcipts, blogs, court cases, and law review articles. 



Genderstats provides statistics and basic demographic data on gender, population dynamics, labor force structure, education, and health, from a variety of international and US-based sources. Compiled by the World Bank.

Proquest Statistical Insight provides statistical data from U.S. government publications from 1973, state and private sources from 1980, and international organizations from 1983

UNData covers economic and socio-demographic statistics for countries around the world. Published by the United Nations Statistics Division.

World Databank includes various World Bank data sources, among them the WDI's (World Devleopment Indicators).

Tools for Strategically Searching the "Open Web"

Google Advanced Search allows for a more granular search of the web. You can limit by page domain, search for terms within an address or title, limit by usage rights, and much more.

Google Scholar is especially useful for tracing citation histories for particular sources (articles as well as monographs). If you run a title search, click on "cited by" to generate a list of sources that have cited the source in question.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine captures over 400 billion web pages saved over time. This can be a great tool for viewing web sites that are no longer "live."

Twitter Advanced Search allows for a more granular search of this popular social media platform, incorporating keywords, hashtags, locations, and Twitter handles into the search query.


Writing and Citing

OWL: Purdue University Online Writing Lab provides general and subject specific writing tips and techniques, along with research advice and detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.

Zotero is a free, open source program that allows you to quickly save, organize, format, and share your bibliographic citations.