Human Rights and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Durban Shack Dwellers Movement protest, 2007. Public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons

Research Guide

Welcome! On this page, you will find a list of research resources for Human Rights and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Please feel free to contact me for additional research support!

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


Personal Librarian:
Vani Natarajan
208C Lehman

Instructor: J. Paul Martin

Finding Books and Other Materials


  • Go to CLIO and use the Catalog search to find books, journals (but not articles in journals), links to online journals, and other materials in the Barnard and Columbia libraries, including the Health Sciences Library.
  • For a known item, search by Title, Author, standardized Library of Congress Subject Heading, ISBN, etc.
  • For an All Fields keyword search, "use quotes" for a phrase, and * for truncation (to find variant endings of a word), e.g. feminis* finds feminism, feminist, feminists, etc.
  • For a complex search, use Boolean Keyword searching:
    • AND finds records which have all the search terms you entered;
    • OR finds records which have one of the search terms you entered, as well as records which have more than one of the terms. OR finds MORE.  Use parentheses to group terms, e.g. “South Africa” AND (sex* OR gender).

Worldcat: search for items in libraries worldwide.

BorrowDirect: 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.

Browse the stacks using these call number ranges:

DT History of Africa

GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography.

GN Anthropology

HN  Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform.

HQ The family. Marriage. Women.

HT Communities. Classes. Races.

JQ1870-3981 Political Institutions and Public Administration. Africa.

JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. Internal migration.

KQ Law in Africa. Algeria – Cape Verde.

KR Law in Africa. Central African Republic – Gibraltar.

KS Law in Africa. Guinea – Niger.

KT Law in Africa. Nigeria - Zimbabwe

KZ Law of Nations


Interlibrary Loan: borrow books, articles/book chapters, music scores, and selected audiovisual items (i.e. maps or films) that are not currently available at Columbia University Libraries. ILL has a larger scope of participating institutions than Borrow Direct.


Finding Articles

African E-Journals Project allows access to digitized full text articles from 11 African journals.

AfricaWide Information combines content from several databases in African Studies, including the Index to South African Periodicals, IBISCUS (The Africa Institute Database), Media Africa, and African Healthline . You can search through over 3.5 million citations and abstracts to journal articles, research reports, conference proceedings, grey literature, books, monographs, theses and dissertations, dating back as far as the 16th century, with many articles in full text. 

AllAfrica provides multilingual news on all countries and regions of Africa, in both text and audiovisual formats. The searchable archive extends back to 1997. 

CIAO: Columbia International Affairs Online collects working papers, proceedings, journal articles, and other key publications of theory and research in international affairs, from 1991 onward. 

HeinOnline provides full text online access to legal journals and a wide variety of official U.S. government publications.

Historical Abstracts provides citations to journal articles on all aspects of world history (outside of the US and Canada) from 1450 to the present. Journals included date back to 1955. Selected books are also available in full text.

International Directory of African Studies Scholars presents a keyword-searchable directory of African Studies scholars around the world, including detailed information on research interests, publications, and institutional affiliations. 

JSTOR includes page images of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences, with a particular strength in Languages and Literatures. Coverage spans the mid-19th century to the present.

LexisNexis Academic contains access to hundreds of information sources including the full text of newspapers, magazines, wire services, newsletters, journals, and broadcast transcripts.

Proquest combines a variety of databases in one interface. You can search all databases at once, or a combination of individual ones. Some examples:

  • Ethnic News Watch has a full-text collection of newspapers, magazines and journals from ethnic, minority and indigenous press.
  • 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.
  • Index Islamicus indexes material on Islam, the Middle East and the Muslim world (including Africa).
  • 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.
  • PAIS (Public Affairs Information Service) Archive (1915-1976) and PAIS International (1972-present) provide citations and abstracts to books, articles, notes, announcements, and analytics on political, economic, social, and cultural issues affecting communities around the world.

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts contains abstracts of books and articles from professional journals and major news magazines, devoted to North American and international politics.


Primary Sources

African Newspapers from the World Newspaper Archive presents digitized facsimile page images from African newspapers, largely sub-Saharan, and published between 1800 and 1922.  You can search the full text of their content. 

African Online Digital Library features archival audio, video, images, and text, with strengths in West African and South African history.

Aluka includes maps, interview transcripts, photographs, full text periodicals, pamphlets, and other primary sources, with all regions of Africa covered, and with a focus on liberation struggles in Southern African nations. 

Black Thought and Culture features searchable full text non-fiction works  by African American writers. Content includes books, essays, articles, speeches, letters, interviews, and other materials, some of which have not previously been published.

Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research gathers both primary and secondary source materials related to the study of human rights. Their Human Rights Web Archive presents archived online content, including publications, reports, and media, from human rights organizations around the world.  The CHRDR also serves as the official archival repository for several human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 

United Nations Documentation: Research Guide: Human Rights serves as a pathfinder to human rights material published by the United Nations, with links to available full-text documents. 


Human Rights: Other Resources

Human Rights Library , a project of the University of Minnesota, collects over ninety of the most important international human rights treaties and other instruments, along with key web links related to human rights, and categorically specific resources. 

HURISearch is a specialized search engine that indexes websites published by human rights organizations worldwide, with a focus on non-governmental organizations. 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights presents the full text of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights with a historical and analytical overlay that considers the declaration’s influence on international and domestic law, politics, and affairs over the last half century. Supplementary material includes biographical annotations, definitions of key concepts, and links. 

Data and Reports

Economist Intelligence Unit includes full text access to the Economist, as well as Country ReportsCountry DatasCountry MonitorCountry ForecastCountry Finance, and Country Commerce.

FAOSTAT is a collection of global food and agricultural statistics.

Global Market Information Database (GMID) contains over a million demographic, economic and marketing statistics for 205 countries worldwide. The database also contains 6-year historic market size data for more than 330 consumer products in 52 countries, plus 5-year forecasts.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Data and Statistics includes a range of time series data on IMF lending, exchange rates and other economic and financial indicators.

IMF eLibrary offers instant, full-text access to publications of the International Monetary Fund, among them periodicals, books, working papers and studies, and data and statistical tools

OECD iLibrary is a portal for the online publications portal of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Rand Reports contains citations and abstracts for Rand publications, 1946-1997; full text, 1998-present.

UNdata includes statistical time series for countries from around the world covering a wide range of economic and socio-demographic topics.

U. S. State Department Reports include facts about the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations of independent states, some dependencies, and areas of special sovereignty. 
USAID "Greenbook" provides a complete historical record of all foreign assistance provided by the United States to the rest of the world. It is a companion to the annual report to Congress, U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants, Obligations and Loan Authorizations—commonly known as the Greenbook.
World Databank is a complilation of a number of World Bank data products, including Global Development Finance (GDF) and World development indicators (WDI). 

Writing and Citing

CiteSource offers guidelines and templates for citing your research in a variety of citation styles, including MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style. The site also offers resources on copyright, intellectual property, and how the Web shapes information use. A publication of the Trinity College Library.

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.