American Literature, 1871-1945


Van Vechten, Carl. Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston. from Library of Congress collection. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights resources for Survey of American Literature, 1871-1945.

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

Personal Librarian:

Martha Tenney 
114 LeFrak Center

Book a consultation with me.



I always recommend students consult the OED Historical Thesaurus to find historically-accurate keywords for full-text searching on primary resources. Go to the OED, find a known word, then click on "Thesaurus" to view the historical thesaurus. Words that were roughly synonymous with the original word at different times are shown, chronologically. For example, this entry for grifter tells you that in the mid-nineteenth century, swindlers might have also been called pigeoners, macemen, fiddlers, besters, bunco-steerers, or flim-flammers. Use these terms to search in full-text primary sources, such as historical newspapers.

Primary Source Databases

Proquest Historical Newspapers and Historical Black Newspapers
Full-text and full-image articles from major American newspapers: Atlanta Constitution, Baltimore Sun (1837-1985), Boston Globe, Call and Post (1934-1991), Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor (1908-1997), Irish Times (1859-2009), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Norfolk Journal and Guide (1921-2003), Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001), San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Scotsman (1817-1950) every page in PDF files. Remember to search on anachronistic terms. Historical Black Newspapers searches on full text and full-image articles from African American newspapers: Atlanta daily world, Los Angeles sentinel, New York Amsterdam news, Pittsburgh courier, and The Chicago defender.

Archive of Americana
Full-text search on historical newspapers, imprints, books, periodicals, and other materials. Use only one of the included databases for better facets.

Hathi Trust
Digital library with many scanned/full-text searchable, late 19th and early 20th books. 

Library of Congress search
Search across digitized materials from the Library of Congress, including materials previously included in American Memory. Facet on date and location to narrow down.

The Gerritsen Collection: Women's History Online, 1543-1945
Full-text collection of books and periodicals, the bulk of the collection dates from 1880-1920.

North American Women's Letters and Diaries and Manuscript Women's Letters and Diaries
Diaries, journals, and letters written by women in North America, full-text searchable. North American Women's Letters and Diaries has more affordances for searching and some items are full-text searchable.

Oxford African American Studies Center 
Comprehensive collection of scholarship focused on the lives and events which have shaped African American and African history and culture, coupled with precise search and browse capabilities. Features over 7,500 articles from Oxford's reference works, approximately 100 primary sources with specially written commentaries, over 1,000 images, over 100 maps, over 200 charts and tables, timelines to guide researchers through the history of African Americans and over 6,000 biographies.

American Newspapers in the Columbia University Libraries
A checklist of U.S. newspapers owned by the Columbia University Libraries, dating from 1704 to the present, arranged by state and city of publication. Maybe somewhat out of date; contact me if you can't find something

Women's Magazine Archive
A searchable archive of leading women's interest magazines, dating from the 19th century through to the 21st. Subject coverage includes consumer culture, economics/marketing, family life, fashion, gender studies, health and fitness, home/interior design, popular culture, and social history. 

American Periodical Series
Over 1,000 full-text periodicals including special interest and general magazines, literature and professional journals, children and women's journals and more.

Page images of Harper's Weekly, the popular illustrated American magazine, covering the years 1857 to
1912, a rich record of all aspects of life during those years. Contents may be accessed by any of  four
detailed indexes.

Full-text articles from more than 320 scholarly journals, some of which go back to the 1890s.

Nation Digital Archive
Searchable full-text page images of a major U.S. journal of  left/liberal opinion with coverage from 1865-present.

ProQuest Congressional - Contains materials produced by Congress from 1789 to the present, including bills, laws, committee reports, the Congressional Record, and more.

ProQuest History Vault - Digitized archival records (including letters, financial records, diaries, legal records, photographs, and more) through ProQuest. Databases of note include Slavery and the Law and Plantations Records.

Nexis Uni - Formerly LexisNexis Acdemic, Nexis Uni is a full-text database of over 18,000 sources including newspapers, journals, wire services, newsletters, company reports and SEC filings, case law, government documents, transcripts of broadcasts, and selected reference works. Especially indispensible in this class for finding case law.

Primary Source Tips and Archival Research

CLIO tips for finding primary sources

When doing a subject search in CLIO (in the catalog, specifically) use terms like sources, documentary (or document*  -- the truncation symbol will then search on documentary and documents and document), archiv*, memoir, autobiography, letters, correspondence, etc. Add them to your keyword using Boolean search terms, or the advanced search.

For example:
"jim crow" AND (source* OR archiv* OR document* OR memoir OR autobiography OR letters OR correspondence)

You can also use CLIO to narrow down the years of publications to possibly find primary sources still in circulation. 

Archives Sources

See the Barnard Archives guide to doing research in archives, and schedule a consultation with me for more assistance with finding your archives.


Secondary Sources

Secondary sources can give you background information to help you choose your topic and to give an overview of the subject.  They can also provide useful bibliographies--use these to find primary sources.

Reference Sources

Encyclopedia of African American Culture & History
A comprehensive 5 volume set of articles devoted to African Americans and the African American experience.

The Reader's Companion to American History
Use for quick facts. Answers the who, what, when, where questions that may crop up as you read primary source material.

Oxford Reference Online
Full text of over 100 reference titles published by Oxford University Press--search across multiple dictionaries, companions, and encyclopedias at once, including the Oxford Companion to United States History, the Oxford encyclopedia of food and drink in America, and many more.

Gale Virtual Reference Library
Search across multiple encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History, the Encyclopedia of LGBT History in America, the Encyclopedia of American Indian history, the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, and many more.

You can also search in CLIO, using the "Articles" tab and narrowing your Content Type to "Reference" to search across many of the online encyclopedias that we have access to. 

Other Secondary Sources

See my course guide for American Studies for more guidance on finding scholarly articles and books. Please feel free to email me to set up a consultation if you have any issues finding good sources.


Last updated January 2018