Black Theatre

"A raisin in the sun [1959], original cast. " 1959.  Image via New York Public Library Digital Collections. Public Domain.

Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective research for the seminar Black Theatre.

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

Personal Librarians

Charlotte Price
108 LeFrak Center

Vani Natarajan
106 LeFrak Center



Quick links: Reference | Primary SourcesPrint & Media | Digital Collections | Secondary Sources | Citing

link to presentation slides


African American music reference [online] brings together text reference, biographies, chronologies, sheet music, images, lyrics, liner notes, and discopgraphies chronicling the diverse history and culture of the African American experience through music. The database is constantly expanding to include comprehensive coverage of blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other forms musical expression

Gale Virtual Reference Library - Search across multiple encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History

Oxford African American Studies Center [online] A broad collection of scholarly reference articles people and events that have shaped African American history. Includes digital versions of the Encyclopedia of African American History (both volumes, 1619-1895 and 1895-present), Black Women in America, and African American National Biography among others.

Oxford English Dictionary and Historical Thesaurus [online] contains over 600,000 word forms of words in the English language, with extensive etymologies and timelines of usage. You can also use the historical thesaurus to explore anachronistic phrasings and usage.

Primary Sources

Primary sources can be found both in online digital collections, as well as in local libraries and archives.

Historical Newspaper, Magazine, and Journal Collections

Drama, Fashion, and Theatre

Finding Print and Media Materials

CLIO provides access to the vast resources of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and the Law Library. Search the Catalog for book and media materials.

Tips for entering searches:

  • When entering search terms, use the * symbol to search for variant spellings and endings. The asterisk stands in for one or more letters. For instance, theat* searches theatre, theater, theatrical, etc. 
  • If you're searching terms together as a phrase, surround them with quotes. For instance, "performance art."
  • Use Boolean operators (and, or, not) to search terms together. More on Boolean logic.

Tips for exploring results:

  • Use the facet boxes on the left hand side of the results page. These will help you narrow down results by format, publication date, author/creator name, location, language, subject heading, and more. 
  • When exploring an individual record for an item, like a book or film, reaqd the table of contents and summary (if available) to help you determine the relevance of a source to your research goals. 
  • Use linked subject headings in item records to try out new searches. 
  • Text or email the call number to yourself. 

Explore beyond Barnard and Columbia: 

  • Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan are great options for requesting a book that isn't currently available at the Columbia libraries. However, rare books and archival documents will not be available via these methods
  • WorldCat searches libraries worldwide. Using Worldcat, you can quickly find out if an item might be available at the NYPL, or another academic library (if the latter, try Borrow Direct or ILL to request from off campus).
  • New York Public Library (NYPL) has a variety of resources available to students in New York.
    • The NYPL catalog searches the circulating and non-circulating research collections at the New York Public Library. The Archives and Manuscripts search page allows for exploration of special collections.
    • NYPL Digital Collections acts as a living database of items digitized from the New York Public Library’s collections. New materials are added every day, among them prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, and streaming video. You can search images (with filters for date, genre, and other key features), or browse by collection. Some examples of collections that may be of interest: Billy Rose Theatre Collection Photograph FileAfricana and Black History Collection, and American Popular Songs.
    • The Library for the Performing Arts (LPA) at the Lincoln Center has perhaps the most archival materials about New York Theatre, mostly within the Billy Rose Theatre Division.
    • The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog encompasses over 200,000 original prints, ranging from woodcuts, engravings, etchings, lithographs and screen prints to digital prints, and covers the history of the art in the West from the 15th century to the present and Japanese prints from the 10th century to the present, as well as more than 500,000 photographs by 6,000 photographers. The Photography Collection encompasses the broadest range of the medium, including images made for commercial, industrial, and scientific application as well as images for the press and other print media,amateur snapshot photography, and original works intended for exhibition and/or the art market.
    • 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).

Digital Collections (Varied Formats and Genres)

American Memory (Library of Congress)  is a gateway to the Library of Congress’s vast resources of digitized American historical materials, with over 9 million items documenting U.S. history and culture. American Memory is organized into more than 100 thematic collections based on their original format, their subject matter, or who first created, assembled, or donated them to the Library. Original formats include manuscripts, prints, photographs, posters, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, books, pamphlets, and sheet music. Collections may be browsed individually, searched individually (including full-text searching for many written items), or searched across multiple collections.

Archive of Americana  offers access to comprehensive, full-text collections of newspapers, broadsides, government documents, pamphlets, and more, from 1639 to as recent as 1980. Includes multiple databases that can be cross searched or searched individually, among them:

Black Studies Center serves as a portal to resources in African American History, combining Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, The HistoryMakers Videos and full transcripts for 100 interviews, International Index to Black Periodicals (IIBP), historical black newspapers, Black Abolitionist Papers, and the Black Literature Index.

Digital Public Library of America contains millions of items - photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others.

North American Women’s Letters and Diaries includes 150,000 pages of letters and diaries from Colonial times to 1950. The material comes from journal articles, pamphlets, newsletters, monographs, and conference proceedings. Represented are all age groups and life stages, a wide range of ethnicities, many geographical regions, the famous, and the not so famous. More than 1,500 biographies enhance the use of the database.

OldNYC allows you to explore historical photos from the NYPL’s Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s collection. Photographs are attached, by location, to points on a map of all five boroughs of New York City.

Popular culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975 : rock and roll, counterculture, peace and protest

Secondary and Analytical Sources

Historical Context

Performance Studies

Literary Theory & Criticism

  • MLA International Bibliography indexes critical materials on literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore. Proved access to citations from worldwide publications, including periodicals, books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations and bibliographies

General/interdisciplinary Databases

Writing and Citing

Cite Source from Trinity College Libraries shows you how to cite books, articles, tweets, podcasts, art works, blog posts, and more in th efollowing styles: ACS, APA, APSA, ASA, Chicago, and MLA.

The Craft of Research (ebook, University of Chicago Press, 2008) offers guidelines and tips on all stages of the research process, from turning topics and questions into research problems, choosing and engaging sources, assembling evidence, drafting, revising, and more.

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. For extensive tips on installing and using Zotero, consult our Zotero Guide or the Zotero User Guide created by the program's developers.