English Senior Seminar: Contemporary African American Literature and Post-Racial Ideologies


Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective  research for the English Senior Seminar: Contemporary African American Literature and Post-Racial Ideologies.

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

Personal Librarian:
Vani Natarajan
208C Lehman

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Finding Books and Media | Finding Articles | Digital and Analog Collections | Literary Magazines and Blogs | Tools for Searching the "Open Web" | Writing and Citing

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. 
  • Surround words with quotes to search them together as a phrase, i.e. "New Black Aesthetic."
  • 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:

The Schomburg Center also hosts many excellent public programs related to Africana Studies---consult their calendar for details!

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.


If you aren't sure where to start your search for articles, try Find Articles. It searches across multiple databases, included the ones listed below, and can even recommend subject specific databases that yield the most results for your search terms.

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.


  • Art Index Retrospective covers art journalism and scholarly work on art history published between 1929 and 1984. 
  • Art Source indexes journal and magazine articles, books, podcasts, and other sources on fine, decorative, and commercial art and architecture. 

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.


  • Alt-Press Watch provides access to articles from the alternative and independent press from 1970 to the present, including city weeklies like Village Voice; LGBTQ and feminist publications; and a variety of periodicals related to social justice issues. 
  • 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 provides access to articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic, minority, and native press in the United States, dating from 1959 to the present. 
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • International Bibliography of Art covers scholarship on art from an international context, including American art from the colonial era to the present and global art since 1945. Coverage extends to visual arts in all media, plus decorative and applied arts, museum studies and conservation, archaeology and classical studies, antiques and architectural history, and related fields.
  • MLA International Bibliography offers access to articles from scholarly journals, magazines, and books in the areas of literature, language, linguistics, and folklore. This includes an especially strong selection of literary history, theory and criticism. If you can't access an article, consider using ILL to request a scan, or consult with a librarian. 


Digital Collections and Pathways to Analog Collections

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 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).

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 in the Unites States focuses on records of U.S. based movements.


Literary Magazines and Blogs

BOMB is a quarterly print magazine that publishes interviews between artists of all disciplines, including writers, along with essays, portfolios, and other artist-generated content. Search the BOMB Archive for a full range of articles from the past 33 years of issues, and explore the Oral History Project for life stories of New York City-based African American artists. 

Guernica: A Magazine of Art and Politics publishes feature stories, interviews, poetry, fiction, visual art, and short stories published twice monthly. Past content is fully searchable online. 

Los Angeles Review of Books features longform reviews of books, art, music, theatre and film, along with reportage, essays, and interviews with writers. 

New Inquiry features longform essays and reviews, curated reading lists, literary excerpts, news, and other content in a digital magazine form (also published as monthly PDF's). The publication self describes as "a space for discussion that aspires to enrich cultural and public life by putting all available resources—both digital and material—toward the promotion and exploration of ideas." Search content online, or browse past issues

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.