African American Literature

IC Library Print & Media Resources

Selected Subject Searches

Note: Below is sampling of categories, individuals, and contexts that may be relevant for research purposes.

American literature--African American authors
American literature--African American authors--History and criticism
American literature--African American authors--History and criticism--Theory, etc.
American drama--African American authors
American drama--African American authors--History and criticism
American fiction--African American authors
American fiction African American authors History and criticism
American poetry--African American authors
American poetry--African American authors--History and criticism

African American authors
African American women authors
African American authors--Biography
Race in literature
Race relations in literature
Racism in literature
Slavery in literature
Blacks in literature
African Americans in literature
African American men in literature
African American women in literature
Racially mixed people in literature
African Americans in popular culture

Harlem Renaissance  [also see my Harlem Renaissance guide]
Black Arts movement
Black power--United States
Black power--United States--History--20th century

Wheatley, Phillis, 1753-1784
Wheatley, Phillis, 1753-1784--Criticism and interpretation
Jacobs, Harriet A. (Harriet Ann), 1813-1897
Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895
Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915
Chesnutt, Charles W. (Charles Waddell), 1858-1932--Criticism and interpretation
Dunbar, Paul Laurence, 1872-1906
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Criticism and interpretation
Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967
Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967--Criticism and interpretation
Hurston, Zora Neale
Hurston, Zora Neale--Criticism and interpretation
Toomer, Jean, 1894-1967--Criticism and interpretation.
Cullen, Countee, 1903-1946.--Criticism and interpretation
Wright, Richard, 1908-1960
Wright, Richard, 1908-1960--Criticism and interpretation
Ellison, Ralph
Ellison, Ralph--Criticism and interpretation
Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917-2000
Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917-2000--Criticism and interpretation
Baldwin, James, 1924-1987
Baldwin, James, 1924-1987--Criticism and interpretation
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968--Language
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. I have a dream
Baraka, Imamu Amiri, 1934- Criticism and interpretation
Morrison, Toni.  [also see my Toni Morrison guide]
Morrison, Toni--Criticism and interpretation.
Angelou, Maya
Haley, Alex
Walker, Alice, 1944---Criticism and interpretation
Bambara, Toni Cade--Political and social views
Kincaid, Jamaica--Criticism and interpretation
Dove, Rita--Criticism and interpretation
Wilson, August--Criticism and interpretation

African Americans
African Americans--Attitudes
African Americans--Civil rights
African Americans--Civil rights--History
African Americans--Economic conditions
African Americans--Education
Segregation in education--United States
Slavery--United States--History
Slavery--Law and legislation--United States
Slavery--Political aspects--United States--History
Slavery--Political aspects--United States--History--18th century
Slavery--Political aspects--United States--History--19th century
Slavery--United States--Anti-slavery movements
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
African Americans--History
African Americans--History--To 1863
African Americans--History--1877-1964
African Americans--History--1964-
African Americans--Intellectual life
African Americans--Languages
African Americans--Communication
Black English--United States
African Americans--Legal status, laws, etc.
African Americans--Legal status, laws, etc.--History
African Americans--Suffrage
African Americans--Politics and government
African Americans--Psychology
African Americans--Race identity
African Americans--Religion
African Americans--Segregation
African Americans--Social conditions
African Americans--Social conditions--20th century
African Americans--Social life and customs

African American women
African American women--History
African American women--History--20th century
African American women--Intellectual life
African American women--Psychology
African American women--Social conditions

Race awareness--United States
Race discrimination--United States
Race discrimination--United States--History--20th century
Race discrimination--Ohio--History
Racism--United States
Racism--United States--History--20th century

African Americans--Music--History and criticism
Spirituals (Songs)--History and criticism
Gospel music--History and criticism
Blues (Music)--History and criticism  [also see my Blues guide}
Jazz--History and criticism
Rap (Music)--History and criticism
Rap (Music)--Texts
Hip-hop--United States

IC Library Databases (Articles)

Recommended Databases

     MLA International Bibliography  provides the most complete and fully indexed coverage of articles and books on modern literatures, linguistics, folklore, rhetoric, and composition from 1925 to the present. There is ample full text provided by ProQuest, as well as links to full-text articles in JSTOR and Project Muse. Full text from other IC databases is also readily available via the "GetIt" links below article citations.
     Because books, book chapters/essays, and dissertations will usually not be available full text, you may wish to limit your search to "Journal article" under "Source type."
     "Author's Work" and "Author as Subject" will be especially helpful search fields at finding literary criticism. And for additional search field options either click on "Show more fields," or, for the complete list, open the drop-down menus to the right of the "Anywhere" default for the top three rows of search slots. This list includes both "Literary Influence"--who influenced a particular author you have entered--and "Literary Source"--who was influenced by that particular author.
     If you set up a free "My Research" account with Proquest (top right), you can save all the articles you check, all the searches you want to remember, and set up e-mail or RSS notification for any new articles that match your search terms.

     JSTOR  has excellent 100% full-text coverage of literary scholarship. There is no Subject searching, so remember to put titles and authors' names in quotation marks to search them as Keyword phrases--and leave authors' names in the normal first-name last-name order. Set "Limit" to "Article"--or else you may unleash an avalanche of reviews of books on your topic.
     JSTOR access to journal articles begins 2-4 years prior to the present--so don't look for any criticism from the last couple of years--but coverage always extends back to the first issue of each journal--in some cases into the 19th century and beyond. This allows you, for instance, to retrieve articles responding to the early works of Ernest Hemingway from the 1920s. Set the date range "Limit" below the search slots to target an era. 

    Project Muse , although a smaller database, it complements JSTOR.  LIke JSTOR it provides 100% full text of mostly scholarly journals, but its coverage is entirely current--mainly spanning the last 10-15 years.  Muse offers a basic keyword search (be sure to put the titles of literary works in quotation marks).  Once you've retrieved a set of articles you can sort them into broad categories using the Research Area options on the left.  
    Note: Checking the "Articles" box under Content Type before you run a search will eliminate reviews of books about your topic and leave you with just the articles on your topic.

     ProQuest Research LibraryAcademic Search Premier  are comprehensive databases  and include considerable literary criticism--much of it full text. In running searches on authors, don't settle for a Keyword search on the author's name, as this will retrieve too many articles in which the author is only mentioned in passing. Instead use the specialized Subject search each provides. In ProQest enter the name, last name first, in the "Person" slot. In Academic Search Premier open the "Select a Field" drop down menu and search the name, last name first, in the "People" field.
     In both databases the titles of literary works must be searched as Keyword phrases, so be sure to put them in quotation marks.
     In both databases you can set a "Document Type" limit and choose "Book review" or, if it's a contemporary writer, "Interview." (For a contemporary writer you might also try an "Author" search, since many writers publish criticism and social commentary that might shed light on their creative work.)

      General OneFile  is another comprehensive database with considerable literary criticism, but the default Subject search forcess you to retrieve EVERYTHING on a particular author. The standard "subdivisions" by which General OneFile organizes these results--"Ethical Aspects," Political Aspects," "Social Aspects"--are broad in respect to authors. 
     If you wish to focus on a particular a theme, the best strategy is to open all the results from the initial Subject search and then use the the "Search within these Results" slot at the upper left to enter thematic Keywords.
     If you wish to focus on a specific literary work, open "Advanced Search" and in the "Select Index" box choose "Named Work": this allows you to run a Subject search on a title.

     ERIC (Ebsco interface)  is an Education database where you can find many scholarly articles on the interpretation and teaching of literary texts at the levels of both secondary and higher education. 
     New York Times (1851-2009)  offers the full text of the New York Times from 1851 up to 2006, so you can access contemporary reviews and articles about authors and artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Enter a Keyword search, putting phrases in quotation marks. You might begin by searching in the “Citation and Abstract” field, then, if this doesn’t yield enough results, expand to the default “Citation and document text” field.  And many of these figures from the 20s and 30s had sufficient written about them over the entire course of their careers--and perhaps even more postumously--that you will want to target the critical reception in particular eras by using the date range limits below the search slots.

   America: History and Life : This database can be invaluable because it allows you to set a "Historical Period" limit (below the search slots on the left).  If you set this for 1919-1930, any Subjects or Keywords you enter above will retrieve articles on that topic as it played out during the decades of Thoreau's most intensive literary production.  For example, a Subject search on Nature with that time limit will retrieve articles on other American figures concerned practically or artistically with the American environment.  But: be aware that setting a Period limit of 1919-1930 will also retrieve any Period that contains those 11 years--for example an article on American poetry between 1865 and 1940.
     Be sure to set the "Document Type" limit to "Article" to weed out all the many book reviews that will otherwise clot your search for articles.

     Literary Reference Center : The emphasis here is on articles from a wide range of reference resources, including Magill's Survey of American LiteratureCyclopedia of World LiteratureContinuum Encyclopedia of British LiteratureMasterplots, etc.  There is also access to the Critical Insights book series published by Salem Press, each volume dedicated to a single author or a single work. Both the reference works and the Critical Insights series provide very basic biography and interpretation, but these are supplemented by selected scholarly articles.
     The simplest approach may be to enter a single author or a particular work in the "Most Studied Authors" or "Most Studied Works" sections of the "Browse" box. An Author or Work record will offer you "Related Information" categories such as "Literary Criticism," "Reference Books," "Biography," and "Plot Summaries." 
     In addition to literary criticism and reference, there is a wide range of full-text literary works supplied (mostly) by Project Gutenberg.

Where's the Full Text for this Article??

     Few databases offer 100% full text.  Most retrieve a mix of full text articles and article "citations"--article title, author(s), publication info, and usually an "abstract" or one-prargraph summary of the content.  When a citation makes you want the full text, look below it for this icon: 
     Clicking "GETIT" checks (almost all) the IC Library's other databases to see if any offers the full text of the article--or if the Library has a print subscription to the journal in which the article appeared.
  • "GETIT" will usually find the full text in another database and open it in a new window.  
  • If none of our databases can access the full text but we have a print subsciption to the journal, "GETIT" will retrieve the Library catalog record for the journal so that you can see if the date of the article falls within the date range we have on hand.
  • If full text is not available from any database or from a print subsciption, "GETIT" will provide a link to the IC Library's Interlibrary Loan.  Log in (same as your IC e-mail)--and set up your account if you've never used it before.  "GETIT" will have populated the article request form with all the necessary information and you simply submit the request elecrtonically.  Most articles are supplied as digital files and will be sent to you via e-mail when they arrive.

Contact Us

picture of Lisabeth Chabot

Lisabeth Chabot

College Librarian
(607) 274-3182

Selected Ebook Central Titles

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Web Resources

Selected Web Sites

Author resources on the Web tend to be hit-or-miss and African American authors are no exception. The general resources above and--of course--Google will help you ferret out what's currently available for an individual. Below are some examples:

Citation Help

MLA Citation

MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. Here is my guide to the latest (2016) update of the MLA style.