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African Americans - Archives Dept.: Researching African Americans in the Archives Department

This guide suggests how to use the Archives Department to study the local history of African Americans. It provides recommendations for search paths and search tools, and lists some pertinent collections.

Search Library Catalog

Search the library catalog to locate archival and manuscript collections which pertain to local African American history. In the box below, search by keyword/s. This search box is already limited to the Archives Department's holdings. Note that these results will include some books that are available here in the Archives, but most of the results will describe archival or manuscript collections.

Here are four examples of simple keyword searches. Note that the boolean operator and is not necessary between keywords:

1. Blacks Milwaukee

2. African Americans Wisconsin

3. affirmative action

4. urban league

Find: in keywords

If your search doesn't produce relevant results, try again with different keywords, or contact us for help.

A general search hint: when reading any catalog record, follow the links found at "Subjects" to locate other material in the UWM Libraries on that same subject.

Recommended Collections on African Americans

In the Archives Dept., we have collections which are rich in primary sources for your research of local African American 20th century history. Topical strengths of our collections include political, civic, and cultural organizations; businesses; education and Milwaukee public school de/segregation; and the fair housing movement.

For civil rights activities of the 1960's, see the "African American Civil Rights movement" guide. For community organizations in historically black-populated neighborhoods, see the "Community Organizations" guide.

A list of pertinent collections follows. We have many other collections on the general topic, which you may explore by using the search strategies described elsewhere in this guide, or by asking an archivist.

Search Finding Aids

We write finding aids, or guides, for most of our collections. These guides explain the creator, contents and dates of the collection. This information is important to you when deciding if something is useful to your research. A finding aid also provides the information you will need to request and use a collection when you visit the Archives Dept.
All of our finding aids are included in Archival Resources in Wisconsin, a database of over 4,000 finding aids of collections held in seventeen repositories statewide. The database is located on the web at

Search in finding aids for material located here at UWM by using the search boxes below. Be sure to select an operator (and, or or not) as appropriate, and then click on "Search." Then explore the links in the grey band that appears with each result. Note: this search is limited to our holdings at the Archives Department, UWM Libraries, which is also known as the Milwaukee Area Research Center.

Watch our video about searching in and understanding finding aids at What is a finding aid and how does it help me?

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