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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.


Suggested Collections

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.

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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..

Following is a list of pertinent resources. 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.

How To Use This Guide

Search@UWKeyword search for archival holdings at UWM (see Search@UW tab below for details)

Search Finding AidsKeyword search for archives collections with finding aids - which include content lists and background information.  NOTE: not all collections have a finding aid, so don't discount Search@UW!

Suggested CollectionsPrimary sources related to local African American 20th century history to get you started.  Collection names link to the finding aids when available - March of Milwaukee is a full, open-source database of digital materials!


Search the UW system library catalog to locate archival and manuscript collections that will contain primary sources. You can search by keyword/s in the box provided below. This search box pulls up results from the UWM Archives Department, the UWM Special Collections, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Note that these results will include catalog records for books that we hold here in the Archives, but most of the results will describe archival or manuscript collections, which include documents, reports, photographs, et al.

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

1. World War I Milwaukee
2. Communism Wisconsin
3. Civil Rights African Americans Milwaukee

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.

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.
Search our finding aids 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.


Use Archivegrid to find archives and collections in your geographic area.

The Library of Congress has a wealth of digital collections, which you can search right from their homepage.  

If you're not sure where to start, you can also browse their collections by topic.

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Subject Guide

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Archives Department
UWM Libraries
Room W250