African American Newspaper Database brought to library
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 03:09
The library’s new African American Newspaper database has proven to be a beneficial tool for graduate student Sarah Patterson, whose research focuses on African American women in print culture.
The university library acquired online access this summer to an extensive database that will be used for graduate research and by several classes according to library officials.
Patterson said she started a petition for the library to acquire the collection, which was signed by over 90 students, professors and administrators. She said English professor Pier Gabrielle Foreman was in support of the university obtaining the collection and she plans to use the database in several of her classes.
The new opportunity excited Foreman. She said for many years, African American political, cultural and economic activities were not viewed by mainstream print and academic institutions.
“While the personal papers and intellectual contributions of local, regional and national Anglo Americans leaders were often catalogued and archived in repositories, this generally wasn’t so for Black, Latino and women leaders, among others,” she said.
Foreman said the papers reveal a part of American history that is not often explored.
“What we find in them often surprises and delights readers,” she said.“Black people have always been interested in the global sphere and in travel, in moral and faith issues, in writing and philosophy, in legal and educational and economic rights for all people.”
One of the most appealing features of the database for Patterson is the ability to search the decades old texts by keywords.
She said it saves her from looking through 227 separate publications and multiple issues.
She said she is using the database to track the speaking appearances and events of African American women writers and teachers for her seminar papers and dissertation project.
She uses the 19th century newspapers to collect the speakers’ activities throughout a certain timeframe so that she has more information about their political philosophies and their anti-slavery messages.
Susan Brynteson, vice provost and director of libraries, said the library pays for access to such databases based on popular demand.
“There is no formal process for anyone to ask for anything in the library and we accept suggestions from anyone throughout the library,” Brynteson said.
She said the database cost more than $40,000 and former Provost Tom Apple provided about half of the funding.
Carol Rudisell, library liaison for the Black American Studies program, said because the database was installed on the library’s website this summer, only a few research projects have been completed using the database.
One project, called “Colored Convention” used web design software to catalog members of the Colored Convention abolition movement, Rudisell said. The graduate students and undergraduate employees who worked on the project used the database to follow the activities of members of the movement through communities around the country.
“They’re still working on putting it into development, so that’s coming forward,” she said. “That’s just an idea of the type of work that this database can support.”
Patterson said the newspapers are great for research but could also teach students a lot about the African American experience.
“It shows that they were teachers, spiritualists, activists, reporters and community-builders,” she said. “They lived such rich lives even in face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. You get a glimpse into what mattered to them and what they envisioned for themselves.”