African-American Literature Guide

Reference Sources

When researching a new topic it is often necessary to get an overview, explanations of unfamiliar terms, or brief factual information. The print and electronic resources listed below include selected reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, handbooks, guides, etc.) that may be useful for topics in African-American Literature. To find additional reference materials, check the library catalogue (UNB WorldCat), check our Encyclopedias, Etc database, or search Reference Universe. Search results from Reference Universe will provide you with quick links to UNB WorldCat (for print materials) and to many of our online reference materials.

Key Resources

  • African-American writers : a dictionary [HIL-REF PS153 .N5 A3444 2000]

    A survey of an important sector of American letters, African American Writers examines a multitude of black cultural leaders from the 18th to the 20th century. Brief biographies of African American authors describe their background, inspiration, literary works, and connections with other African American writers.

  • Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online (DLB Online)
    Provides more than 16,000 biographical and critical essays on the lives, works, and careers of the world's most influential literary figures from all eras and genres. Comprised of the award-winning Dictionary of Literary Biography series, which over its 30-year history has been dedicated to making literature and its creators better understood and more accessible to students and interested readers, DLB Complete Online provides reliable information in an easily comprehensible format while placing writers in the larger perspective of literary history. Specifically, DLB Complete Online includes the DLB main series, the DLB Documentary Series, and the DLB Yearbook Series - the latter two of which have never been electronically available. Additionally, DLB Complete Online will include the extremely valuable images from the above DLB series - again, content that has never been available online.
    Unlimited simultaneous users.
  • Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History [HIL-REF E185 .E54 2006 vols. 1-6]

    Impressively comprehensive, this reference updates the first edition published in 1996 and the Supplement, in 2001, and will be valuable for high school and undergraduate students as well as general readers. It contains 1,300 entries, two-thirds of which are revised, rewritten, or newly added; and half the remainder have updated bibliographies. Many of the new articles are thematic, for example, those on the African diaspora, anti-colonial movements, economic condition, and military experience. Several new entries are devoted to topics in the Caribbean. The central focus is on the experience of African-Americans throughout North and South America, although the people, concepts, and events associated with the U.S. predominate (due to the larger amount of scholarship). Biographical entries profile political and public figures as well as artists, writers, and musicians. Each entry concludes with a list of cross-references and a bibliography. An introductory article provides a background history of Africa. Volume Six is devoted to a selection of primary documents, an appendix with numerous tables of statistics and lists on all topics, and a comprehensive index. Annotation #169;2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com) Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

  • Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present
    Focusing on the making of African American society from the 1896 "separate but equal" ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson up to the contemporary period, this encyclopedia traces the transition from the Reconstruction Era to the age of Jim Crow, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, the Brown ruling that overturned Plessy , the Civil Rights Movement, and the ascendant influence of African-American culture on the American cultural landscape. --publisher description.
    Unlimited simultaneous users.
  • Greenwood encyclopedia of African American literature, The [HIL-REF PS153 .N5 G73 2005 vol. 1-5]

    Gwendolyn Bennett was a poet and writer of short stories, and although she never published a book of either she kept the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance alive. Anne Spencer worked on her poetry 16 years before she was discovered and published, but it took almost no time before actor and writer Paul Robeson was discovered to be a socialist and reviled. In hundreds of objective and accessible entries, high school students, undergraduates and general readers can get the basics on the issues, events and people of African American literature. Contributors describe how writers, filmmakers and commentators reacted to social and political events, a unique approach that helps to define contexts. Writers, journalists, and editors are joined by others generally ignored in the literary world, including publishers, writers' collectives, niche journals, advocacy groups and marketeers. Entries include impressive lists of resources. Annotation #169;2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com) Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

  • Oxford Companion to African American Literature [HIL-REF PS153 .N5 O96 1997]

    A comprehensive one-volume reference work devoted to the lives, works and careers of more than 400 writers. Also includes coverage of literary genres, autobiography, journalism, the black periodical press, major libraries and research centers, religion, literary societies, women's clubs, and more.

Additional Resources

  • Blackwell Reference Online
    WARNING: This resource loads slowly and may need a page reload. Blackwell Reference Online "is a vast new online library giving instant access to the most authoritative and up-to-date scholarship across the humanities and social sciences. With more than 350 reference volumes to be published in Blackwell Reference Online by the end of 2008, it is the largest academic reference collection available online and includes the critically-acclaimed Blackwell Companions and Handbooks, major reference works such as the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management and the Companion to Syntax, and a whole host of other valuable reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and concise companions."
    Unlimited simultaneous users.
  • Literature Criticism Online
    Provides Online access to the content of the following reference works on literature: Twentieth-century literary criticism, Nineteenth-century literature criticism, Literature criticism 1400-1800, Shakespeare criticism, Contemporary literary criticism, and Children's literature review.
    Unlimited simultaneous users.
  • Notable American Novelists (3 Volumes) [HIL-REF PS371 .N68 2008]

    Notable American Novelists provides biographical information and plot summaries for some of the 19th and 20th century's most prominent American authors and their work. 

  • Oxford Reference
    Multi-part database of the online versions of Oxford University Press texts. Each topical division contains the searchable version of the latest edition of published dictionaries and encyclopedias. Additionally, information about Oxford University Press is provided. Online texts will be updated after new editions of the print monographs are published. Covers the humanities and social sciences.
    5 simultaneous users.

Find Books

To search for books at UNB Libraries, first use the library's online catalogue, UNB WorldCat. UNB WorldCat (searchable below) searches for books and other materials held at UNB Libraries and other institutions worldwide. 

Search UNB WorldCat:     

Advanced Search | Locations Guide | Other Catalogues | Help/FAQ

UNB Libraries also makes available several full-text electronic book collections. Although most electronic book titles are available through the catalogues, you may also find it useful so search these collections directly. 

    Key Resources

    • ProQuest Ebook Central Collections (formerly ebrary)
      [RECORD UPDATE IN PROGRESS]UNB subscribes to a few collections of eBooks through this one access point, including both a mix of subscribed and purchased titles, along with faculty selected purchased titles. These are fulltext, searchable databases of books, maps and other authoritative documents in all academic disciplines. Many books now allow complete downloading.
      Varying access permissions.
    • MyiLibrary
      When browsing an individual MyiLibrary ebook please use the table of contents to the left of the text or the search function to navigate through the book. Rapid clicking through numerous pages of an ebook will block access to the ebook. MyiLibrary includes titles on a wide variety of subjects, including the humanities, science, technology, and medicine. All ebooks are viewed using the MyiLibrary platform. Some ebooks published by Taylor & Francis do not allow full-text searching.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Blackwell Reference Online
      WARNING: This resource loads slowly and may need a page reload. Blackwell Reference Online "is a vast new online library giving instant access to the most authoritative and up-to-date scholarship across the humanities and social sciences. With more than 350 reference volumes to be published in Blackwell Reference Online by the end of 2008, it is the largest academic reference collection available online and includes the critically-acclaimed Blackwell Companions and Handbooks, major reference works such as the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management and the Companion to Syntax, and a whole host of other valuable reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and concise companions."
      Unlimited simultaneous users.

    Find Articles

    When searching for journal articles, Article & Research Databases are usually the best place to begin. Below are some recommended databases for research in African-American Literature. The "Additional Resources" section includes recommended full-text journal collections and news archives. For other databases, check the Article & Research Databases page of the library website.

    Key Resources

    • America: History and Life (EBSCO)
      "America: History & Life is the definitive index of literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. With indexing for 1,700 journals from 1964 to present ... The database also includes citations and links to book and media reviews."--Database information page.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Literature Criticism Online
      Provides Online access to the content of the following reference works on literature: Twentieth-century literary criticism, Nineteenth-century literature criticism, Literature criticism 1400-1800, Shakespeare criticism, Contemporary literary criticism, and Children's literature review.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Literature Online
      Literature Online offers full text access to rare and inacessible works, up-to-date, reference resources, in addition to the full text of poetry, drama, and prose fiction from the seventh century to the present day. Materials are included from almost every period and genre of English literature as well as many works by 20th century authors. Contemporary criticism is available through the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL).
      Unlimited simultaneous users.

    Additional Resources

    • JSTOR Archival Collection
      JSTOR provides access to back issues of a variety of scholarly journals. UNB Libraries currently subscribes to the Arts & Sciences (I through X) collections, along with the Life Sciences and Ireland collections.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Nation archive
      "The Nation is America's oldest weekly magazine and one if its premier journals of opinion since its inception in 1865. The Nation has long been regarded as one of the country's definitive journalistic voices of writing on politics, culture, books and the arts and continues to stand as the independent voice in American journalism. This database contains indexing & abstracting and full text for the complete archive of The Nation beginning with its first issue in 1865 through to the present."
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Project Muse
      "Project MUSE covers the fields of literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, education, political science, gender studies, and many others." UNB subscribes to almost 400 eJournals, and provides access to select Open Access eBooks.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • ProQuest Historical Newspapers
      ProQuest Historical Newspapers offers full-text and full-image articles for newspapers dating back to the 19th century. As part of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers program, every issue of each title includes the complete paper, cover-to-cover, with full-page and article images in downloadable PDF. Includes The New York Times (1851-2007), The Wall Street Journal (1889-1993), and Washington Post (1877-1994).
      Unlimited simultaneous users.

    Some journals which include coverage of African-American Literature include: 

    Text Collections

    Text collections offer online access to a variety of primary source materials, including images of rare or early imprints, full-text transcriptions of letters and correspondence of major literary figures, and electronic versions of scholarly editions of literary works.

    Some key text collection for English literature are listed below. To find additional text collections, check the list of Article and Research Databases, or contact Research Help for assistance.

    Key Resources

    • Black Drama
      The Black Drama database contains the full-text of more than 1200 plays by over 200 playwrights. The plays, which were written from the mid-1800's to the present in the United States, Caribbean, and several African nations, explore many different topics including civil rights activism, interracial unity, desegregation, and apartheid. Also included are significant plays of the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts movement of the sixties and seventies.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Black Thought and Culture
      When complete, Black Thought and Culture will provide approximately 100,000 pages of non-fiction writings by leaders within the black community from the earliest times to 1975. The collection is intended for research in black studies, political science, American history, music, literature, art, and includes monographs, essays, articles, speeches, and interviews.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Literature Online
      Literature Online offers full text access to rare and inacessible works, up-to-date, reference resources, in addition to the full text of poetry, drama, and prose fiction from the seventh century to the present day. Materials are included from almost every period and genre of English literature as well as many works by 20th century authors. Contemporary criticism is available through the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL).
      Unlimited simultaneous users.
    • Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, 1490-2007 (Adam Matthew Digital)
      This digital collection documents key aspects of the history of slavery worldwide over six centuries. Topics covered include the African Coast, the Middle Passage, the varieties of slave experience, religion, revolts, abolition, and legislation. The collection also includes case studies from America, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Cuba.
      Unlimited simultaneous users.

    Citing Your Sources

    Accurate, properly formatted footnotes, reading lists, and bibliographies are hallmarks of good academic research. Through citing, you acknowledge the source of any ideas you mention in your writing, document your research, and provide the information your readers need to track down your sources.

    Numerous citation styles exist, and each specifies what elements are required (title, author, journal name, etc.) and how the citation should be formatted. The standard citation style for English Literature is MLA, but your instructor may require or recommend that you use another. Consult your course syllabus or check with your instructor to be sure of using the correct citation style for your assignment.

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