Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Preserving the Legacy of the Black Experience
Howard University
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University Libraries
Howard University
Collections

Library Division

The Library Division houses the Center’s secondary sources and is responsible for collecting and preserving published and printed materials, including the Center’s books, newspapers, serials, and non-Howard theses and dissertations.

The Library Division is rich in the works of African American and African scholars, statesmen, poets, novelists, entertainers, educators and historians. Among the Division’s holdings are many rare works, dating from the 16th century, by such notables as Juan Latino, Jacobus Capitein, Gustavus Vassa, Phillis Wheatley, Jupiter Hammon, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Delaney.

The collections are particularly strong in first editions and first works by early 20th century contemporary writers, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Nicolas Guillen, Wole Soyinka, James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, Toni Morrison, and Amiri Baraka.

Manuscript Division

The Manuscript Division brings together the manuscript collections, oral histories, photographs, and sheet music and sound recordings, to provide an in-depth view of Black history, politics, literature and culture, as only primary source materials can. Included among our resources are more than 200 fully processed manuscripts collections, and an additional 300 collections with inventories; over 700 oral histories, more than 150,000 photographs and other images, and 3,000 pieces of sheet music.  The manuscript collections include the personal papers of such notables as Alain Locke, E. Franklin Frazier, Lois Mailou Jones, Charles Drew, Anna J. Cooper, Frederick Douglass, and Paul and Eslanda Robeson; and the records of fraternal, social and professional organizations such as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Shriners and Daughters of Isis; the National Technical Association, the Association of Black Sociologists, and the National Medical Association.  The individual manuscripts collection (Omnium gatherum), consisting of nearly 1000 items, is a generally untapped source of ephemera, documenting slavery and freedom, as well as social, cultural and political events in the U.S. from the 18th century to the present. Scholars from across the nation and around the world come to research a past worth sharing.

Essential to the study and documentation of the civil rights era is the Ralph J. Bunche Oral History Collection, which comprises over 700 transcripts of interviews with national, state and local civil rights activists, who helped shape that pivotal period in U.S. history.  Other collections focus on women, Howard University, the Black Press, and Blacks in the Military during World War II.

The prints and photographs collection makes available for research, publication and exhibition over 150,000 graphic images, including photographs, broadsides, prints and maps.  These works date from the 1800s and feature daguerreotypes, tintypes, stereograph cards and glass plate negatives.  In addition to photographs of individuals and groups, there are several special photographic collections:  the Mary O’H. Williamson Collection of Colored Celebrities Here and There, 1947-1959; the Rose McClendon Memorial Collection of Photographs of Celebrated Negroes by Carl Van Vechten, 1932-1965; the Griffith Davis Collection of Photographs of Liberia, 1948-1952; the Thelma Greene Theater Collection and the Harry Bowman Vaudeville Collection.

The sheet music collection includes voice and instrumental compositions and arrangements, reflecting Black participation in and contribution to the development of classical, folk, jazz, spirituals and popular music.  The collection represents the works of more than 400 composers dating from the 1850s to the 1940s.

Research is by appointment only. Seating is limited. Many of our collections are stored off-site, and advance notice is required to retrieve them for use by researchers. See hours and contact information.

HU Archives

The Howard University Archives serves as a secure repository for the official records of the University, including the administrative files of schools, colleges and departments, University publications, Howard theses and dissertations, as well as materials illustrating the contributions of Howard alumni to the local, national and international communities. The Archives provides information on the history of Howard University and its important personages and acquires and preserves University artifacts and memorabilia.

Collections maintained by the Howard University Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Howard University Board of Trustees,1867 to the present
  • The Howardiana Collection which consists of university publications such as annual reports, university catalogs, and student publications dating from 1867 to the present
  • Theses and dissertations from The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences dating from 1918 to the present
  • The Howardiana Vertical Files which consist of alphabetical files containing news articles, programs and other material documenting the activities of the various schools, colleges, departments, organizations and personnel of the university dating from the early 1900s to the present
  • The Howardiana Biographical Files which provide information about distinguished faculty, alumni and staff of the university
  • The Howard University Archives Photographs and Audiovisual Collection which consists of images, audiotapes, and audiovisual tapes that document the university's physical development, activities, organizations, visiting dignitaries, administrators, faculty, staff, students and sports.

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