After nearly 25 years of conducting African American research, I am thoroughly
convinced that newspapers hold the key to genealogical success.  They represent one of
the few sources where the daily activities of black communities, both large and small are
documented.  These communities are full of former slaves, USCT soldiers, and scores of
ordinary folks—our collective ancestors!

Among the many potential benefits of black newspaper research are:

  • finding an exact or nearly exact event date (birth, death, or marriage) of an
    ancestor, therefore enhancing the odds of a successful outcome when the
    eventual request for the vital record is made.  (Remember, some places will only
    search a short span of years in their index, and charge you whether they find the
    record or not.)

  • additional information on the event that will not be found on the vital record;
    this often includes the discovery of the names and locations of immediate family
    members, including the married names of daughters/sisters.   

  • great migration clues.  Our ancestors were constantly returning to their
    hometowns and other locations where family and friends resided; most of the
    time it was for friendly visits, but frequently it was due to notification of illness
    or death.  The social columns of many newspapers are full of this information
    and more.
African American Newspapers
Miscellaneous Black Newspaper Collection
Resource Guides for Locating Black Newspapers
The Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities have come
together to create the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).   This visionary
project will attempt to create, within twenty year timeframe, a searchable online
database of tens of thousands of historically significant newspapers spanning a period
from 1836 to 1922.

Meanwhile, the NDNP project has done an absolutely marvelous thing.  They have
taken all of the catalog information from the earlier United States Newspaper Program
and compiled a newspaper finding database of over 137,000 records.  The database is
called “Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers” and it is situated at the
website of the Library of Congress.  

Once you click on the link and enter the Search Newspaper Directory page, the search
engine allows the user to look specifically for African American papers by selecting that
option from the drop down menu.  As of the end of August, 2007, there are 1,686 black
newspapers that have been found and cataloged.  

To narrow the search you just need to select the state, county, city (if you want to be
that specific), time range and you are on your way.  This is far and away the easiest way
to search, in terms of time and effort, for the African American newspapers you need.  

To search the
Chronicling America website now, click here.
Chronicling America