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Lost treasures and exciting finds: they aren’t just for gold mining prospectors or sunken ship divers.  Scholars also seek to discover that unknown treasure -- literary, historical, or scientific -- that could gild their academic career.  A few years ago, the literary world was electrified by news of several previously unknown Zora Neale Hurston short stories that were discovered using a ProQuest resource, Black Literature Index, available in Black Studies Center.

Hurston, one of the most prominent African American writers of the 20th century, is best known for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but she also wrote over 50 short stories, plays, and essays. It is not surprising that many valuable literary works are only being discovered now, as digitization has opened up previously inaccessible archives.

One such resource is the ground-breaking ProQuest Black Literature, 1827-1940, painstakingly compiled on microfiche in the late 1980s by prominent scholar Dr. Louis Henry Gates, Jr., and now with the Index recently digitized for mainstream access.  More than 100 historical black periodicals and newspapers reveal thousands of novels, short stories, poems and reviews.  The resource has been widely acclaimed for its ability to uncover early or little known works by some of history’s most influential authors.

“Several previously unknown Zora Neale Hurston stories have been discovered through the Black Literature 1827-1940 resource, including The Book of Harlem, The Country in the Woman, The Back Room, and Monkey Junk,” said Dr. Gates.

These Hurston stories were found by Texas Women’s University professor Dr. Genevieve West while conducting research for her book Zora Neale Hurston and American Literary Culture (2005).  “These important ‘lost’ stories that I recovered in Black Literature 1827-1940 complicate and enrich our understanding of Hurston as a short story writer during the 1920s and 1930s,” said Dr. West.

Links have been created from the Index that go directly to full-text, digital versions of articles archived in Black Studies Center and ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers. Over 27,000 full-text, literary works contained in Black Literature are now available for exploration through these online resources, and these are often the only sources for those works.

Among the luminaries recorded by Dr. Gates in his Black Literature, 1827-1940 and now discoverable online, are works by Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Waring Cuney, Edythe Mae Gordon, and hundreds of others.

What treasures will you find in these digital gold mines? Go to the ProQuest Milestones in Black Activism to find out how to gain access to online archives in Black Studies to find your own jewels.


 Thank you to Sarah Brechner, MLIS, Senior Product Manager, ProQuest, for this post. 

04 Nov 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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