13 November 2020 Blogs, Academic, Community College, K-12, Public

An Open Resource for the Study of Black History in the U.S.

Introducing the Black Freedom Struggle website, a selection of primary source documents for teaching and learning about the pursuit of civil rights

By Courtney Suciu

At ProQuest, we believe knowledge and trusted information lead to progress and change.

That’s why in June, amid international protests against racial injustice, ProQuest announced its commitment to a program that would provide a selection of resources related to civil rights that would be openly available and free of charge to the community.

The result of that promise is the Black Freedom Struggle website.

Spanning 2,000 primary source documents related to African American history, from the movement to abolish slavery to the contemporary era, this collection is openly available to anyone interested in U.S. Black history, and the ways the past is reflected in current events. Visitors to the website will discover unique documents such as historical newspaper articles, pamphlets, and correspondence from six time periods in American history:

    • Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860)
    • The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877)
    • Jim Crow Era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932)
    • The New Deal and World War II (1933-1945)
    • The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975)
    • The Contemporary Era (1976-2000s)

In the classroom and for the public

Developed with input from Black history scholars and advisors, the intention of this collection is to support a wide range of students, from middle and high school to college, as well as independent researchers and anyone interested in learning more about the on-going Black Freedom Struggle. The website provides a selection of reliable, easily discoverable materials that can be used for homework assignments, personal inquiry, research papers and National History Day type-projects focused on African American history in the U.S.

Educators can use this primary source material in the classroom for teaching a specific topic or person, such as Frederick Douglass or the Abolitionist Movement. The material may also be used by teachers to introduce students to using primary sources and help beginning researchers develop essential critical thinking and information literary skills.

Teaching resources can be found in the About section of the website to support instructors with suggestions for how to use content in the classroom. Sample homework assignments and an explanation of primary sources can be found in this section as well, to help students understand how to effectively use this content in their work.

What people are saying

Faculty and librarians are responding with excitement to this website and telling us about the ways it will support their students and patrons. Here is a sample of what we’ve heard:

“Primary sources are essential to teaching and learning African American history because they make it possible to center the experiences and perspectives of African Americans. ProQuest’s Black Freedom Struggle website provides a rich array of source material on African American efforts to secure civil and human rights – from slavery to the present – allowing students to pursue exciting avenues of inquiry and enabling teachers to teach African American history accurately and effectively. It’s an incredible collection, one I’m eager to use in classroom instruction and for students to mine for research projects.”
- Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Associate Professor of History at the Ohio State University.

“I’ve been helping students with their National History Day projects for many years. Many students choose projects centered around the topics of slavery, civil rights, Black history, and African American men and women who have shaped the nation. One of the biggest hurdles in helping middle and high school students is helping them find quality primary sources for their projects. Having a website that makes it easy to find these sources in the specific time periods they’re studying will make helping them with their projects a lot more efficient.”
- Nina Thomas, Manager, History Center & Museum at the Westerville Public Library in Ohio

Share your ideas for how to use the Black Freedom Struggle website in research, teaching and learning. Let us know @ProQuest on Twitter.