University Archives and Manuscripts provide vibrant sources with which to conduct research and engage classes using original sources.
Contact Special Collections via the Question Form to help you get started using our collections and staff expertise.
Review the Guide to Research for general topics.
University Archives is the official home for the University's valuable historical documents, collections, photographs, and publications. The Archives also holds professional and personal papers of some faculty and alumni. The Archives supports the information needs of the entire University community and is open to the public, including scholarly researchers and genealogists. If you want to research facts, people, or places connected to the University, the Archives is the place to start.
Manuscripts maintains a diverse collection of personal papers and organizational records. The Manuscripts collections are best known for American history and literary materials but those subjects only skim the surface so be sure to search Collections A-Z for a list of collections by subject. If you want to research people and places not necessarily related to the University, Manuscripts may have material of interest to you.
Zenas R. Bliss Papers, 1952-1966 (OF-1CA-B2)
Jessica Brooks papers on the Tougaloo-Brown Exchange, 1993-1994 (MS-1ZUT-1)
"Freedom Now!" archival research project
Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice
In 2003, President Ruth Simmons appointed a Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. The committee, which included faculty members, undergraduate and graduate students, and administrators, was charged to investigate and prepare a report about the University’s historical relationship to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The Committee presented its final report to President Simmons in October 2006. On February 24, 2007, the Brown Corporation endorsed a set of initiatives in response to the Committee’s report. The report is designed to foster discussion of this subject in ways that prepare students and others to engage in and promote the meaningful exchange of ideas.
Rhode Island College miscellaneous papers, 1763-1804, MS-1E-1 (See finding aid for digital surrogates) The list of supplies and expenses (The College to Nicholas Brown & Co., Dr.: 1770 – 1771) used to build the College Edifice (University Hall) documents the work of enslaved people and Native Americans. Page 5 of the document (scanned page 7) highlights the information.
Brown University Library staff often re-use language provided by creators or former owners of collections because it provides important context about the materials or is the official title of an item. To locate all materials of interest, you may need to search for historical terminology, which is offensive today, but was used in the past to describe people of color. Examples of terms to use as keywords: African-American; African American; Afro-American; black; Negro, third world.
In the Brown University Christian Association records, the term “Negro” locates files from the 1950s titled:
Negro Scholarship Service; United Negro College Fund; Negro students.
In the William Gerald McLoughlin papers, the term "third world" locates files from the 1970s about the Third World Center, the former name of the Brown Center for Students of Color.
Brown University Library is dedicated to describing materials related to marginalized groups accurately, respectfully, and in a way that will not be harmful or offensive. Many of our finding aids (descriptions and inventories of collections) and library catalog records, were created years or decades ago and may include harmful language. Library staff are actively engaged in an ongoing effort to revise and update the descriptive language in the hundreds of finding aids and thousands of library catalog records. If you encounter language in finding aids, catalog records, digitized collections, blog posts, exhibitions, or elsewhere that you find offensive or harmful, or if you have questions about our work, we welcome your feedback. Please email us at email@example.com or call the John Hay Library at 401-863-6414.