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African American History at Brown University

Archival sources pertaining to African-American history at Brown University.

Welcome to University Archives and Manuscripts

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 Archives ResourcesFinding Aids, and Plan a Visit.

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University Archives is the official home for the University's valuable historical documents, collections, photographs, and publications.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.

See the University Archives website for additional information.  Contact us via the Question Form for assistance.

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.

See the Manuscripts website for additional information.  Contact us via the Question Form for assistance.

Archival Collections of Departments and Organizations

University Records



Brown University Christian Association records, 1881-1969 (OF-1Q-C1)*

Archival Collections of Alumni and Faculty



Brown University-Tougaloo College Partnership

University Records

Brown-Tougaloo Exchange records, 1961-1989 (bulk 1963-1969) (OF-1ZU-2) (library catalog record) (finding aid)


Barnaby Conrad Keeney papers, 1936-1980 (bulk 1940s-1966) (OF-1C-12)

Howard Swearer papers, 1976-1990 (bulk 1977-1978) (OF-1C-15)


Zenas R. Bliss Papers, 1952-1966 (OF-1CA-B2)

Richard Ramsden papers, 1967-1984 (bulk 1977-1982) (OF-1CA-R1)

Merton P. Stoltz files as Provost of Brown University, 1959-1975 (OF-1CA-S2)


M. Charles Bakst papers, 1927-2009 (bulk 1962-2008) (MS-1U-B6) (library catalog record) (finding aid)

Jessica Brooks papers on the Tougaloo-Brown Exchange, 1993-1994 (MS-1ZUT-1) (library catalog record) (finding aid)

Robert F. Cohen, Jr., papers, 1952-1984 (bulk 1966-1972) (MS-1U-C8) (library catalog record) (finding aid)

Janet Shaffer papers on the Brown University-Tougaloo College Partnership, 1966, 1986-1987, 2006, (1986-1987) (AMS.1ZUT.2) (library catalog record) (finding aid)


"Freedom Now!" archival research project

Slavery and Justice

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.


  • The African Sun was a monthly black cultural publication of the Organization of United African People (now the Black Student Union).   The University Archives has volumes from 1991 to 2010.
  • B.O.P. (Blacks on Paper) was a literary magazine published by black students from 1972 to 1975.  The magazine expressed students’ individual experiences and visions and encompassed “a whole spectrum of black thought”.  Editors included Rodney Dennis, Kambon Obayani, and Gayl Jones. The University Archives has volumes from 1974 and 1975.
  • Uwezo, the official publication of the Organization of United African People (now Black Student Union), took its title from the Swahili word for “unity and strength."  The University Archives has volumes from 1970 to 1993.


Inman Page (Class of 1877)

George Washington Milford (Class of 1877)

Additional Subject Guides


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 or call the John Hay Library at 401-863-6414.