Thinking about African American History Month: Making It Every Month

Image from the Library of Congress' African American History Month page

Image from the Library of Congress’ African American History Month page

Established in 1976 (as an expansion of Negro History Week, first established by Carter G. Woodson in 1925), African-American History Month has been observed for almost forty years. African-American history is, profoundly, American history: early colonial and Revolutionary-era history is deeply rooted in debates over the establishment of slavery in the new republic, none of which resulted in a definitive end to slavery. That definitive ending did not come until the end of the Civil War, almost a century after the nation’s founding. African-Americans won the right to vote shortly after the Civil War, but saw their rights and claims to citizenship sharply curtailed by other legislation and a significant loophole in the 15th Amendment, which prohibited denying the vote based on “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” but said nothing about other means of restricting the vote. Consequently, Southern states were able to use poll taxes, literacy tests, and other requirements to continue to prevent African-Americans from voting, up until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, almost a hundred years after the 15th Amendment’s ratification.

Slavery and civil rights activism are major points of entry into African-American history, but African-American history involves more than enslavement’s beginning, duration, and end, and more than the struggle for civil rights, important as those histories are. We can also ask questions about African-Americans’ contributions to American culture, to American politics, to every aspect of American history and life. We can identify African-Americans whose contributions may have gone unheralded if not made invisible (check out these Cold-War-era African-American women scientists and mathematicians…). We can ask how the ways in which history is written, how history gets “done”, have worked to downplay African-Americans’ presence and contributions, or limited their presence to a smaller number of undoubtedly important figures, who cannot be downplayed, but whose stories do not have to outweigh other, lesser-told stories.

We can also ask about what kinds of materials are held in archives and Special Collections libraries. Research libraries have emerged which focus specifically on African-American historical collections: the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, a branch of the New York Public Library, is the largest library of this type in the United States. The second-largest library dedicated to African-American historical collections is here in Atlanta: the Auburn Avenue Research Library (currently under expansion), a branch of the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library is literally just down the street from Georgia State University. Local archives here in Atlanta with significant African-American historical materials, including materials relating to African-American literary figures, include the Atlanta University Center’s Woodruff Library Archives Research Center, Emory University’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL), the Atlanta History Center, the National Archives Southeast center, and the Georgia Archives. Reference staff at these organizations can provide more information about their holdings of African-American resources.

S. Florissant Rd. Downtown Ferguson, Missouri,

S. Florissant Rd. Downtown Ferguson, Missouri. CC licensed photo from Flickr user pasa47

Events, locations, names of individuals become keywords and subject terms as time move forward and actions become part of history. Places like Selma, Little Rock, Birmingham, the state of Mississippi, become crucial locations for African-American history, but African-American lives and communities create cultural, social, economic, and political histories across the nation. Names like Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. become pivotal keywords/figures in American history. But history can and should include ordinary people who live their lives and take up challenges when they are faced with them. As of August 2014, the St. Louis, Missouri suburb Ferguson entered into the nation’s history vocabulary as a flashpoint for racially motivated police brutality and municipal injustice following white police officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a police officer utilizing an illegal chokehold, in addition to Brown’s death and the deaths of other young black men have added to the outcry which began in Ferguson. Fifty years after the Mississippi Summer Project, where young people from around the country traveled to Mississippi to establish “freedom schools” and register local African-Americans to vote, activists from around the country flocked to the predominantly African-American town of Ferguson to provide support and services.

Young people gather at Michael Brown memorial in Ferguson, August 23, 2014. CC image by Flickr user Youth Radio.

Young people gather at Michael Brown memorial in Ferguson, August 23, 2014. CC image by Flickr user Youth Radio.

The Ferguson story continues to play out, with news coming now that the Justice Department is completing a report that is critical of the Ferguson police department’s practice of disproportionately ticketing and arresting African-Americans. In November 2014, when St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that the grand jury had ruled against bringing Wilson to trial, more protests took place in St. Louis County and elsewhere. In his statement, McCulloch suggested that social media had muddied any investigation of the events of August 9 by circulating “various accounts” online; “the town,” said McCulloch, “was filled with speculation and little, if any, solid accurate information.” (For a fascinating version of McCulloch’s statement, annotated by a lawyer, click here).

Whether you agree with McCulloch or not, the internet and social media are rapidly emerging sources of primary-source material. Washington University of St. Louis and the Internet Archive are working to create archives of digital materials relating to the Ferguson protests. The New York Times published documents and evidence presented to the grand jury on the Michael Brown case in Clayton, Missouri, as released by McCulloch; more recently, the Times reported on efforts to preserve the material culture of the Ferguson community, including materials damaged in the protests following Brown’s death and McCulloch’s statement.

Photo at, "An Interview with Scott Bonner, Ferguson Librarian"

Uncredit photo, at, “An Interview with Scott Bonner, Ferguson Librarian”

Ferguson is history in progress; the immediate commentary, reporting, videos, photographs, material culture, and even, arguably, architecture (consider the damaged buildings, or the presence of the Ferguson Public Library, which provided local children a safe place to be when the Ferguson-Florissant School District closed down during the protests) will be the resources historians will study when they write about Ferguson, just as historians survey and analyze primary sources from the events and time when they write about the Nat Turner rebellion, the elections of the first African-American Congressmen during Reconstruction, or Selma.

Here at the GSU Library, we strive to collect secondary resources which will provide information and insight into the breadth and ongoing development of African-American historical scholarship and knowledge. By learning more about African-American history, about the African-Americans who made American history, we can also identify tools, questions, ways of thinking about history that will help us continue to expand our awareness of American history—all year round. In this way, every book or article about African-American history not only expands and deepens our knowledge… it also suggests questions and tools you the reader can use to ask about and learn about and wonder about other African-Americans, and to bring them into the light.

Recently acquired books on African-American history include (but are not limited to!):

Primary-source materials, like autobiographies, diaries, and other resources can also be found in our catalog; if you are looking for autobiographies, diaries, or the published papers of a particular person, search using the “Subject” search and the person’s name (last name first). Newly acquired examples include:

We also have books on African-American history and lives for children. New titles include:

More broadly, the GSU Library offers a number of important primary-source digital collections relating to African-American history. These are available to GSU affiliates:

  • History Vault: Black Freedom I and II: Primary sources related to 20th-century African American history and the Civil Rights Movement, including federal government records, organizational records, and personal papers.
  • Accessible Archives: Includes several collections relevant to African-American history, including
    • “We Were Prepared for the Possibility of Death:” Freedom Riders in the South, 1961
    • African America, Communists, and the National Negro Congress, 1933-1947
    • FBI Surveillance and James Forman and SNCC
    • and others!
  • Black Thought and Culture: Electronic collection focused on the historical development of black culture, containing approximately 100,000 pages of non-fiction writings by major American black leaders (teachers, artists, politicians, religious leaders, athletes, war veterans, entertainers, and other figures) covering 250 years of history.
  • African-American Newspapers: Selection of African-American newspapers published during the 19th century.
  • Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003) and Chicago Defender (1910-1975): Historical African-American newspapers.
  • Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice: Includes thousands of manuscripts, pamphlets, books, paintings, maps, and images from 1490 to 2007.

And some examples of freely available websites including African-American history primary sources:

Keep celebrating!

Updated to add: Atlanta University Center’s Archives Research Center has been added to the list of local archives with African-American materials; Unknown No Longer has been added to the list of freely available digital primary source sites.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Posted in African American Studies, Books, Databases, For Faculty, For Graduate Students, For Students, History, Primary Resources | Leave a comment

RESCHEDULED: Qualitative Research Workshop in CURVE

The Logics and Logistics of Qualitative Research: A Framework for Exploring Concepts, Dimensions, and Relationships in Qualitative Data using NVivo Research Software

Dr. Ralph LaRossa and Dr. Mandy Swygart-HobaughWorkshop Leaders: Dr. Ralph LaRossa and Dr. Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh

When: Wednesday, March 11, 11:00am-12:30pm – REGISTER HERE

Where: CURVE (Collaborative University Research & Visualization Environment), Library South 2nd Floor

In this workshop, Dr. Ralph LaRossa, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, and Dr. Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh, Librarian Associate Professor for Sociology, Gerontology, & Data Services, will present both the theoretical-methodological “logics” and the applied-methodological “logistics” of conducting qualitative data analysis (i.e., non-statistical analysis of textual, audio, visual, and/or audiovisual sources).  Dr. LaRossa will discuss the steps involved in building theoretically-rich qualitative analyses.   Dr. Swygart-Hobaugh will outline the specific features of NVivo qualitative research software that complement and facilitate these analyses.   There also will be opportunities for questions and discussion.

This workshop will be especially helpful for faculty and graduate students who are immersed – or about to be immersed – in a qualitative project and would like an overview on how to do qualitative analysis and how to use NVivo in the process.  Those interested in publishing qualitative work and/or applying for grants based on qualitative work will also find it helpful.

Questions?  Email Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh at

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Posted in For Faculty, For Graduate Students, For Students, Instruction, Services, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fair Use in the Visual Arts: Finally, Some Guidelines!

Fair Use Week

Fair Use Week

It seems like when artists make headlines these days, it’s not because of a record-setting sale price or a dazzling new show, but instead it’s frequently because an artist is facing allegations of copyright infringement. Just last week, for example, the artist Richard Price found himself in legal trouble yet again for repurposing photographer Donald Graham’s image of a Rastafarian without attribution or permission. Shepard Fairey and Jeff Koons are two more artists who have made headlines due to legal battles involving reuse of other artists’ work.

Appropriation in art–the reuse, sampling, and/or remixing of existing works made by others–has been around since early people drew on cave walls… But it’s been a vexatious problem for artists equally as long. When is it OK to appropriate? How much is it OK to borrow? When do I need to seek permission?

Finally, there are some guidelines. The College Art Association (CAA) recently came out with a document to help guide artists and art historians through these complex issues. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts “provides members of a community with a clear framework in which to apply fair use with confidence, knowing the shared norms of their field.”

The Code covers various issues involving Fair Use in the arts, such as:

  • Analytic Writing;
  • Teaching about Art;
  • Making Art;
  • Museum Uses; and
  • Online Access to Archival and Special Collections

If the CAA’s document doesn’t answer all your questions, or if you’d like to know more about artists who use (or mis-use) appropriation, we recommend the following:

  • Appropriation (part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s Documents of Contemporary Art series)
    Call number: N6494.A66 A67 2009 | Location: Library North 4
  • Mashup Cultures
    Call number: TK5105.88817 .M37 2010 | Location: Library North 3
  • Encounters: New Art from Old
    Call number: NX456.5.A66 M68 2000 | Location: Library North 4

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Posted in Art & Design, For Faculty, For Graduate Students, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Upcoming Workshop: “Teaching with Archival Sources”

Morna Gerrard, GSU’s Women and Gender Collections Archivist, and Jill Anderson, History/African-American Studies/Women’s Studies Librarian, will be offering a workshop for faculty and graduate students on “Teaching with Archival Sources” from 2-3:30pm on Wednesday, March 11 in the Colloquium Room, Library South 8.

In this hands-on workshop for faculty and graduate students we will demonstrate an in-class exercise to show how archival sources (including finding aids as well as primary materials) can be utilized for a range of cross-disciplinary learning outcomes. The exercise will be based on materials from the GSU Special Collections and Archives’ reproductive rights collections, with an emphasis on attention to the language used in the items. We hope to demonstrate the value and usefulness of Special Collections resources to a wider range of departments. We invite you to attend as our “students”!

Information about this workshop is available at the Spring 2015 Workshops research guide, which also includes a link for registration via EventBrite (click here for direct link). Advance registration is requested if possible.

Please direct questions about this event to Jill Anderson or Morna Gerrard.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Posted in Communication, English, For Faculty, For Graduate Students, History, Instruction, Primary Resources, Women's Studies | Leave a comment

Reminder of workshop next week: What is your impact?

Going up for promotion and/or tenure within the next year, or want to get a headstart?   Need to identify researchers or journals by discipline?  Want to find out more about altmetrics?   In this workshop for Georgia State faculty and graduate students, Brenna Helmstutler will demo and discuss metric-based logotools from library databases and other applications that will address these questions, and more.  Click here to register.

Date/Time/Location: Thursday, March 5, 2015 from 3:00-4:00 in Classroom 2, Library North 2nd floor.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Zotero workshop March 5

The library is offering a workshop on the bibliography software Zotero on Thursday, March 5. Zotero is a program that makes it easy to save citations and automatically create bibliographies in Word.

It’s easy to use and free. For more information about Zotero, see our Zotero guide or the Zotero home page.

Thursday, March 5, 2015Classroom 1 (next to Saxby’s coffee shop), Library North, 1-2pm.

Feel free to bring your own laptop (system requirements: Firefox, Chrome or Safari web browser, any operating system) or use our classroom computers.

Registration encouraged but walk-ins welcome. Email Jason Puckett at


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Codes of Best Practice for Fair Use

Fair Use Week

Fair Use Week

Fair use is a part of the U. S. copyright law that helps us build on the culture and the knowledge that has come before us. Fair use sets conditions that allow us to make use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder. We use fair use in news, criticism, scholarly writings, teaching, film making, art, poetry, music and more. We use it every day, and much of what we do cannot be done without it.

However, a considerable amount of uncertainty exists over the application of fair use. The Fair Use Fact Sheet from the U.S. Copyright office states, “The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.” This may be true , but if we end the conversation there, we are missing the spirit of what fair use is designed to do.  Fair use is meant to be part of our laws that help “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts“.  Yet, when someone decides not to create or use a work because of uncertainties about how fair use applies, then creativity is potentially stifled or self-censored rather than promoted.

Recognizing that additional conversation was needed about best practices for applying fair use within a given field or discipline, The Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) initiated conversations between legal experts and professionals within specific fields, to uncover a shared understanding of professional practices around fair use within a community. Exposing this understanding via Codes of Best Practice documents provides each community with a clear set of practices for the community itself, insurers and funders, and courts to consider when making fair use decisions.   Links to some of the Best Practices documents are listed below:

The fair use section of the CMSI website provides a wealth of resources including links to best practices, FAQs, blog posts and featured topics.  For more information about fair use, check out the following resources:

Abdenour, J. (2014). Documenting fair use: Has the Statement of Best Practices loosened the fair use reins for documentary filmmakers?. Communication Law & Policy, 19(3), 367. doi:10.1080/10811680.2014.919813

Aufderheide, P., & Jaszi, P. (2011). Reclaiming fair use : how to put balance back in copyright. Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, c2011.

Falzone, Anthony and Jennifer Urban. Demystifying fair use: The Gift of the Center for Social Media Statements of Best Practices, 57J.Copyright Soc’y U.S.A.337 (2009), Available at:

Jogan, J. (2012). Fair Use in an Evolving Copyright Environment. Computer & Internet Lawyer, 29(11), 22-34.

Olson, K. K. (2014). The Future of Fair Use. Communication Law & Policy, 19(4), 417. doi:10.1080/10811680.2014.955765

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Posted in General News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Weather Update

snowflakeGeorgia State University Library will open at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26.

Students, faculty, and staff should use caution as they proceed to campus.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Posted in General News | Leave a comment

Guide to Using Copyrighted Materials in Instruction

Fair Use Week

Fair Use Week

Copyright and fair use come into play frequently in higher education. Fair use in the area of teaching, is one of the specified uses which may be fair that are listed in the preamble to the four factors. Congress also recognized the importance of teaching in additional sections of the copyright law, including face-to-face and distance education.

To help you navigate the use of copyrighted materials in instruction, the University Library and Office of Legal Affairs created a Guide to Using Copyrighted Materials in Instruction for use by the Georgia State University community. The guide covers copyright in general, exclusive rights of copyright holders, exceptions to those exclusive rights, and permission and licensing for when there is no exception.

Feedback on the guide is welcome, and we hope you find it useful!

Other related resources:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Posted in For Faculty, For Graduate Students, Instruction, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Winter Weather Update

snowflakeThe University Library will close at 12:00 midnight tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 24). Night classes will be held as usual.

Because of forecasts of severe weather for tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 25), Georgia State University and the University Library will be closed.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Posted in General News | Leave a comment