Black Thought and Culture | Alexander Street

Black Thought and Culture

Black Thought and Culture is a landmark electronic collection of 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. In addition to the most familiar works, Black Thought and Culture presents a great deal of previously inaccessible material, including letters, speeches, prefatory essays, political leaflets, interviews, periodicals, and trial transcripts. The ideas of over 1,000 authors present an evolving and complex view of what it is to be black in America.


The collection includes the words of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, Alain Locke, Paul Robeson, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ida B. Wells, Nikki Giovanni, Mary McLeod Bethune, Carl Rowan, Roy Wilkens, James Weldon Johnson, Audre Lorde, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Constance Baker Motley, Walter F. White, Amiri Baraka, Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, Bobby Seale, Gwendolyn Brooks, Huey P. Newton, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Randall Kennedy, Cornel West, Nelson George, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Bayard Rustin, and hundreds of other notable people.

Approximately 20 percent of the items are previously unpublished and fugitive, such as:

  • The transcript of the Muhammad Ali trial
  • A full run of The Black Panther newspaper, with full-color images of every page as well as searchable text
  • 2,500 pages of exclusive Black Panther oral histories owned by the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation
  • Selected audio files, heard here for the first time

Available here electronically for the first time is the full run of Artist and Influence, originally published by the Hatch-Billops Collection. The journal includes 5,000 pages of rare interviews, oral histories, photos, original art, poetry, and other firsthand perspectives tracking African American cultural trends in the 20th century. Major contributors include Dizzy Gillespie, Amiri Baraka, Arnold Rampersand, Errol Hill, George C. Wolfe, Frederick O'Neill, Julie Dash, Shauneille Perry, James De Jongh, Eleanor Traylor, Owen Dodson, Anne Cooke Reid, Langston Hughes, Toni Cade Bambara, St. Clair Bourne, Butterfly McQueen, Abram Hill, Romare Bearden, Gertrude Jeanette, Richard Wesley, Earle Hyman, Woodie King, Jr., Thulani Davis, J.E. Franklin, Vinie Burrows, Stanley Crouch, Ron Milner, William L. Patterson, Wesley Brown, Arthur French, Charles Mingus, and Larry Neal. Many of the interviews took place when these figures were nearing the ends of their lives, capturing a historical record that would otherwise be lost.

How Will You Use It?

Black Thought and Culture creates unprecedented possibilities for the study of the historical development of black culture. Researchers can examine the ideas of one individual over time or compare the thinking of various figures on a given topic. It’s now possible, for example, to cross-search items from the personal journals of W.E.B. Du Bois together with more commonly known materials such as The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, or to look at previously unpublished material by Paul Robeson alongside published works such as Here I Stand.

Search tools include a Table of Contents of Historical Events, making the database a must-have for research in black history and history generally, and also a Table of Contents of Questions, showing how various individuals responded in interviews about the same topics. 

Extensive subject indexing, with controlled vocabularies developed specifically for this project, give quick access to topics including:

  • Colonialism
  • The Black Liberation movement
  • Socialism
  • The Scottsboro and Herndon trials
  • Marxism
  • Black nationalism
  • Democracy
  • Miscegenation
  • The Labor Movement
  • Civil Rights
  • Segregation
  • Apartheid
  • The Black Panther Party
  • Education
  • The NAACP
  • Birth control
  • Jim Crow laws
  • Urban ghettoes in relation to the rural South
  • The New Deal
  • Strategies of protest and demonstration

Publication Details

Black Thought and Culture is available on the Web, either through one-time purchase of perpetual rights or through annual subscription.


Outstanding Academic Title" 2004 Award Winner