Exploring Influential Black Newspapers

The University Libraries holds a rich collection of primary source resources to study the African American and Black experience in the United States and the Americas. In celebration of Black and African Heritage Month, the Libraries has launched a new series highlighting various resources from our collections.

The ProQuest Historical Newspapers (PQHN) collection provides genealogists, researchers, and scholars with first-hand accounts and coverage of the politics, society and events of the time. The PQHN database offers full-text access to 25 historical newspapers, including a number of influential Black and African American newspapers.

New York Amsterdam News: One of the nation’s leading black newspapers and one of New York’s most influential black-owned institutions. For nearly a century, it has helped influence and promote the causes and aspirations of African-Americans. Contributors have included W. E. B. Du Bois, Roy Wilkins, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and Malcolm X. The New York Amsterdam News captured the vibrancy and cultural richness of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, advocated for the desegregation of the U.S. military during World War II, and fought against discriminatory employment practices and other civil rights abuses in the 1960s. Coverage from 1922-1993.

Cleveland Call and Post: One of the most influential African American newspapers throughout Ohio. It provides primary source documentation on Black history, politics, culture, and the arts. Coverage from 1934–1991.

Los Angeles Sentinel: African American owned and operated newspaper that puts emphasis on issues concerning the African American community and its readers. Coverage from 1934–2005.

Philadelphia Tribune: The oldest continuously published black newspaper, is dedicated to the needs and concerns of the fourth largest black community in the U.S. During the 1930s the paper supported the growth of the United Way, rallied against the riots in Chester, PA, and continuously fought against segregation. Coverage from 1912-2001.

Explore these and more here.

A look at the Black Thought & Culture and Black Drama databases at the Libraries

The University Libraries holds a rich collection of primary source resources to study the African American and Black experience in the United States and the Americas. In celebration of Black and African Heritage Month, the Libraries has launched a new series highlighting various resources from our collections.

Black Thought & 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 (from the 19th and 20th centuries to 1975). The collection provides access to full-text documents of primary source materials. In addition to 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.

One example from the database is Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. In the introduction, Nancy Bereano writes, “Audre Lorde’s writing is an impulse toward wholeness. What she says and how she says it engages us both emotionally and intellectually. She writes from the particulars of who she is: Black woman, lesbian, feminist, mother of two children, daughter of Grenadian immigrants, educator, cancer survivor, activist. She creates material from the dailiness of her life that we can use to help shape ours. Out of her desire for wholeness, her need to encompass and address all the parts of herself, she teaches us about the significance of difference — ‘that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.'”

Black Drama: Third Edition

Black Drama, now in its expanded third edition, contains the full text of more than 1,700 plays written from the mid-1800s to the present by more than 200 playwrights from North America, English-speaking Africa, the Caribbean, and other African diaspora countries. Many of the works are rare, hard to find, or out of print. More than 40 percent of the collection consists of previously unpublished plays by writers such as Langston Hughes, Ed Bullins, Willis Richardson, Amiri Baraka, Randolph Edmonds, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others.

One example from a contemporary playwright is The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza. From the introduction: “The Ballad of Emmett Till is an ensemble play for six actors, exploring the final days in the life of Emmett Till, a Chicago teenager who takes a fateful trip to Mississippi in the summer of 1955. Till’s murder and his mother’s subsequent decision to have an open-casket funeral are believed by many to mark the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement. The Ballad is a contemporary telling of Emmett’s story, a jazz integration of past and present, the events as seen from the perspective of the youth himself. It is the story of a quest, Emmett’s pursuit of happiness, of liberty and ultimately of life.”

Throughout the month of February, Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment, along with other campus departments, is celebrating Black and African Heritage Month with a number of events. Learn more here.

Exploring the NAACP records at the Libraries

The University Libraries holds a rich collection of primary source resources to study the African American and Black experience in the United States and the Americas. In celebration of Black and African Heritage Month, the Libraries and the Center for Mason Legacies are launching a new series highlighting various resources, beginning with a look at the NAACP records by George Oberle, History Librarian and Director of the Center for Mason Legacies.

There are several parts to the NAACP records including the “Special Subjects” group which cover subjects and episodes that are crucial to the NAACP’s history, such as civil rights complaints and legislation, the Klan, Birth of a Nation, the Walter White-W. E. B. Du Bois controversy of 1933-1934, communism and anticommunism during the years of the “red scare,” the congressional prosecution of Hollywood personalities, the prosecution of conscientious objectors during World War II, NAACP’s relations with African colonial liberation movements, NAACP fundraising and membership recruitment, urban riots, the War on Poverty, and the emergence of the Black Power Movement.

Among this broad array of subjects, the collection has excellent coverage of topics such as the depiction of African Americans in film. Below is an example from a series of letters regarding Walt Disney’s “Song of the South.”

The Libraries also holds other significant parts of this important collection where explorations on education, housing, voting rights and other critical events throughout the 20th century can be explored. Evidence of complaints against police violence, lawsuits to promote equal pay for Black teachers and evidence of the resistance to racist practices abound in these collections.

Researchers from the Center for Mason Legacies (CML) recently uncovered a story (see document below) about a man named Willie Coles, involved in a legal case in Fairfax in 1953. CML researchers are continuing to search for more details about this man’s story, which will be added to the Black Lives Next Door site, their examination of our regional history.

To explore the NAACP papers, see:

ProQuest History Vault: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns- Education, Voting, Housing, Employment, Armed Forces

Major campaigns for equal access to education, voting, employment, housing and the military are covered in this resource. The education files in this module document the NAACP’s systematic assault on segregated education that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Files from 1955 –1965 focus on the NAACP’s efforts to implement the Brown decision as well as to combat de facto segregation outside of the South.

Proquest History Vault: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns – Scottsboro, Anti-Lynching, Criminal Justice, Peonage, Labor and Segregation and Discrimination Complaints and Responses

This NAACP module focuses on the NAACP’s efforts regarding anti-lynching, peonage, and discrimination in employment and the criminal justice system. A rich set of records in this module is the NAACP file on one of the most celebrated criminal trials of the 20th century – the case of the Scottsboro boys, who escaped execution in the landmark Supreme Court case of Powell v. Alabama.

Proquest History Vault: NAACP Papers: Board of Directors, Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and National Staff Files

Digital access to the NAACP archive including internal memos, legal briefings, and direct action summaries from national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country. It provides a comprehensive view of the NAACP’s evolution, policies, and achievements from 1909–1970.

ProQuest History Vault: The Black Freedom Struggle of the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 2

Contains records of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Africa-related papers of Claude Barnett, and the Robert F. Williams Papers. SNCC, formed by student activists in 1960 after the explosion of the sit-in movement, was one of the three most important civil rights organizations of the 1960s, alongside SCLC and the NAACP. With the addition of SNCC records, History Vault now includes SNCC, SCLC, and NAACP records.

Throughout the month of February, Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment, along with other campus departments, is celebrating Black and African Heritage Month with a number of events. Learn more here.

2022 updates on Libraries’ collections & subscriptions

With the start of a new calendar year, some of the Libraries’ journal, database, and streaming media subscriptions have changed.

Elsevier Updates

The Virginia Research Libraries have finalized their 2022 Elsevier contract with little change from 2021 (visit our Elsevier page for more information). Mason continues to subscribe to 222 Elsevier journals, with a small change to the title list. These changes included adding journals that had very high interlibrary loan requests in 2021, and removing journals with a cost per use exceeding $25 (the cost of purchasing an article through our fastest ILL system).

New Additions to Libraries’ Research Databases

China Art Digital Library (CADT): Provides an expansive collection of works from Chinese fine arts, including paintings, calligraphy/seal cutting, sculpture, photography, and folk art. Offered via the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) platform, China Art Digital Library comprises art images from a growing collection of albums, museum and exhibition catalogs

Future Medicine Collection journals:  Our subscription to Pharmacogenomics & Personalized Medicine will now include access to the entire Future Medicine Collection. The 13 additional titles are:

  • Biomarkers in Medicine
  • Epigenomics
  • Future Cardiology
  • Future Microbiology
  • Future Oncology
  • Future Virology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Nanomedicine
  • Neurodegenerative Disease Management
  • Pain Management
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine

Play Index: This online database indexes classic and historical plays, along with the works of contemporary playwrights dating from 1949 to present. It covers new editions and translations, and includes descriptive annotations to summarize the plot and indicate musical requirements.

TCG Books Play Collection: The TCG Books Play Collection will offer 200 plays from TCG Books, the largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature in North America. TCG Books’ backlist consists of diverse voices in contemporary American theatre, including 18 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The collection is exclusive to Drama Online and has launched with 110 titles. It will complete with a further 90 in Fall 2022.

Streaming Media Updates

Bates Physical Examinations Videos: This online resource provides “head to toe” and systems-based physical examination techniques. Streaming videos cover adult, infant, child, and older adult patients. Each video may be viewed as a full volume, or chapter-by-chapter. Includes access to the OSCE module designed to help students prepare for Objective Structured Clinical Examination.

The one-year subscription to Academic Video Online (AVON) – granted through one-time CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds allocated to VIVA in 2021 – has been renewed by VIVA for 2022 and is now part of their core collection for member libraries (including Mason).

The one-year access to SAGE Counseling & Psychotherapy, Criminology & Criminal Justice, and Nursing Video Collections in 2021 – granted through one-time CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds allocated to VIVA has concluded.

Reminder about agreements that cover article publishing costs (APCs) for Mason Researchers

As previously announced, Mason researchers now have two additional avenues for no-fee OA article publishing, through VIVA’s read and publish agreements with Wiley and Rockefeller University Press:

  • VIVA Rockefeller University Press agreement covers APCs for the Journal of Cell Biology, Journal of Experimental Medicine, and Journal of General Physiology.
  • VIVA Wiley journal package, or big deal, once again includes funds to cover APCs in both gold and hybrid OA journals. As the fund is limited, VIVA asks that authors with grant funding for OA publishing do not use this fund, to make VIVA’s funding go further and help authors without grant funding. (This OA provision was discontinued briefly to achieve cost savings, while keeping Wiley journal access, during the pandemic.)

An Update on Elsevier Journal Article Access

Looking back at 2021 & looking forward to 2022 

In January 2021, the University Libraries withdrew from Elsevier’s large journal bundle (the Freedom Collection) and subscribed to a selection of 222 Elsevier journals highly used by our Mason scholarly community. Mason did not act alone in this decision to withdraw from the large journal bundle; we worked with a group of Virginia research libraries (VRL) to meet our collective goals of affordability, accessibility, and equity. To read more about this initial process, please visit our Elsevier page.  

In preparing for such a substantial change to our journal collections, we assessed many options and made plans to use a variety of systems to continue providing access to Elsevier articles in journals we no longer subscribe to. We refer to those systems as Alternative Access. As the VRL group negotiates a new contract for 2022, we wanted to share with our community how our alternative access systems have been working so far and how we are continuing to provide access to necessary resources for Mason researchers. 

How does Alternative Access work? 

If we do not have subscription access to an article – from Elsevier or any other publisher – the Libraries still provides access through other channels. Some of those channels provide instant access, just like a subscription would; others involve a delay of a few hours to two business days.  

Instant access: In January 2021, we implemented a software tool called LibKey to help researchers get to open access articles in a single click. LibKey also provides one-click access to pre-2021 articles that we owned (journal backfiles), as well as our active journal subscriptions. From January to October Mason researchers accessed almost 120,000 articles via LibKey’s one-click shortcuts (this number includes all publishers). Since the implementation of LibKey, we have seen fewer Interlibrary Loan (ILL) requests for articles we already have in our collections. With this data, we believe LibKey is helping our patrons reach articles they might not have located otherwise. 

Delayed access: If instant access to an article is not available, researchers can place an interlibrary loan (ILL) request to receive a PDF of the article with a short delay. In anticipation of increased ILL requests, the Libraries joined a new ILL system with faster turnaround times on article requests. We also implemented more Purchase on Demand options, to further expedite article requests. 

Increased ILL requests and reduced ILL turnaround time 

Thanks to these new systems, even as our ILL department faced increased volume of article requests and reduced staffing levels, the turnaround time on article requests has fallen and our spending on ILL has remained low. Average turnaround time for all ILL article requests stands at 2.5 days, and for our RapidILL system 1.6 days, but we regularly hear reports of articles delivered within a few hours. We are also working on solutions to further streamline the ILL process. (Tip: include the journal’s ISSN in your ILL request using the ISBN/ISSN field and the format 1234-5678 for faster processing times).

New negotiations 

As mentioned above, we and several other research libraries are currently in negotiations for next year’s contract with Elsevier. Mason researchers can expect little change in Elsevier access this time around; however, we will update you on any changes once negotiations are complete (expected in late December or January 2022). In the meantime, look out for announcements about more improvements to our alternative access systems. 


If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to both your subject librarian and the Head, Collections Strategy, Helen McManus (hmcmanus@gmu.edu). We are always happy to work with you to address your specific research needs.