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African American Literature

A guide to library resources about African American Literature

E-Book Searching

Since the library's print collection isn't available right now, it might make sense to limit your search to e-books. Happily, the library has a lot of those!

When you are searching in OneSearch, you can use the "Material Type" search to limit to books only. After you search, you can use the options on the right of the screen to choose "Full Text Online" and limit your search to e-books only. A screenshot from OneSearch. Some book titles are visible on the left. On the right, you can see a box with the option to "Limit to" several options, including Full Text Online. This is labeled "Use this option to limit to e-books only."

Searching & Subject Headings

You can search for books in:

Subject headings 

Of course, you might begin your search with normal keyword searches, but there are also other strategies available.

In OneSearch, each book entry includes subject headings -- standardized descriptions of what a book is about. If you know the right subject headings, you can find everything on a topic. 

If you know the relevant subject headings, you can choose "Subject" in the search filters, like this:

A screenshot from OneSearch. The "Any Field" menu on the left is open, and "subject" is selected. "James Baldwin" is typed in the search box. On the right, the Material Type menu has "Books" selected.

But beware! This type of search ONLY works if you know which words have been designated as subject headings. There are two ways to find the right subject headings:

  • Look at the results from your keyword search to find the words identified as subject headings
  • Use the Browse Search available at the top of OneSearch to find out what subjects exist

It's important to note that author's names are almost always subject headings.

Subject vs. Author Searches

Remember that you can use the Subject entry field in your search to find works ABOUT an author.  This is a good way of looking for all the criticism on an author (like James Baldwin in the example above).

This is very different from searching the Author entry field, which will return books BY that author. 

Subject Headings

Aside from authors' names, there are many other subject headings that may include books pertaining to African American literature. Some examples:

  • African Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
  • African Americans in literature
  • African Americans in literature -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
  • African Americans in literature -- Dictionaries.
  • African American novelists -- Biography -- Dictionaries.
  • African Americans -- Poetry

or like this:

  • American fiction -- African American authors
  • American fiction -- African American authors -- History and criticism
  • American fiction -- African American authors -- Bio-bibliography -- Dictionaries.
  • American fiction -- African American authors -- Dictionaries.
  • American poetry -- African American authors

or this:

  • Civil rights movements in literature.
  • Antislavery movements in literature.
  • Race relations in literature.
  • Slavery in literature.

or this: 

  • Racism in literature.
  • Race in literature.

Notice that many of the longer subject headings divide a broad subject into narrower categories. 

Of course, there are many more subject headings that you may find useful, but I hope these will provide some examples and give you an idea of what kinds of headings exist. 

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search function in OneSearch allows you to combine different kinds of searches.

This means you could do a search with two different subjects, or with a subject or a keyword. This is often useful, especially when you are searching such a big subject. So for instance, your search might look like this:

A screenshot from OneSearch. In the first like, Subject is selected for the search term: American literature African American authors. In the second line, no field is selected and the search term is: family.