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Africana: Starting Your Research: Getting Started

LibGuide for the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University


This LibGuide does not serve as a comprehensive list of resources in African Studies, but rather as a guide to the discovery of resources in the area, and more specifically in the Melville J Herskovits Library of African studies, which may be of use to you.

It is our intention to provide access to our materials as widely as possible; we therefore maintain a very limited collection of reference materials that do not circulate. If you are not a member of the Northwestern University community, consult your library's Interlibrary Loan department in order to find out how to borrow or receive copies of materials from our collection 

About the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies

Established in 1954, the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University is the largest separate Africana collection in existence. Its scope is as wide as the continent of Africa itself; its subject matter ranges from art, history, literature, music, and religion to communications, management, and cooking. Our collection is a resource for the entire university, and most of Northwestern's disciplinary programs are reflected in the collection. In addition to serving the NU community, the Herskovits Library staff also serves regional, national, and international scholars as well. Reference assistance is available in the Herskovits Library from 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Other Resources in the Africana Library

The Herskovits Library collection includes much more than books! We also collect photographs, maps, posters, videos, books in African languages, and archival materials and manuscripts, as well as art objects, ephemeral materials, and other artifacts. In addition to the resources listed in the "Digital Resources" section, we also have

Please note that special materials languages books, vertical file, rare books, posters, archival and manuscript materials and photographs are available for consultation Monday-Friday, 8:30am – 4:45pm only. Advance appointments, especially for those using these resources for the first time, are strongly encouraged.

Program of African Studies

Northwestern University
620 Library Place
Evanston, Illinois 60208-4110, U.S.A.
847-491-3739 (fax)

Key Resources

Looking for resources about Africa?  Start here to find books and other materials owned by the Herskovits Library of African Studies:

In addition, the Herskovits Library also houses an important collection of Arabic Manuscripts from West Africa. It contains over 5,000 items collected from Africa and donated to the library by several Northwestern professors. Original, hand-written manuscripts make up more than 60 percent of the content, which also includes “market” editions (photocopies of handwritten works that are often sold in African marketplaces), printed editions, and photocopies. Most are in Arabic, though some are in ajami—African languages such as Hausa, Fulfulde, and Wolof written in the Arabic script. It is especially strong in works from northern Nigeria (Kano in particular) but also includes items from Ghana, Senegal, and Mali. The works cover a wide range of subjects, including poetry, Arabic grammar, history, theology, Sufism, law, astronomy, and numerology. Highlights include the collection’s rich body of work on the Tijâniyya Sufi order, fine examples of Hausa poetry, and writings on medicine and healing.

Other key resources include:

Subject Guide

Esmeralda Kale
(847) 491-7684
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, Il 60208
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