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. The Africana 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.
The Africana Collection includes much more than books! The Herskovits Library also has in its collection photographs, maps, posters, videos, books in African languages, 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.
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.
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