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The Black Experience at Northwestern University: Archival Collections

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a guide to an archival collection. It helps researchers find primary and secondary sources relevant to their research. Each finding aid provides historical or biographical context and explains how it is organized and its inclusive contents.

Northwestern University Archives database of finding aids 

Leon Forrest, Professor of English

Daphne Maxwell, Homecoming 1967


African American Student Affairs staff, Alice Palmer, Ulysses Jenkins, and Everne Saxton

Clarence Hinton, '38

Eva Jefferson, '71

Archival Collections of Alumni and Faculty

The list below features links to the finding aids of personal papers of Northwestern alumni and faculty that relate to the black experience at Northwestern University. Personal papers are a collection of documents acquired by or received by an individual that often reflects their life or career. The collections listed below were donated to Northwestern University Archives. This by no means is not an exhaustive list. It is constantly being updated. Also, please note that some collections or portions of collections are restricted. Review the "Conditions Governing Access" section of the finding aid for more information.  

  • Brutus, Dennis (1924-2009) Papers, 1960-1984. Brutus was a poet and South African expatriate. He taught English and African Literature at Northwestern from 1971 to 1985. His paper includes correspondence, poetry, and sport-related material, such as the International Committee Against Racism In Sport (ICARIS) and the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC). 
  • Carter, Gwendolyn Papers, 1915-1991. Carter was a professor and political scientist. In 1964, she was appointed Melville J. Herskovits Professor of African Affairs and Director of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, a position she held for a decade. Her papers are comprised of research, correspondence, teaching files, and publications.
  • Colter, Cyrus (1910-2002) Papers, 1935-1995. Colter was a writer, lawyer, and professor. He taught creative writing in Northwestern's Department of African American Studies. The collection consists of biographical material, correspondence, and speeches. There are also publications, including drafts from his last two novels, A Chocolate Soldier and City of Lights
  • Exum, William H. (1942-1986) Papers, 1965-1985. Exum taught Sociology at Northwestern in the Department of African American Studies. His papers consist of biographical material and teaching files.
  • Flowers, Katherine Papers (1896-1982), 1934-1981. Flowers was a professor, dancer, and choreographer. She was an anthropology student under Melville Herskovitzs researching the evolution of African American dance in the United States. Her collection includes biographical material, correspondence, and records from her dance studio.
  • Forrest, Leon (1937-1997) Papers, 1952-1999. Forrest was a writer and professor. He taught African American Literature and creative writing at Northwestern in the Department of African American Studies. 
  • Harris, Joseph (1929-2016) Papers (Africana Library). Harris was a scholar of African Studies and Northwestern student. 
  • Herskovits, Melville Papers (1895-1963), 1906-1963. Herskovits was an anthropologist. He founded the Department of Anthropology in 1938 and later chaired African Studies, the first such position in the United States. Herskovits' papers document his career in anthropology and African studies, including correspondence, manuscripts of publications, research, and photographs.
  • Jackson, Angela (1951- ) Papers, Jackson is a graduate of Northwestern University’s class of 1977, is a poet, novelist, playwright, and biographer. Her collection spans the years 1966-2018 and contains biographical materials, correspondence, manuscripts, teaching material, and publications.
  • Jefferson Paterson, Eva (1949-  ) Papers, 1970-2013. Jefferson Paterson is an alumna of Northwestern, Class of 1971. She was involved in the Bursar's Office Takeover. She was also the first black Associated Student Body president in 1969 and is known for leading the campus in a peaceful protest in response to the Kent State shooting. Her papers reflect her career as a civil rights attorney. 
  • Maxwell Reid, Daphne (1948-  ) Papers, 1951-2018. Maxwell Reid is an alumna of Northwestern, Class of 1970. She was the first black homecoming queen at Northwestern in 1967 and involved in the Bursar's Office Takeover. Her papers include biographical material and largely reflect her careers as a model, actress, fashion designer, photographer, and author.
  • Morton, Lorraine (1918-2018) Papers, 1942-2014. Morton is an alumna of Northwestern's School of Education, Class of 1942. She was one of the first African American teachers in Evanston's District #65 and first African American mayor of Evanston. Her papers consist of biographical and political materials.
  • Pitts, James (1944-  ) Papers, 1961-2013. Pitts received his B.A. in Political Science and M.A., and Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University. He is also a former faculty member. His collection contains newspaper clippings, correspondence, and published work, awards, a scrapbook and jersey from his time in college.  
  • Records of the Africana Francophonic Bibliographer and Reference Librarian, Mette Shayne
  • Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Engagement and Wedding Commemorative Collection. An assortment of commemorative engagement and wedding souvenirs including magazines, Markle biographies, comic books, paper dolls, coloring books, plates, mugs, tea towels, buttons, etc. 

Archival Collections of Departments, Organizations, and Events

The list below features links to finding aids of collections relating to the black experience at Northwestern University. This by no means is not an exhaustive list. It is constantly being updated. Also, please note that some collections or portions of collections are restricted. Review the "Conditions Governing Access" section of the finding aid for more information.  


  • The Institute for Advanced Study and Research in the African Humanities Seminar Papers, 1993-2000. This collection includes papers written by graduate students and professors regarding society, politics, and culture in Africa. 
  • Multicultural Student Affairs. This collection includes records of student groups affiliated with the Northwestern University Multicultural Student Affairs.
  • Program of African Studies, 1955-1991. The Program of African Studies Records consists of correspondence, memos, proposals, reports, and related administrative material pertaining to the organization, special projects, and routine activities of the Program of African Studies Office.
  • Records of the Department of African American Student Affairs, 1966-2001. The bulk of the records consist of historical information and materials relating to organizations, programs, and events under the sponsorship of the office. 



  • Records of NUBIA, 1990-2001. Established in October of 1990, NUBIA (Northwestern University Black-Wimmin In Action) was formed to address the needs of African-American women faculty, staff, and students at Northwestern University. 
  • Records of NUBAA. This collection includes the organizational records of Northwestern University Black Alumni Association. 
  • Student Activities Files: FMO 
    • African Drum and Dance Ensemble
    • African Student Association
    • African Students Organization
    • African American Law Students Association
    • African American Music Alliance
    • African American Theatre Ensemble
    • All African Peoples Revolutionary Party
    • Anti-Apartheid Alliance
    • Black Alumni Association
    • Black Athletes Uniting for the Light
    • Blackbeat
    • Blackboard
    • Black Folks Theatre
    • Black Student Handbook
    • Black Undergraduate Law and Business Society
    • Blacks in Communication
    • National Association of Black Journalists
    • NAYO
    • New Sense
    • New Sense Literary Club
    • Northwestern Community Ensemble
    • One Step Before
    • NU Society of Black Engineers
    • Pamoja People
    • The Pursuit
    • United Black Christian Ministry
    • Undergraduate Black Management Association
    • Voices and Vision
    • Uhuru
    • Umoja Circle

Related Collections

The list below includes links to collections that are not directly about the black experience at Northwestern. However, they offer supporting information. Please note that some collections or portions of collections are restricted. Review the "Conditions Governing Access" section of the finding aid for more information.