Africana Studies Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Timothy Johnson, Selector for Africana Studies


Publications on Africana Studies are acquired by the Library to support instructional and research programs at the College of Arts and Science and at the Graduate School of Arts and Science. There are 42 undergraduate and 39 graduate courses dealing with Africana Studies. These courses are taught in the following disciplines: Anthropology, cinema studies, comparative literature, economics, English, French, history, journalism, museum studies, performance studies, political science, sociology, as well as Spanish and Portuguese.

Currently, the Africana Studies Program offers a masters degree, as well as a major and a minor for the bachelor's degree. Also, there is always a small number of Ph.D. dissertations on topics related to Africana Studies.

There are three concentrations in the Africana Studies Program: 1. history, 2. social studies, and 3. philosophy, religion, and the arts. Within these, Pan-Africanism and Black Urban Studies are given special consideration.

Some faculty members hold joint appointments in Africana Studies and in other departments. In addition, there are several faculty members with interest in Africana Studies who teach courses in this field.

The following is a list of the subjects on which we collect:

  • Anthropology

    Economic, social, cultural, and medical.
  • Art

    Art history; biography of artists.
  • Bibliography

    Subject bibliographies pertaining to Africana Studies.
  • Economics

    Economic conditions and policies; economic development, economic integration.
  • Education

    Social, political, and economic aspects; history of education; education and state; universities and colleges.
  • Gender studies

    Gender dynamics; present and past situation of women; feminism.
  • History

    Intellectual, social, diplomatic, political, economic, regional, and urban history; historiography, historical atlases; historical statistics; special emphasis on the Atlantic slave trade and Pan- Africanism.
  • Human rights

    Historical, social, and political aspects.
  • Journalism

    Cultural, political, and social aspects of newspapers, radio, television, cinema; special emphasis on minorities and the media.
  • Literature

    Original literature in English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili by sub-Saharan African authors; African American literature; Carribean literature; history and criticism; works on oral African literatures; special emphasis on Negritude and Harlem Renaissance.
  • Museum Studies

    Material culture and art of sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora; preservation and conservation methods.
  • Music

    African metrical systems; African music history; African music in the diaspora.
  • Performance Studies

    Artistic aspects of theater and film; film texts and criticism; biographies of directors and actors; motion pictures; storytelling performance in Africa and the diaspora; ritual, festivity, initiation, and dance.
  • Philosophy

    Works by and about African and African American philosophers.
  • Political Science

    Historical works; politics and government; political parties; elections; role of armed forces in politics; foreign and international relations.
  • Psychology

    Self-concept; cognition; personality; mental health; adaptive strategies.
  • Reference Materials

    All types of dictionaries, bibliographies, biographical works, handbooks, etc.
  • Religion

    Traditional African religions; Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in sub-Saharan Africa; ethnology and sociology of religion; philosophy of religion; religion among African Americans.
  • Sociology

    Social stratification; social change; racism and ethnicity; social movements.
  • Urban Studies

    Black culture; urban environment; class and poverty; urban development; police; education; sports.


  1. Languages

    Publications in the following languages are acquired: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili.

  2. Geographical Areas

    Coverage includes publications on sub-Saharan Africa, North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The regional focus in respect to sub-Saharan Africa is West, East, and Southern Africa. For Northern African materials consult the Collection Development Policy Statement for Near East Studies.

  3. Chronological Periods

    Coverage of Africana is from sub-Saharan prehistory to the present and from the beginning of slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean to the present situation of Black and African Americans.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, proceedings, reprints, microforms, electronic texts, exhibition catalogs, maps, videos, compact discs, and cassette tapes.

  2. Very Selectively

    Newspapers, dissertations, and scores.

  3. Excluded

    Manuscripts, textbooks, and ephemera.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

The Library has research level collections in Caribbean and Brazilian Studies. Well represented are also Ethiopia and the Republic of South Africa. For the rest of sub-Saharan Africa and in African American Studies, the Library has a study collection level. A weakness of the collection is Francophone Africa and Francophone Caribbean.

In December 1995, New York University Libraries purchased the collection of the University Place Bookshop which consisted of over 40,000 titles in 80,000 volumes most of which are Africana materials. These books, periodicals and pamphlets cover a wide range of subjects related to sub-Saharan African, African American, and Caribbean cultures, including literature, art, history, politics, economics, religion, aand sociology. There are also extensive materials on slavery. Since many of the items are long out-of-print, the acquisition of this collection has strenghtened the retrospective collection of Africana at the Library considerably.

The Africana collection also includes microforms in the following subjects: Black literature, 1827-1940; the slave trade, 1858-1892; slavery in ante-bellum southern industries; slavery source materials, and state slavery slavery statutes, 1789-1865.

Another strength of the collection lies in motion pictures from sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora.

The Africana music collection is especially strong in jazz and Brazilian as well as Caribbean music.

The Fales Collection has a relatively small collection of African American periodicals and monographs which are shelved along with the rest of Fales books. It also houses separately a collection of African American Avantgarde poems, anthologies and minstrels materials.

Other Resources

There are two major Africana collections in New York City: 1. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and 2. Columbia University Libraries.

Schomburg's collections include art objects, books, manuscripts, periodicals, newspapers, photographs, prints, recorded music, and sheet music. The printed text holdings are especially strong in African, Caribbean and African American literature as well as in the history of the Americas and the New York metropolitan area. Other foci of the collection are texts on Harlem and Blacks in the performing arts. The Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division of Schomburg is strongest for the 20th century in the fields of the performing arts, Harlem, African American writers, women, civil rights organizations, historians, scholars, radical political movements, religion, and 18th and 19th century Haitian history. The Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division holds a strong collection of African American, Caribbean and African popular and traditional music genres, early jazz and tap dance film footage, and public afairs television broadcasts. The Photographs and Prints Division is strongest in the areas of slavery, Civil War, 19th-century Caribbean and South America, performing and visual arts, modern civil rights movements, religion, military, Harlem, migrant and rural farmers, writers and artists from the Harlem Renaissance period, civic and political leaders worldwide, sports figures and performing artists.

Geographically, Columbia's African collections emphasize Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe as part of a Reasearch Libraries Group assignment. In general, the following subjects are given special consideration: the arts, economic development, geography, history, law, literature, political science, sociology, and anthropology. Some materials in African languages and Arabic are included.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library contains about two hundred books on Africa. It also holds a Slavery Collection, the Frederick William Holls (1857-1903) papers which relate partly to the South African War, the Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925), British imperial official in South Africa and novelist) materials, and the Whitney M. Young, Jr. papers (American civil rights leader).

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