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African Studies Research Guide: Primary Sources

Reviews primary sources at Emory and elsewhere for research in African Studies, emphasizing African history.

Important Background Information

About the Collections


The Emory Libraries have rich collections of primary source material for African history in a variety of formats (print, microform and electronic) and locations, especially Woodruff Library and Pitts Theology Library. The libraries are particulary strong in government  documents and records as well as missionary records and travel accounts. Much of the collection is listed in discoverE under names of authors (individual or organization), titles or subject. Other important sources are buried in larger collections and are more difficult to locate. Always ask for help before assuming that the libraries do not have materials of interest. Specialized assistance is offered in MARBL in the Woodruff Library and Archives/Manuscripts in the Pitts Theology Library for manuscript and rare book collections housed in those facilities.



Many primary resources for Africa are held in large collections of microform (microfilm, microfiche or microprint). Although many microform titles are cataloged individually in discoverE, in some cases only the larger collection is represented and access is via a printed or electronic guide which is noted in the discoverE record. You can do a advancec search in discoverE  and limit location to "microforms" to locate library holdings. Microfilm collections of the General Libraries are also listed in the helpful

EMORY MICROFILM GATEWAY  includes annotated listings for major microfilm sets in the Woodruff Library only. Look under the categories "Africa," "Religion," and "Slavery.  Not complete. Update though using EUCLID.

Currently the only way to reach the Microfilm Gateway is to type direct addresses into your web browser:



Slavery: American:

Slavery: British:

 Woodruff microforms are found on Level 1 which also houses readers and printers.



African primary source materials are being increasingly digitized. Digitized titles can be located through WorldCat, individual library catalogs, and on the Web.  History: Primary Sources from the excellent website Africa South of the Sahara links to a variety of primary sources available or described on the web. It also has sections on photographs and maps. Several of the larger digital collections with African material owned or accessed by Woodruff Library are listed under "Electronic Collections" tab. The microfilm collections of Microform Academic Publishers (MAP) are also being digitized; these include many missionary and government publications related to British primary resources. The British National Archives is another important institution digitizing its archives.



Sub-Saharan Africa has been a focus of the Pitts Theology Library. The Pitts Theology Library holds more than 4,500 books and pamphlets published in Sub-Saharan countries--almost half from Nigeria alone. In addition, another 7,000 items in the Pitts Library are about the region and cover subjects such as church history, missions, hymnody, politics and government, education, Christian union, Pentecostalism, social justice, and AIDS. There are hymnals in various languages, and virtually all major Christian denominations are represented.

Pitts also holds collections documenting the missionary activity of the Methodist Church in Africa.

The Sub-Saharan African Periodicals Collection at Pitts is one of the world's larger collections of periodical literature documenting the history as well as social and cultural aspects of religious institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1970s. the collection includes more than 800 theological publications from almost 40 countrie. Pitts is the only North American library holding 274 of these titles and so makes an important contribution to the documentation of Christianity in Africa.

For more information go to Sub-Sahran African Collections which lists periodicals by country and reviews Pitts African archival collections.

Emory Manuscripts and Rare Books Library (MARBL)

Use Finding aids to find material related to Africa. Sample collection:  Matt Schaffer: Collection of interviews Matt Schaffer conducted with a number of poets, dramatists, and novelists associated with the cultural life of Dakar, Senegal; as well as materials relating to the All-African Cultural Festival (Algiers, 1969) and to Schaffer's book, Mandinka Songs and Legends.