Explore the Collections



Manuscripts and Archives Collection

The Manuscripts and Archives Collection is comprised of personal papers, records of organizations and institutions, literary and scholarly typescripts and manuscripts, broadsides, programs, playbills, and other ephemera. Featured items include the personal correspondence of noted 20th century African Americans such as Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, and Pearl Bailey. Periodicals in the collection include Jet, Sepia, and Ebony magazines and a complete set of The African Repository and Colonial Journal, a quarterly publication of the American Colonization Society, first printed in 1825. Other documents in the collection include pre-Civil War travel passes for slaves, slave bills of sale, and plantation inventories.




Rare Books Collection

MCLM's Rare Books Collection contains more than 30,000 rare and out-of-print books written by or about African Americans. The collection contains over 300 signed first-edition books, including a rare signed first-edition copy of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (1773), the first book of poetry published by an American female author of African descent.



Film and Recorded Sound Archives
The Film and Recorded Sound Archives houses a broad array of rare moving images, films, and recorded sound documenting the history and culture of African Americans. The film archive contains over 700 film titles from 1916 in 16mm, 35mm, VHS, and DVD formats. Rich in pre-1959 black films, MCLM's Film and Recorded Sound Archives features rare silent reels and films by Oscar Micheaux, considered America's preeminent early independent African-American filmmaker. Sound recordings of jazz, early Negro Spirituals, gospel, ragtime, bebop, classical, and rhythm & blues dating back to the turn of the 20th century are preserved within the archives. Rare sheet music dating back to the mid-1800s and signed musical scores by Fats Waller, W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, and other noted African-American composers are housed within the Recorded Sound Archive.

Photographs and Prints Collection
The Photographs and Prints Collection contains photographic images and works on paper chronicling the history and culture of African Americans. The collection dates from the mid-1800s and is composed of fine art prints and reproduction posters, lithographs, engravings, and drawings. Images of slavery, the Civil War, the modern Civil Rights Movement, African Americans in the performing and visual arts, organizations (fraternal, social, and political), religion, military, urban street scenes, churches, housing, and businesses are represented within the collection. The collection also features the works of noted African-American photographers including James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, Joe Flowers, and Jack Davis.

Art and Artifacts Collection
MCLM's Art and Artifacts Collection houses art and material culture artifacts. The collection includes fine and applied art, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary works by African Americans and artists of the African Diaspora. The collection is comprised of paintings, works on paper, sculpture, textiles, and assemblage by renowned artists including Richard Mayhew, Betye Saar, Jacob Lawrence, and Avery Clayton. Material culture artifacts within the collection include a wide range of two and three-dimensional items such as dolls, stamps, commemorative coins, and buttons, depicting civil rights themes, political campaigns, slogans, organizations, and much more. Collected artifacts span from the 19th century to the present.