Skip to Main Content

A Guide to American Culture Studies

This page brings together various information resources on the subject of American Culture Studies


The [St. Paul, MN] Appeal, November 07, 1903, p2

from The [St. Paul, MN] Appeal, November 07, 1903, p2.

Reference Works - A Place to Begin


The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest: 1500 to the present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) - digital edition of an 8 print-volume set covering the history of protest and revolution over the past 500 years, it covers every major revolution that has altered societies or changed the course of history on a local, regional, national, and international scale. It presents major uprisings and protest movements, and the ideas, ideologies and activists that propelled them, chronicles the manner in which they unfolded, traces their roots, goals, tactics, and influence, and evaluates their successes and failures.

United States

The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History (Oxford University Press, 2012) - Over the past fifty years, social historians have drawn on new sources and methodologies to shift the focus of historical interest to the experiences of ordinary people. The result has been a radical rethinking of the great events and historical transformations in American history. The more than 450 entries in this work examine our shared history "from the bottom up."

African Americans

The World of Jim Crow America: A daily life encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2019) - provides important details about the daily lives of African Americans during the Jim Crow era in America. It covers the hundred-year period of enforced legal segregation that began immediately after the Civil War and continued until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Entry categories include the Arts, Economics and Work, Family and Gender, Fashion and Appearance, Food and Drink, Housing and Community.

Encyclopedia of African American Society (Sage Publications, 2005) - divided into categories: Concepts and Theories; Fine Arts, Theater, and Entertainment; Health and Education; History and Heritage; Literature; Media; Movements and Events; Music and Dance; Organizations andInstitutions; Places; Politics and Policy; Popular Culture; Religion and Beliefs; the Road to Freedom; Science,Technology, and Business; Social Issues; Special Populations; and Sports.

Encyclopedia of Black Studies (Sage Publications, 2005) - contains a full analysis of the economic, political, sociological, historical, literary, and philosophical issues related to Americans of African descent. 


Race & Racism

Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (Macmillan Reference USA, 2013) - provides critical information and context on the underlying social, economic, geographical, and political conditions that gave rise to, and continue to foster, racism. Religion, political economy, social activism, health, concepts, and constructs are explored. Includes 1,800 pages of alphabetical entries, each ranging from 500 to 12,000 words.



Encyclopedia of Street Crime in America (SAGE Reference, 2013) - while more present-focused and geared towards sociology, criminology, and political science, it does include histories of crime in major U.S. cities

Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (Sage Publications, 2009) - covers issues in both historical and contemporary context, with information on race and ethnicity and their impact on crime and the administration of justice. It covers a number of broad thematic areas: basic concepts and theories of criminal justice; the police, courts, and corrections; juvenile justice; public policy; the media; organizations; specific groups and populations; and specific cases and biographies. Two appendices provide information on locating and interpreting statistical data on race and crime, as well as detailed instructions on how to access statistical data on the web for such specific areas as arrests, drugs, gang membership, hate crimes, homicide trends, juvenile justice, prison populations, racial profiling, the death penalty, and victimization.

The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An encyclopedia (SAGE, 2012) - surveys the history and philosophy of crime, punishment, and criminal justice institutions in America from colonial times to the present. It covers the whole of the criminal justice system, from crimes, law enforcement and policing, to courts, corrections and human services. A fifth of the collection consists of annotated primary documents.

Academic Journals

Subject-specific eJournal collections

America: History & Life (1964-)  - a complete bibliographic reference to the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present. Published since 1964, the database comprises almost 400,000 bibliographic entries.

Multidisciplinary Academic Journal databases

Google Scholar vs. Primo

JSTOR vs. Academic Search Complete

Hein Online 

More than 900 searchable full-text law journals and many legal resources, including the Code of Federal Regulations, United States Code, and U.S. Statutes at Large. Useful for U.S. political history.

Primary Sources

Guide to all U.S. History Primary Source Databases

Primary Source Databases <-- link to primary source database list in the American History LibGuide


American Periodicals: Newspapers & Magazines <-- link to the LibGuide to American History "Periodicals: Journals, Newspapers & Magazines" box

Chronicling America - over 1000 full-text U.S. newspaper titles from 46 states & Puerto Rico; open access

The subject headings of most U.S. newspapers take the form of "City (state abbreviation) -- newspapers" such as Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Newspapers. However, that's not always the case. For example, the St. Louis Argus has been categorized as African Americans -- Missouri -- Newspapers and has two catalog records: one for microform and one for the digitized version, the latter of which does not appear under that subject heading.

Subject-specific Electronic Archives 

Select archival databases include:


Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture (1790-1920) Contains over 2 million pages from manuscripts, books, broadsheets, and periodicals, reflecting the widespread impact of the changes in crime and its policing during the long nineteenth century. The archive unites a number of geographic areas and disciplines, from law, criminology, and history to studies of popular culture and fiction.

Criminal Justice Database (1969-) Covers over 450 publications which support research on crime, its causes and impacts, legal and social implications, as well as litigation and crime trends. In addition to scholarly journals, this database also includes trade publications, reports, news, crime statistics, and crime blogs. Covers such topics as criminology, corrections & law enforcement, criminal law, criminal justice, criminal rehabilitation, addictions, alcoholism, gambling, child abuse, and industrial crime.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service Abstracts (NCJRS) database covers corrections, courts, drugs and crime, law enforcement, juvenile justice, crime statistics, domestic preparedness, and victims of crime. Includes abstracts to Federal, State, and local government reports; books; research reports; journal articles; and unpublished research.


African America, Communists, and the National Negro Congress the National Negro Congress was established in 1936 to "secure the right of the Negro people to be free from Jim Crowism, segregation, discrimination, lynching, and mob violence" and "to promote the spirit of unity and cooperation between Negro and white people." It was conceived as a national coalition of church, labor, and civil rights organizations that would coordinate protest action in the face of deteriorating economic conditions for blacks.

Grassroots Civil Rights and Social Activism: FBI Files on Benjamin J. Davis, Jr. The FBI files on Benjamin J. Davis, Jr. that make up this collection were assembled by Dr. Gerald Horne, author of Black Liberation/Red Scare: Ben Davis and the Communist Party, and the breadth of issues addressed by these records is astounding. Davis served as a leader in local, district, and national leadership bodies of the Communist Party USA and thus concerned himself with a broad range of organizational, political, and theoretical questions. There is news of grassroots organizing successes and failures, minutes from meetings held on all the levels on which Davis engaged, and reports from member-informers on all the major political and theoretical debates.

Southern Negro Youth Congress and the Communist Party: Papers of James and Esther Cooper Jackson Clippings, correspondence, lectures, research notebooks, speeches, and writings (published and unpublished), subject files, internal documents and printed ephemera. Contains over 45,000 images from 1932-2000.

Federal Surveillance of African Americans, 1920-1984 Between the early 1920s and early 1980s, the Justice Department and its Federal Bureau of Investigation engaged in widespread investigation of those deemed politically suspect. Prominent among the targets of this sometimes coordinated, sometimes independent surveillance were aliens, members of various protest groups, Socialists, Communists, pacifists, militant labor unionists, ethnic or racial nationalists, and outspoken opponents of the policies of the incumbent presidents.

Black Liberation Army Interviews, articles, speeches, and FBI surveillance and informant reports, ranging from 1970-1983

Black Nationalism and the Revolutionary Action Movement: the papers of Muhammad Ahmad This collection of RAM records reproduces the writings and statements of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) and its leaders. It also covers organizations that evolved from or were influenced by RAM and persons that had close ties to RAM.

Papers of Amiri Baraka The collection consists of rare works of poetry, organizational records, print publications, over one hundred articles, poems, plays, and speeches by Baraka, a small amount of personal correspondence, and oral histories. 

Republic of New Afrika The FBI believed the Republic of New Afrika to be a seditious group and conducted raids on its meetings, which led to violent confrontations, and the arrest and repeated imprisonment of RNA leaders.

Liberation Movement in Africa and African America Composed of FBI surveillance files on the activities of the African Liberation Support Committee and All African People’s Revolutionary Party; this collection provides two unique views on African American support for liberation struggles in Africa, the issue of Pan-Africanism, and the role of African independence movements as political leverage for domestic Black struggles.

Primary Source Collections in Print

Library catalogers use the subheading "Sources" at the end of a string of subheadings to indicate anthologies of primary sources. However, cataloging is not a perfect science, so not every collection of primary sources has this subheading. For example, a search for the keyword phrase "documentary sourcebook" in the WU Libraries' catalog produces seven titles, only three of which have "sources" as a subheading. In other words, performing a subject search will not produce a complete list of all primary source collections. Sometimes the source one wants to find is not in an anthology but cited in a bibliography of another work. You might want to try an advanced search with a combination of subject headings and keywords like “sources,” "sourcebook," "primary sources," "primary documents," etc.  Other subheadings which indicate bound, primary source collections include personal narrativescorrespondencemanuscriptsmapsliterary collectionsbiography, et. al.