History in the Making: Black Archives, Black Liberation, and the Remaking of Modernity


ACLS Fellowship Program


Humanities, History, and Social Sciences

Named Award

ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellow


“History in the Making” examines how bibliophiles, librarians, and library patrons used Black archives to forge and fracture historical authority during the first half of the twentieth century. This project argues that Black archives functioned as sites of intellectual self-determination because Black archives provided both resources and frameworks to challenge White supremacy as the organizing principle of the modern world. These institutionalized collections offered accessible evidence of Black accomplishment and humanity, and visitors used these resources to form new ideas and identities for themselves, which splintered any hope of a master narrative. While many scholars have focused on ‘the archive’ as a silencing or oppressive space, this project highlights Black archival agency, or African Americans’ engagement with the process of historical production. “History in the Making” traces this agency through case studies of Black archives, an analysis of Black librarian training sites, and a retheorizing of Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile Arturo Schomburg’s work as an iconic figure in Black diasporic collecting.