- THE BELL TOWER
We applaud the students who have transformed Andover’s traditional Black Arts Weekend (which this year begins with a special dinner on Thursday, February 12, and runs through Sunday, February 15) into a monthlong celebration of the contributions of African Americans to science, politics, the arts, the humanities, and many more areas of human endeavor. In support, we are featuring two resources this month that contain treasures for teachers and learners alike.
Oxford African American Studies Center
This rich resource is a portal offering access to a selected set of Oxford University Press’s reference works and specialty encyclopedias. The product contains more than 10,000 articles devoted to the history and culture of both Africans and African Americans. As described on the site, the resource also includes “over 2,500 images, more than 450 primary sources with specially written commentaries, and nearly 200 maps… More than 150 charts and tables offer information on everything from demographics to government and politics to business and labor to education and the arts.”
The attractive and easy-to-use portal has been designed to fuel inquiry by facilitating both searching and guided browsing. Searches may be refined by era and by subject. Source-type limiters may be applied to both searching and browsing, and include limits to biographies, primary sources, and images, maps, and other media.
The center of the home page, a section called Focus On, is devoted to commissioned essays and photo essays, which provide topic overviews and suggest avenues for further research. The current article concerns African Americans in the space program, and the many biographical links take an intrigued reader to more specific articles on the individuals mentioned in the essay. Previous Focus On articles are archived on the home page. Many of these articles line up explicitly with topics taught in our American history curriculum. Also easily accessible on the home page are country maps, vital statistics, and extensive reference articles for countries “that have been central to the history of Africans and African Americans.” I explored the Barbados article and was impressed with the embeddable map (.gif file) and the ease with which one can find vital statistics on geographic, economic, social, and political topics.
The Learning Center offers a plethora of rich resources, including access to online courses and other assets such as The African American Biography Research Assignment for Advanced High School and College Students and Barbara Tischler’s Music in the Era of Civil Rights. The Lesson Plans are designed for use by high school and college teachers, but they also could serve as a starting place for History 310 students struggling to find a topic that really captures their imaginations.
African American History Online
This portal brings users to an extensive and diverse array of resources. Produced by Facts on File, the site is attractive and well organized with very clear navigation. The product contains slightly fewer articles (7,000) from academic texts than the Oxford product, but it outperforms the Oxford portal through its inclusion of a set of carefully selected streaming videos and image slideshows. The segments can be saved and incorporated via durable URL in Canvas or Black- Board. The products are fairly comparable in the numbers of primary sources and images, but the set of documents is different enough that it bears searching in both collections.
The OWHL librarians introduce History 310 students to the Topic Centers during classes and in our individual consultations at the beginning of their research. These chronologically organized centers are designed to spark their imaginations and fuel their inquiries by presenting overview articles along with associated primary sources, maps, images, video, and other links. In addition, they could
prove very useful to teachers creating a new unit or adding resources to an existing unit. If you are interested in a testimonial, talk to Damany Fisher, who used this resource extensively in the creation of his course, The Long Civil Rights Movement.
Both the Oxford African American Studies Center and Facts on File’s African American History Online are available on the OWHL web page under E-Resources A–Z. As always, any librarian will be happy to assist you.
Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson before the March on Washington. Library of Congress. New York: Facts On File. African-American History Online. Web. 6 Feb. 2015. <http://online.infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/ImageDetails/5?imageId=49317>.
Carroll, Diahann. Library of Congress. New York: Facts On File. African-American History Online. Web. 6 Feb. 2015. <http://online.infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/ImageDetails/5?imageId=46144>.