African American Studies Library Resources

Collections, services, and assistance for African American Studies and interdisciplinary students and faculty

Rare Books @ UF

African American Materials in Rare Books

The holdings of the Rare Book Collection trace the Black experience in literature, culture and politics from the eve of the American Revolution to the present day. Since the collection’s focus is not national but global, ample opportunity exists to draw parallels between the thought, experience, and writing of the authors and figures here with a diversity of voices from around the Atlantic and across time.


The collections contain early works of fiction, poetry, and autobiography by African-American authors, including a selection of notable early women writers and educators. For the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, much of this material centers around the publication of autobiographies by abolitionist presses in America as well as England, and ties in closely with a wider range of material concerning the global slave trade as well as nineteenth-century culture and ephemera. Twentieth century authors in the collection are represented as well, from Ralph Elliston down to Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones). In addition to first editions of these works, the collection also includes examples of small press and private publications down to the Harlem Renaissance.

Political Culture and Ephemera

The national and international debates over the global slave trade, as well as the state of American politics in the decades leading up to the civil war, are covered from many different angles. The rare book collection preserves a large amount of serial and ephemeral publications by religious societies, along with sermons, broadsides, music, and other genres. While some of these small works were intended for extremely local audiences, others were meant for a truly international audience and highlight the connections and contrasts between abolitionists, the suffrage movement, and the popular literature of the day. The speeches, both national and international, of Frederic Douglass, including one from Glasgow City Hall, are well represented in the collection in various forms, as are the essays of James Baldwin. Our collections of regional serial publications also cast light on other movements led by free blacks that were seen as antagonistic to the abolitionist cause in America, such as the colonization movements and their later echoes in pan-Africanism.

For questions or requests to access Rare Books materials, please contact Neil Weijer, Rare Books Curator, at

A portrait of Phillis Wheatley

Portrait of Phillis Wheatley

A portrait of Phillis Wheatley, drawn by the artist Scipio Moorhead, which appeared in a volume of her collected poems (1773). 

Image of Free Church Alliance with the Manstealers pamphlet

Free Church Alliance with the Manstealers

Great anti-slavery meeting in the City hall, Glasgow, containing speeches delivered by Messrs. Wright, Douglass, and Buffum, from America, and by George Thompson, esq. of London; with a summary account of a series of meetings held in Edinburgh by the above named gentlemen.

A portrait of James Baldwin

Portrait of James Baldwin

This portrait of James Baldwin is one of a series drawn by Leonard Baskin for an edition of Gypsy and other Poems (1983), published after Baldwin’s death.

Cover of Black Art publication

Black Art

Black Art, a small publication advertising poetry Amiri Baraka (c.1966). Baraka was instrumental in the creation of the Black arts movement in 1960s Harlem.

Pamphlet by the American Colonization Soicety

The Republic of Liberia, published by the American Colonization Society

A description of Liberia and its values, a four-page pamphlet issued by the American Colonization Society c. 1878. R

Woodcut view of the settlement at Cape Montserado

Woodcut view of the settlement at Cape Montserado by John Warner Barber

A view of the settlement at Montserrado, circulated to raise awareness of the colonization project. The settlement was established by the American Colonization Society. Front cover of the Third Annual Report of the Managers of the Colonization Society of the State of Connecticut

Illustration of enslaved peoples in a ship cargo hull

Bosquejo o commercio em escravos

In an attempt to influence the debate over the Portuguese slave trade, this translation and exposition on Wilberforce’s Letter on Slavery was printed for export in London in 1821, employing imagery common to the abolitionist movement for decades.

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