Black Periodical Literature Project

Co-Directors: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Hollis Robbins

The Black Periodical Literature Project (BPLP) is devoted to the study of black imaginative literature published in American periodicals between 1827 and 1940. With initial funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, teams of researchers at Harvard and Yale collected and indexed over nine hundred publications. For over two decades the archive has been available in most university libraries on microfiche, with an index on CDROM. An online index for the BPLP is also available via the Black Studies Center (BSC), a database run by Chadwyck-Healy/ProQuest. In 2004 the archive was transferred into PDF files. The BPLP is currently in the process of bringing the entire archive online, using the most current OCR technology to refine the search process.

The BPLP has long been an invaluable resource for researchers, scholars, genealogists, and students but has been unwieldy for open searching and has not been integrated with other online Black Press archives. New OCR and archiving technologies will allow organizing and collating the archive in new ways and will offer opportunities for scholars to combine BPLP research with other Black Press archives. In 2014 the BPLP participated in an NEH Digital Humanities workshop, “Visualizing the History of the Black Press,” to consider new technologies and digital access to the BPLP archive. Last year, the BPLP partnered with the Black Press Research Collective (BPRC) on projects integrating the BPLP within broader research initiatives that emphasize the central role that the Black Press played in shaping discussions about race and democracy in the United States.