Project Rationale

The Black Bibliography Project (BBP) aims to revive the practice of descriptive bibliography for African American literary studies. Our goal is two-fold. First, we want to remedy the dearth of accurate, organized information about Black print by creating authoritative web-based bibliographies of major African-American authors. Our second goal is crucial: we’re not interested in simply stirring and adding Black books to existing bibliographies like the BAL; rather, we want to ask: how would bibliographic and cataloguing practices have to change in order to accommodate Black print culture and its modes of production, dissemination, and use?

A long and distinguished history of efforts by scholars, librarians, and private collectors to identify, curate, and provide access to primary source collections of African American materials precedes our initiative (see the conference proceedings of the 1983 “Black Bibliophiles and Collectors Symposium” held at Howard University, published in 1990 as Black Bibliophiles and Collectors: Preservers of Black History, eds., Elinor Des Verney Sinnette, W. Paul Coates, Thomas C. Battle). Indeed, we envision our effort as both indebted to and an extension of those pathfinders’ crucial work.

With the information-saturated 21st century upon us, an exciting opportunity awaits. We believe that bibliography can gain wider relevance to U.S. literary studies by developing new methods and technologies that advance the field of African American print culture studies. If the Black Bibliography Project becomes a resource for reliable, centralized information about black-authored and black-published texts, we will realize our most general and ambitious aim for this project: to advocate, gather resources for, and extend the practice of critical bibliography in African American political, intellectual, literary and cultural history.


Jacqueline Goldsby is Professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale University. She currently chairs Yale’s Department of African American Studies. She is the author of the prizewinning A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and other articles about African American literature and book history during the long century of Jim Crow segregation, from 1865-1965. In 2015, she edited the Norton Critical Edition of James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. And she’s currently at work finishing Writing from the Lower Frequencies: African American Literature and Its Mid-Century Moment.

The research required to launch Writing from the Lower Frequencies led Goldsby to design and direct “Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives.” She managed that project from 2005-10, while she taught at the University of Chicago. “Mapping the Stacks” helped transform the practice of archival recovery and description in Chicago and across the U.S, as the project became the model for the Council on Library and Information Resources’ $27.4 million grant program, “Cataloguing Hidden Collections and Archives” (2008-14).

Meredith McGill is Professor of English at Rutgers University and the 2019-20 Beinecke Distinguished Fellow in the Humanities at Yale University. She is the author of American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834–1853 (2003; 2008), a study of nineteenth-century American resistance to tight control over intellectual property. She is the editor of two collections of essays: The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange (2008), in which a number of scholars model ways of understanding nineteenth-century poetry within a transatlantic framework, and Taking Liberties with the Author (2013), a selection of essays from the English Institute that explore the persistence of the author as a shaping force in literary criticism. In addition to essays on nineteenth-century poetry and poetics, she has published widely on intellectual property, authorship, and the history of the book. She has written two essays that reflect on the place of bibliography in the contemporary disciplinary division of knowledge: “Echocriticism: Repetition and the Order of Texts” (American Literature 88:1) and “Literary History, Book History, and Media Studies” in Hester Blum, ed. Turns of Event). She served as President of C19: The Society of Nineteenth Century Americanists from 2018-2020.

Data Model Architects

Melissa Barton, Beinecke Library
Brenna Bychowski, Beinecke Library
Mark Custer, Beinecke Library,
Audrey Pearson, Beinecke Library,
Timothy Thompson, Yale University Library

Research Fellows

Rutgers Team:
Margarita Castromán
Gabrielle Everett
Alex Leslie
Ariel Martino
Amadi Ozier

Yale Team:
Phoenix Alexander

Kassidi Jones
Jeong Yeon Lee
Sarah Robbins


The Black Bibliography Project has been generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Rutgers University, and Yale University