The Amistad Research Center is the
nation's oldest, largest and most
comprehensive independent archive
specializing in the history of African
Americans and other Ethnic Minorities.
History of the Amistad Research Center

The Amistad Research Center's ties to the American Missionary Association (AMA) can be traced to the AMA's roots in the coalition of abolitionists who came to the defense of the Africans involved in the Supreme Court case The United States v. The Amistad. Under the banner of the Amistad Defense Committee, abolitionists and attorneys, with help from former President John Quincy Adams, took the case through the United States court system until the Supreme Court ruled that the Africans were free in May 1841. The Amistad Committee merged with three other abolitionist societies in 1846 to form the interracial AMA, which rose to the forefront of the fight for freedom and justice. The AMA founded hundreds of abolitionist and anti-caste churches and schools among African Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Appalachian Whites, Asian Americans and Mexican Americans. Distinguished colleges and universities that emerged from these efforts include: Atlanta University, Berea College, Dillard University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Huston-Tillotson University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Talladega College, and Tougaloo College.

The AMA became a division within the Home Boards of the Congregational Churches in 1927 and remained the main instrument for civil rights, race relations, and education work of the Home Boards. It eventually came under the umbrella of the United Church Boards of Homeland Ministries (UCBHM) of the United Church of Christ. The AMA division’s awareness of the problems of discrimination and segregation became evident through a new focus on race relations in the 1930s and early 1940s. A two day seminar on “racialism” was held at the Broadway Tabernacle Church in New York in October 1941. The seminar was attended by AMA officers, presidents of the historically black colleges and universities, representatives of philanthropic organizations, and U.S. government officials. The results of the seminar were the establishment of the Race Relations Department of the UCBHM at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1942.

The Amistad Research Center was established within the Race Relations Department in 1966 to house the historical records of the American Missionary Association. In 1969, the Amistad Research Center incorporated as an independent non-profit organization, and the following year, the Amistad Research Center transferred its operation to Dillard University in New Orleans with the promise of a new building to house its growing collections. However, this new building never materialized and the Center eventually outgrew its space on the Dillard campus and moved to the United States Mint building in the French Quarter. In 1986, the Center sought a permanent home and through the efforts of a coalition in New Orleans, such a home was found on the campus of Tulane University, where the Center has resided since 1987.

The Center is housed in Tulane University's Tilton Memorial Hall. From its beginnings as the first archives documenting the modern civil rights movement, the Amistad Research Center has experienced considerable expansion and its mission continues to evolve. The history of slavery, race relations, African American community development, and the civil rights movement have received new and thought-provoking interpretations as the result of scholarly research using Amistad's resources. The holdings include the papers of artists, educators, authors, business leaders, clergy, lawyers, factory workers, farmers and musicians. The collection contains approximately 250,000 photographs dating from 1859. Literary manuscript holdings contain letters and original manuscripts from prominent Harlem Renaissance writers and poets. The Center holds more than 400 works of African and African American art, including works by several internationally renowned 19th and 20th century African American masters.






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Tilton Hall, Tulane University | 6823 St. Charles Avenue | New Orleans, LA 70118 | (504) 862-3222 | FAX (504) 862-8961