The Amistad Research Center was founded to document race relations and America’s racial and ethnic heritage. With the Center’s mission derived directly from the ardently anti-caste American Missionary Association, the Center’s collection efforts have traditionally been focused on civil rights, race relations, and the cultural and social contributions of underrepresented peoples, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Jewish Americans, as well as Appalachian whites. The Center has, through collecting practice, considered the gay liberation movement as an important experience to document as a civil rights movement and LGBTQ materials are sometimes sought for the collection. The Center's acquisitions are governed by its collection development policy.
See the Research Page for information on locating and accessing Amistad's archives/manuscripts holdings.
Archives and Manuscripts
Although located in New Orleans and containing a wide variety of materials documenting New Orleans’ rich ethnic heritage, the Center’s collecting scope is national and even international in scope, with several substantial and historically significant holdings documenting the American Missionary Association’s work across the United States, the U.S.’s relationship with the African continent, and the African Diaspora. The Center’s collecting policy is not heavily influenced by geography, but the Center’s physical location in New Orleans has yielded a rich collection of material pertaining to the South and New Orleans specifically.
Collection strengths at the Amistad Research Center include education, from the Postbellum period to the present; materials chronicling all levels of participation in the civil rights movement; Africana, particularly United States organizational involvement in Africa; the cultural arts, especially music, literature, and visual art; personal papers of African American political and community leaders in New Orleans; Louisiana Creoles; and medical history, particularly in the Jim Crow south.
The Amistad Research Center has over 250,000 photographs dating from 1859 that document various aspects of ethnic history. The foundation of the photograph collections is the American Missionary Association Archives, best known for its nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs of missions and schools in the southern and western United States. Many of these are available as part of the Amistad's digital project, The American Missionary Association and the Promise of a Multicultural America: 1839-1954. Of particular note in the AMA-related collections are several photographs by noted German photographer Marion Palfi, who immigrated to the United States and chronicled the Jim Crow South, racial discrimination, and voter registration efforts.
The photograph collections are expansive with a special focus on the Civil Rights Movement, economic conditions, and ethnic communities that reveal the events of everyday life. The photograph collections can be found throughout the individual archives and manuscripts collection; however the Center’s holdings contain distinguishing photographic holdings including the Christopher West Collection, which centers around Creoles of Color and the African American community in New Orleans; American Missionary Magazine Collection documenting ethnic communities, including Native Americans; the Negro Almanac Collection of 950 photographs and early drawings; the Louisiana Weekly Collection, which includes published and unpublished photographs during the 1960s and 1970s by Louisiana's oldest existing African American newspaper; photographs from the Ronnie Moore Papers documenting Mr. Moore’s activities as the former Field Secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Louisiana, and the Marion Palfi Collection, which chronicles rural and urban African American life during the 1940s.
The reference staff can help researchers determine which collections are most likely to contain photographs of a particular subject, but the staff cannot spend more than one hour searching for photographs. A visit to the Center is necessary for in-depth photographic research, such as for documentary production. An appointment for photographic research is recommended to allow the reference staff time to do preliminary searching on your research topic.
For more information regarding the Center's manuscript and archival resources, please contact the Reference Desk via email at reference @ amistadresearchcenter.org or by calling 504-862-3222.
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