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.
Researching the American Missionary Association

Introduction to the AMA
The American Missionary Association Archives is one of the largest and most historically significant collections at the Center. The American Missionary Association (AMA), an abolitionist and interdenominational organization, was formed in 1846 from several early missionary groups. Most of the organization's founders were involved in the defense of the Amistad Africans from 1839-1841. It had a strong commitment to social justice and focused its efforts on abolishing slavery, assisting formerly enslaved people, improving the treatment of Native Americans, assisting immigrant populations, and meeting the needs of peoples in foreign lands. Between 1847 and 1865, the A.M.A. founded and/or supported 285 antislavery churches and commissioned 45 abolitionists as itinerant ministers in the United States. During and after the Civil War, the A.M.A. established hundreds of schools for freedmen, including institutions of higher education such as Fisk University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Atlanta University, Tougaloo College, and many others. The organization's commitment to education and social justice continued into the 20th century.

Organization of the AMA Archives
The American Missionary Association Archives consist of two parts: the original archives and the addenda.

Original Archives
The original donation of the archives contains approximately 350,000 manuscript pieces, dating from 1828-1891. The bulk of the records are letters, which are comprised of three parts:
1. Over 100,000 reports from the foreign and home missionaries and teachers.
2. Letters from financial and moral supporters of the AMA.
3. Correspondence among the officers of the association.
The original Archives has been arranged, elaborately indexed, and microfilmed.

The addenda includes manuscript material that the Center received after the original donation. The material in the addenda more than doubled the size of the AMA records held at the Amistad Research Center. While material in the addenda dates from as early as 1849, the bulk of the material originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The addenda includes a larger proportion of non-correspondence records and offers a unique source for studying the foundation and growth of schools founded by the AMA. The addenda has been arranged, but has not been indexed or microfilmed.

Research Tools
There are many ways to research the American Missionary Association. The list below describes some of our research tools.

Index to the AMA - This index allows researchers to locate the correspondence and documents of individual missionaries, teachers, AMA supporters, organizations, and AMA officers in the original Archives. It is arranged alphabetically by the author of each document, and the entry includes date, name of recipient, and location. The location from which the document was sent and the date written are important to note, because the physical arrangement of material in the original AMA Archives is chronological within each state or country. The online version of the index is composed of .pdf files and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Document Number - When the collection was orginally cataloged, each document in the original AMA Archives was given a unique document number. These numbers do not appear in the online index, but can be obtained by contacting the Reference Department at the Amistad Research Center. The document numbers speed up the process of locating specific documents, especially those scattered throughout different years and geographic locations. It is also helpful in determining which microfilm rolls may be requested through interlibrary loan.

Microfilm List - All documents in the original AMA Archives have been microfilmed. The microfilm is what researchers will use at the Amistad Research Center, so that the original letters may be preserved as long as possible. The microfilm is also available through interlibrary loan. This microfilm list shows the range of document numbers for each roll of a particular state or country. To locate a particular piece of correspondence, consult the online index for names, date, and location. Then contact the Reference Department for the corresponding document numbers.

The American Missionary Records - The AMA began publishing its own monthly magazine in October 1846. The American Missionary Records do not contain issues of the publication itself. At present, the collection consists of four groups, primarily of photographs, that employees of Congregational home mission boards gathered largely in the 1920s with a view toward their publication in the magazine. A large number were published, but most were not and may exist today only in this collection. Some of the images can be viewed online as part of our digital project, The American Missionary Association and the Promise of a Multicultural American: 1839-1954 (detailed below). For further information about this collection, contact the Reference Department.

American Missionary - This monthly publication American Missionary is available for viewing on microfilm at the Amistad Research Center and can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

 American Missionary Association Annual Reports - The AMA published annual reports beginning in 1847. These reports are available for viewing on microfilm at the Amistad Research Center.

Digital Project - The American Missionary Association and the Promise of a Multicultural America: 1839-1954 is a digital photo archives of more than 5000 photographs of the activities of and related to the American Missionary Association. Photographers working with the American Missionary Association traveled through urban and rural communities within the continental United States and visually recorded the foreign environments and people who lived within them. The photographs document the experiences and lives of various ethnic groups of the world. The images can be searched by keyword and browsed by photographer and title.

American Missionary Association Timeline - The timeline provides an overview of the history of the AMA and is illustrated with images of documents from the AMA Archives.

AMA Bibliographies and Related Collections - For additional resources on the American Missionary Association please consult the following bibliographies and research guides:

A Bibliography to The Amistad Case
United Church of Christ Subject Guide






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