Black History and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium

Black History Month can be traced back to Carter G. Woodson, who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH; now named the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or ASALH). Dr. Woodson initiated Negro History Week in 1926, chosen to overlap with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The celebration expanded to the month of January In 1976.

Dr. Woodson earned a second Baccalaureate and a Masters degree in history at the University of Chicago in 1908, continuing on to Harvard for his Ph.D. in history, awarded in 1912.  Dr. Woodson’s academic work and dedication to the journal and association he founded laid the groundwork for future scholarship on African American life and history (for a brief biography, see this University of Chicago online exhibit). Nearly a century after his days as a student at the University of Chicago, scholars, archivists, and librarians from Chicago institutions with major holdings of materials documenting African American and African diasporic culture, history, and politics, founded the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC), hosted and administered by the University of Chicago with financial and volunteer support from libraries, universities, and community and government organizations throughout Chicago.

logo Black Metropolis Research ConsortiumThe BMRC’s current mission is “to connect all who seek to document, share, understand and preserve Black experiences. It is the vision of BMRC to be essential to promoting discovery, preservation, and use of Black historical collections.” Every day, week, month and year since 2006, the BMRC has been supporting scholarship on African American life and history. The BMRC offers several programs throughout the year, including workshops and presentations, paid research fellowships and mentoring programs, and support for the work of memory keepers in family, community, and institutional archives (read more about BMRC programs and resources).

This February will mark the debut of a revised and enhanced BMRC research portal, a three-year project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to improve access to Black historical collections through technology, sustainability, and outreach. Several collections from the DePaul University Special Collections and Archives are included in this research portal, which will allow researchers to search descriptions for archival materials held in institutions throughout Chicago. The portal builds upon previous work by the BMRC to identify relevant collections at area institutions, but also increases discoverability and cross-collection searching. Stay tuned for the official launch date and link to the portal!

The Archie Motley Archival Internship Program is now accepting applications, with a due date of March 13, 2022. The Archie Motley Archival Archie Motley Internship FlyerInternship Program provides students of color with work opportunities to gain paid, practical experience and enhance their educational experience. Interns develop an understanding of archival practices, as well as learn about Chicago-area history and culture as it pertains to African American and African Diasporic people. The program recruits students of color as a means to address the issue of underrepresentation within the archives profession. No previous library or archives experience is required. Recent Archie Motley interns from DePaul completed projects for the Chicago History Museum and the Black Alumni Collection at the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University. You can read more about the interns or watch their final presentations on the BMRC’s YouTube channel. Applications are submitted online and finalists are invited for an interview so that productive matches can be made between a student’s interest and skills and the projects at the host institutions. Final decisions are made in early April, and interns receive $3000 for their eight-week internship (25 hours per week).

The DePaul University Library has been an active member of the BMRC since 2018, with Head of Special Collections and Archives, Jamie Nelson, serving on the Board of Trustees, and Coordinator for Special Collections and Archives Engagement, Morgen MacIntosh Hodgetts, serving on the Archie Motley Archival Internship Program Committee. For questions about DePaul’s relationship with the BMRC, and membership benefits available to DePaul students, staff, and faculty, please email Jamie Nelson. For application questions about the Archie Motley Internship, please email Allison Sutton, Program Manager/Archivist for the BMRC.

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