The Ohio History Connection holds collections documenting the participation of African American Ohioans in business, education, politics, religious organizations, and various professions. Also included are collections representing African Americans historic struggle for freedom in the 1800s and more recent struggle for civil rights in the 1900s.
Examples of manuscript collections related to Ohio’s African American community, include, but are not limited to: the Henry and Willa Adams papers, a couple who migrated from the south to Toledo where Willa Adams ran a catering business; the James Edward “Eddie” Saunders collection, who was the first African American radio personality in Columbus; the E.E. Ward Moving and Storage Company records, an African American owned business in Columbus; and the George Wesley Allen Family Papers that includes family papers and material related to the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Wilbur H. Siebert Collection consists of correspondence, notes, manuscripts, student papers, maps, and photographs related to the Underground Railroad in Ohio and other states. Of particular interest are interviews that Siebert conducted with Underground Railroad agents and slaves who used the secret network to escape bondage.
There are records of multiple organizations advocating for African American civil rights in the 1900s, including the Ohio Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1931-1973; the Columbus Urban League from 1917-1964; and the Vanguard League from 1941-1972.
The papers of Paul Laurence Dunbar, a native of Dayton, who was the first African American writer to achieve critical acclaim and wide recognition, are a highlight of the Ohio History Connection manuscript collections. His papers include extensive correspondence with personal friends, professional colleagues, his mother, Matilda Dunbar, and his wife, Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson. Also included are literary manuscripts for published and unpublished material.
Researchers are encouraged to search the Online Collection Catalog [link to online collection catalog page] and the Ohio Memory digital library for more materials related to African American history in Ohio.