African American Heritage

Black History Guide: Women

There are countless records at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that relate specifically to Black women. Statistical information about women, like other minority groups, has been reported and tracked by the federal government throughout American history. Topics including work and home life, military and wartime experiences, artistic and cultural endeavors can be found below.

Choose a records type to begin browsing, and click on the National Archives Identifier (NAID) to go to the full records description in the National Archives Catalog:

Textual | Photographic | Motion Pictures | Electronic

Textual Records

Record Group 2 - Records of the National War Labor Board (World War I)

Case Files, 1918-1919

National Archives Identifier: 720524
Extent: 92 linear feet, 6 linear inches
This series is arranged numerically by case number. Case file (#213) relates to a dispute involving Black railroad workers and is entitled “Colored Bagmen and Mail Porters of Philadelphia Terminal Division vs. Employers.” The points at issue were a 20% increase in wages and discrimination against African American employees. Another case (#233) involved labor conditions in laundries in Little Rock, Arkansas, where 65% percent of the women employed were Black.
This series is indexed by the series General Index, 1918-1919 (NAID 721390).

Record Group 14 - Records of the United States Railroad Administration [USRA]

General Subject Files of the Women's Service Section, 1918-1920

National Archives Identifier: 7383955
Extent: 13 linear feet, 2 linear inches
This series is arranged numerically by file number. It contains information about the town or shop, division, railroad, occupation of the women employees, the number of women, the number of women under 21 years old, the number of Black women, date first employed, hours, wages, and union membership. There are also some narrative reports in this series that describe the type of facilities available to women, and, if segregated, the type of facilities available to Black women.
This series is indexed by the series Index to General Subject Files of the Women's Service Section (NAID 7384377).

Record Group 33 - Records of the Extension Service

Annual Narrative and Statistical Reports, 1911-1966

National Archives Identifier: 251659
Extent: 213 linear feet
This series is arranged chronologically in yearly segments, thereunder by district (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest), and thereunder by type of report (Men's and Women's). There are separate reports on "Negro Work" submitted by agricultural and home demonstration agents from 1916–1964.
Some of these records have been digitized.

Record Group 46 - Records of the United States Senate

Anson McCook Collection of Presidential Signatures, 1789-1975

National Archives Identifier: 306282
Extent: 1 linear foot
This series is arranged chronologically. As Secretary of the Senate from 1882–1893, Anson McCook compiled a collection of Presidential signatures consisting primarily of significant nomination messages. Records pertaining to Black history include:

  • Petitions and Memorials Referred to the Committee on Slavery and Freedmen, ca. 03/04/1863 – ca. 03/05/1865, a folder
  • "To the Women of the Republic," Address from the Women's Loyal National League supporting the abolition of slavery, 01/25/1864 from Elizabeth Cady Stanton (NAID 306400)
  • Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Vice President John Adams transmitting a petition from the Society for the Abolition of Slavery and an address of the people called Quakers on the subject of the abolition of the slave trade, 02/1790 (NAID 306388)

Also included are messages from U. S. Presidents nominating certain people to cabinet positions, such as the Message of President Lyndon B. Johnson nominating Thurgood Marshall of New York to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 06/13/1967 (NAID 306369).
Some of the records in this series have been digitized.

Committee Papers, 1816-2011

National Archives Identifier: 559828
Extent: 9,765 linear feet, 3 linear inches
This series consists of records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1861–1901, committee papers; petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee; minutes of committee meetings, 1865–1907; legislative dockets, 1861–1896 and executive dockets, 1865–1901. Records relating to Black history include: the Petition of Colored Citizens of McMinn County, Tennessee, Praying for Protection of Civil Rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, 03/02/1874 (NAID 5637786), and the Petition to the Senate Requesting the Judiciary Committee Grant a Hearing, ca. 01/1893 (NAID 7741394).
Some of the records in this series have been digitized.

Record Group 100 - Records of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA]

Classified General Files [Division of Labor Standards], 1934-1937

National Archives Identifier: 6256850
Extent: 39 linear feet, 10 linear inches
This series is arranged according to a subject numeric classification scheme. It includes correspondence under the headings “NAACP,” “Negro Labor Victory Committee,” “Committee on Negro Organization,” “Colored Trainmen,” “National Association of Colored Women,” and “Southern Negro Council.”
This series is indexed by the series Index to the Correspondence in the Classified General Files, 1934–1937 (NAID 6256865).

Photographic Materials

Record Group 54 - Records of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering [BPISAE]

Photographs of Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables, 1883-1941

National Archives Identifier: 516510
Local Identifier: 54-F
Extent: 61 linear feet, 4 linear inches
This series is arranged alphabetically by subject. There are photographs depicting African Americans working in the cotton fields, Black farmers in their homes, tenant workers, and Black women and children.

Record Group 83 - Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics [BAE]

Photographs Relating to Farm Management Investigations, 1896-1921

National Archives Identifier: 521042
Local Identifier: 83-F
This series is arranged alphabetically by subject, thereunder by state or more specific subject. Photographs depicting African Americans include: families in their homes, Black farmers, laborers, women and children, African Americans working in cotton and sugar fields.
Some of these records are digitized.

Photographic Prints Documenting Programs and Activities of the BAE and Predecessor Agencies, ca. 1922-ca. 1947

National Archives Identifier: 521048
Local Identifier: 83-G
This series is arranged by Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) division and thereunder by subject. Photographs depicting African Americans are scattered throughout the series. The photographs depict Black farmers, African Americans participating in community activities and agricultural studies, tenant workers, Black laborers, and African American families in their homes.
Some of the records in this series are digitized.

Motion Pictures

Record Group 33 - Records of the Extension Service

Helping Negroes to Become Better Farmers and Homemakers, 1921-1921

National Archives Identifier: 7134
This film is about African American and White agents of the Extension Service (Department of Agriculture) who visit Black farmers in the South instructing them in methods of eliminating boll weevils; inoculating hogs against cholera; and pruning and spraying fruit trees.

Electronic Records