African American Heritage

Record Group 40 - General Records of the Department of Commerce

Black History Guide:
Browse by Record Group or Collection

Please click on the National Archives Identifier (NAID) to go to the full records description in the National Archives Catalog.


The Department of Commerce promotes foreign and domestic commerce, the manufacturing and shipping industries, and the transportation facilities of the United States. Selected series in this record group pertain to African Americans who owned small businesses.

Clusters: Commerce, Genealogical, Labor

People of interest:

Emmer Martin Lancaster was appointed advisor for the Division of Negro Affairs on May 23, 1940, by Secretary Harry L. Hopkins. Many series listed below contain documents created by Lancaster relating to African Americans who owned small businesses.

Textual Records

General Correspondence [Office of the Secretary], 1903-1950

National Archives Identifier: 564429

Level of Description Selected Records
File Unit
  • Re: Suggestion of Rev. Alexander Walters, Bishop of 3rd Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church, for establishment in the Bureau of the Census of a Division to handle matters pertaining to Negroes ( NAID 23811276)

Indexed by:Index to General Correspondence, 1903-1950 (National Archives Identifier 564460).

Records of the Advisor on Negro Affairs, 1940-1953

National Archives Identifier: 6773688

Records Relating to the Balkans Trade Mission Airline Crash, 1996-2000

National Archives Identifier: 7789008
These records must be screened for personal privacy information under 5 U.S.C. 552 (b) (6) prior to public release.

Subject Files of Harriet M. Sweet, 1929-1946

National Archives Identifier: 7403561

Level of Description Selected Records
File Unit
  • Actvities in the Caribbean Area, 7756180
  • Cotton, 7756199
  • Indian Affairs and Welfare, 7756216
  • Subject Files on Fairs: Panama, 7756289
  • Subject Files on Fairs: Exhibitions, Washington, DC, General, 7756298
  • Subject Files on Fairs: Negro Progress Exposition-Detroit, MI/American Negro Exposition-Chicago, 1940, 7756304

Subject Files Relating to Fairs and Exhibitions, 1915-1941

National Archives Identifier: 7586494

Photographic Materials

Photographs Collected by Emmer Lancaster, Advisor on Negro Affairs, Office of the Secretary, 1940-1953

National Archives Identifier: 513467; Local Identifier: 40-NA

Selected Categories
  • Negro in Business
  • Black Business in Operation
  • Heads of Institutions of Higher Learning
  • Portraits of African American Business People
  • Negro, 1923-1927

Digital Photographs Relating to Agency Officials, Events, and Activities, 2001-2006

National Archives Identifier: 5950225; Local Identifier: 40-CFD

Level of Description Selected Records
File Unit
  • Secretary Donald Evans’ Address African-American Leadership, 6764225
  • African-American Event with Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Stedman Graham, 6772973