top of page
  • Writer's pictureSamantha Cross

Archives in the World: Black Lives Matter

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Archives are not Neutral. Full stop.

That's your first lesson. Archives are part of institutions. Whether they be government, university, museums, or corporations they are still part of a greater system that has, in all likelihood, participated in, propagated, or profited from systemic racism. Archiving as a practice is heavily rooted in imperialism and colonialism, so it's important that we acknowledge our origins and past practices if we want to make any forward movement.

You don't get to pretend that we're silent observers because we never have been and we never will be. To claim neutrality is a choice NOT to act and I'm sorry, kids, but you don't get to have that luxury anymore - not that you should've had it in the first place.

And I realize these are stressful times and it's hard to know what to do or how to help, but the best first step forward is educating yourself on why this moment, and all of the moments preceding it, matter within the context of a system built to suppress, exploit, degrade, and eradicate the black community. Furthermore, how archives and archivists handle documenting the current Black Lives Matter peaceful protests, police brutality, white supremacist instigators, and responses from the media is of the utmost importance. What our profession does has, can, and will be used against the people most in need of protection and it's no longer a matter of pointing to the collecting policy as an excuse.

What we do has consequences.

So, in an effort to contribute something to the world, here are links and reading recommendations to at least get you started. It's not a comprehensive list, but it will continue to grow as more literature and links are created. Feel free to reach out if you have a book or links to share.

Black Lives Matter:

The Black Curriculum - UK Organization:

Ways To Help:

Black Lives Matter

Campaign Zero

Justice in June

Association of Research Libraries & Society of American Archivists Mosaic Program

Bail Project

Support Black Trans People

The Okra Project

National Lawyers Guild - Mass Defense Fund

Transgender Law Center

Split a donation between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers

Black-Owned Businesses

Petitions to Sign:

Documenting Movements:

Documenting the Now

Sixty Inches From Center


Digital Blackness in the Archives: Collecting for Culture


Jarrett M. Drake's Medium Archive

Michelle Caswell's Research Archive

Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives: An Incomplete List of White Privileges in Archives and Action Items for Dismantling Them - PDF/Poster Design by Gracen Brilmyer

Sustainable Futures - Community Archives

Call to Action: Archiving State-Sanctioned Violence Against Black People

Zakiya Collier

No one owes their trauma to archivists, or, the commodification of contemporaneous collecting Eira Tansey

The Strange Career of Jim Crow Archives: Race, Space, and History in the Mid-Twentieth-Century American South

Alex Poole

Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative

Mario H. Ramirez

Truth and Reconciliation: Archivists as Reparations Activists

Anna Robinson-Sweet

The Heart of the Matter: The Developmental History of African American Archives

Rabia Gibbs

Archives and History Books:

Caldera, Mary A. and Kathryn M. Neal, eds. Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion

Zanish-Belcher, Tanya and Anke Voss, eds. Perspectives on Women's Archives

Jimerson, Randall C. Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice

Foner, Eric. Who Owns History?: Rethinking the Past in a Changing World

Doss, Erika. Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America

Hammer, JoshuaThe Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts

Redman, Samuel J. Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums​

Fuentes, Marisa JDispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive​

Reid-Pharr, Robert FArchives of Flesh: African America, Spain, and Post-Humanist Critique

Chaudhuri, Nupur, Sherry J. Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry, eds. Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources

bottom of page