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  • 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:

Petitions to Sign:

Documenting Movements:



Zakiya Collier

Alex Poole

Mario H. Ramirez

Anna Robinson-Sweet

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



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