Precolonial African History OERs
Updated: Aug 30
Here is a running list of open educational resources I use to develop my courses. I'm sharing this in solidarity with others. If you find this list useful, please do not hesitate to reach out and let me. I want to have an archive of how these materials are used within the classroom and beyond.
(NOTE: Most of the collection descriptions below are taken directly from the corresponding websites. Some have been abridged or edited for clarity.)
This course follows African American origins, beginning with an overview of West African culture and history dating back to 1300. The material focuses on the era of enslavement through the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Lumen Learning provides a simple, supported path for faculty members to adopt and teach effectively with open educational resources (OER). Read more about what we do.
An overview of slavery in American from 1450-1865, compiled by PBS, with historical documents and teaching plans.
This 6,000 page reference center is dedicated to providing information to the general public on African American history and the history of more than one billion people of African ancestry around the world. We invite you to explore and use all the resources of BlackPast.
Founded in 2008, HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law, computational access to the entire corpus for scholarly research, and other emerging services based on the combined collection. HathiTrust members steward the collection — the largest set of digitized books managed by academic and research libraries — under the aims of scholarly, not corporate, interests.
HathiTrust advances its mission and goals through services and programs: HathiTrust Digital Library preserves and provides lawful access to the 17+ million digitized items. The Emergency Temporary Access Service permits temporary, emergency access to the collection for member libraries during service disruptions caused by the glocal pandemic. HathiTrust Research Center offers services that support use of the HathiTrust corpus as a dataset for analysis via text and data mining research.
Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.
The Smithsonian has launched its Open Access Initiative. Images of objects from the NMAAHC collection are now available to view, download, and share through a CC0 license.
Primary source collections exploring topics in history, literature, and culture developed by educators — complete with teaching guides for class use.
Relying on the expertise of distinguished curators and scholars, Digital Schomburg provides access to trusted information, interpretation, and scholarship on the global black experience 24/7. Users worldwide can find, in this virtual Schomburg Center, exhibitions, books, articles, photographs, prints, audio and video streams, and selected external links for research in the history and cultures of the peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora.
Digital Humanities Projects
This virtual lab showcases a spectacular collection of fossils and artifacts found mostly at Lake Turkana in East Africa. The digital collection of animals, human ancestors, as well as ancient stone tools offers a unique tool for scholars and enthusiasts to explore and interact with the collection online. It also provides an opportunity to download models for 3-D printing as well as to comment and share images of your favorite printed fossil objects on our forum. Additional specimens will be added regularly to this online collection so please visit us often.
Africa’s rock art is as diverse as the continent itself. The African rock art image project team has catalogued c. 23,000 digital photographs of rock art from across Africa – originally from the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) – through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.
AH_digITal Document Portal project will curate electronic and digitized copies of historical documents and field research materials, archives, and other sources of information that scholars & researchers of Africa have collected over many years of their work. These resources will include copies of field notes, manuscripts, rare books, magazines, pamphlets, pictures and images, and transcripts of interviews, songs, and other audio and visual documents covering periods from before colonization of Africa up until the recent past.
AODL provides free universal access to cultural heritage materials from and about African countries and communities. It brings together tens of thousands of digitized photographs, videos, archival documents, maps, interviews and oral histories in numerous African languages, many of which are contained in curated thematic galleries and teaching resources.
Timbuktu, Mali, is the legendary city founded as a commercial center in West Africa nine hundred years ago. Dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, the ancient manuscripts presented in this exhibition cover every aspect of human endeavor and are indicative of the high level of civilization attained by West Africans during the Middle Ages.
From the 1820s to the Civil War, African Americans assumed prominent roles in the transatlantic struggle to abolish slavery. In contrast to the popular belief that the abolitionist crusade was driven by wealthy whites, some 300 black abolitionists were regularly involved in the antislavery movement, heightening its credibility and broadening its agenda. The Black Abolitionist Digital Archive is a collection of over 800 speeches by antebellum blacks and approximately 1,000 editorials from the period. These important documents provide a portrait of black involvement in the anti-slavery movement; scans of these documents are provided as images and PDF files.
First Blacks in the Americas is a fully bilingual (English and Spanish) digital educational platform devoted to disseminating sound historical information about the early presence of people of Black African ancestry in the first colonial society of the Americas of modern times, the society of the colony named La Española (‘The Spanish One’) by the Spanish colonizers when they arrived in 1492 and throughout the sixteenth-century. This is the same society that, over a process of roughly three hundred and fifty years of settlement and creolization, would evolve into the Dominican ethnicity and Dominican nation, and which we know today as the Dominican people and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
In 2020 HMML received $1.4 million grant from National Endowment for the Humanities to fund a three-year project to catalog 53,000 digitized manuscripts and create an online database of authors and titles originating from under-represented or little-known literary traditions. The database is freely accessible online for use by other libraries and projects.
Scarce and unique pamphlets, primarily from Chile, Cuba, Bolivia and Mexico, published during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The database examines the pictorial processing of the history and post-history of the transatlantic slave trade in European and West African art and the conspicuous topicality of the topic in international contemporary art.
The Omar Ibn Said Collection consists of 42 digitized documents in both English and Arabic, including an 1831 manuscript in Arabic on "The Life of Omar Ibn Said," a West African slave in America, which is the centerpiece of this unique collection of texts. Some of the manuscripts in this collection include texts in Arabic by another West African slave in Panama, and others from individuals located in West Africa.
he Slave Societies Digital Archive (formerly Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies), directed by Jane Landers and hosted at Vanderbilt University, preserves endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to Africans and African-descended peoples in slave societies. SSDA holdings include more than 700,000 digital images drawn from close to 2,000 unique volumes dating from the sixteenth through twentieth centuries that document the lives of an estimated four to six million individuals. This collection contains the most extensive serial records for the history of Africans in the Atlantic World, and also includes valuable information about the indigenous, European, and Asian populations who lived alongside them.
On this website, you will find areas dedicated to each geographic entity where SSDA has worked and additional resources to assist in your research. We welcome feedback and encourage researchers to share any work that they develop using the Slave Societies Digital Archive.
Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network is an open access data repository of information on the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World. It includes the names, ethnicities, skills, occupations, and illnesses of individual slaves.
The images in Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. Our growing collection currently has over 1,200 images. This website is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public - in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World. To explore locations of images using the map above, please click the colored dots.
This digital memorial raises questions about the largest slave trades in history and offers access to the documentation available to answer them. European colonizers turned to Africa for enslaved laborers to build the cities and extract the resources of the Americas. They forced millions of Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas, and from one part of the Americas to another. Analyze these slave trades and view interactive maps, timelines, and animations to see the dispersal in action.
With a land mass of 11.7 million square miles—over three times that of the United States, including Alaska—Africa has always captivated and challenged cartographers. But explorers have been the meaningful mapmakers. Initially, after Bartolomeu Dias first rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, the continent was something for sailors to pass by on the way to India and the spice islands of the East Indies. A 16th‑century map (see Sebastian Münster’s “Totius Africæ tabula” ) even provides basic directions from Portugal on how to do just that: “keep the coast on the left, don’t stop much, and turn due east after rounding the cape.” For two hundred years most Western countries followed those instructions. Unlike the New World, which Europeans were eagerly colonizing in the 18th century, Africa presented a dangerous and inhospitable landscape.