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African American Biographical Database: Home

A guide to all aspects of ProQuest's African American Biographical Database including content, searching, and viewing results.

Subject Coverage

This extraordinary collection contains extended narratives of African American activists, business people, former slaves, performing artists, educators, lawyers, physicians, writers, church leaders, homemakers, religious workers, government workers, athletes, farmers, scientists, factory workers, and more--both the famous and the everyday person. Their stories are pivotal to an understanding of the Black American experience over the last two centuries (1790 and 1950).

Publication Types

This database is the online version of the acclaimed Black Biographical Dictionaries 1790-1950 and includes descriptive listings of individuals taken from Black Biography, 1790-1950: A Cumulative Index, edited by Randall K. Burkett, Nancy Hall Burkett, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Written and edited in most cases by blacks, the works reproduced include biographical sketches of individuals from all walks of life - national activists, state and local figures, prominent women, lawyers, artists, musicians, church and missionary leaders, society leaders, and many more! 

This remarkable collection offers real insight into black America from the accomplishments, against the odds, of thousands of previously unknown black women to the history of local black elites and their interactions with white Americans.

What is the African American Biographical Database?

ProQuest's African American Biographical Database (1790-1950) is a unique electronic collection of biographical information on African Americans with over 40,000 entries from over 290 titles. The African American Biographical Database is a resource of first resort when you are looking for biographical information, including photographs and illustrations, for African Americans. From the famous to the everyday person, the database includes profiles and full-text sketches providing both biographical detail and illuminating narratives chronicling the lives of Black Americans.

Each text used in the African American Biographical Database has been fully digitized so that in addition to searching for specific biographic sketches, you essentially have direct access to a rich collection of African American reference works, many of which are rare books.

You can use this database to:

  • FIND fascinating accounts of life as a slave, religious leader in the American South, reformer or business person in 19th century America
  • VERIFY names or birth records of family members for a genealogical search
  • LOCATE historic photographs or illustrations
  • DISCOVER geographic and familial links vital to genealogical research
  • EXPERIENCE the personal meaning of social transformation from slavery through emancipation, war and depression
  • EXPLORE the history of local Black elites from Baltimore to Seattle
  • COLLECT information for a book, paper, or other scholarly endeavor
  • RESEARCH the Abolitionist movement, growth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and many other political movements and organizations

Publication coverage

To view the title list of this database, see the View Sources tab within the interface or download the PDF below.