Black History Month: Law Library Resources to the Past and Future

Black History Month, or African American History Monthcelebrates the accomplishments of Black Americans who have pressed for elusive equality and otherwise improved life in the United States. That ongoing struggle for civil rights and equal treatment is central to American legal history, with important advances, as well as significant setbacks, attributable to the legislative and executive branches, as well as the judiciary.

Arizona State’s Law Library gathers resources to guide students of the history of the civil rights movement, as well as the activists and allies protecting advancements of equality and pushing for needed change. Our Racial Justice Resources guide gathers a bevy of resources for researchers, organizers, and protesters. It stores the statements by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the law school’s dean, and the John P. Morris Black Law Students Association expressing commitment to racial justice.

The National Racial Justice Organizations page lists dozens of racial justice organizations and introduces their scope and mission. It also provides essential resources for news and information on legal developments regarding racial equality movements. The Local Racial Justice Organizations page introduces more than a dozen more government and private groups from Arizona.

For those taking to the streets to push for change, the Resources for Protesters page can help. It gathers information on the legal rights of protesters, tips on interacting safely with law enforcement officials, and bail funds.

For students and scholars examining equality as an academic pursuit, the Databases, Books, and Journals page combines essential treatises, dedicated journals, and research databases into a convenient hub for research. The ProQuest Black Freedom Struggle in the United States database examines the events through key people, data, and legal documents in six eras of the civil rights movement, beginning with the fight to end slavery in the United States’ early decades. The Law Library’s Racial Justice guide also includes a page of U.S. Federal Government Hearings on matters including the legal landscape of racial discrimination, law enforcement practices, and voting rights.

Furthermore, the library’s Seminar Topical Research Guides include focused guides dedicated to particular aspects of the struggle for equal treatment tailored for courses taught at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The Race and the Law seminar guide includes books, journals, databases, and web resources regarding racial and ethnic equality. The Law and Social Change seminar takes a broad approach, including other branches of the movement for equality, including feminism and LGBTQ+ rights. A More Perfect Union: Membership and Belonging includes resources that discuss inclusion beyond an abstract legal concept and more as an ongoing real world project, examining the inequalities in social systems including education and the prison system.

Two more important resources are HeinOnline’s Civil Rights and Social Justice database and Proquest’s Black Freedom Struggle in the United States. HeinOnline’s Civil Rights and Social Justice database brings together a diverse offering of publications covering civil rights in the United States as their legal protections and definitions are expanded to cover more and more Americans. Containing hearings and committee prints, legislative histories on the landmark legislations, CRS and GAO reports, briefs from major Supreme Court cases, and publications from the Commission on Civil Rights, this database allows users to educate themselves on the ways our civil rights have been strengthened and expanded over time, as well as how these legal protections can go further still. A curated list of scholarly articles, a varied collection of books on many civil rights topics, and a list of prominent civil rights organizations help take the research beyond HeinOnline.

Proquest’s Black Freedom Struggle in the United States website features select primary source documents related to critical people and events in African American history. The website contains approximately 1,600 documents focused on six different phases of Black Freedom.

  1. Resistance to Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860)
  2. The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877)
  3. Jim Crow Era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932)
  4. The New Deal and World War II (1933-1945)
  5. The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975)
  6. The Contemporary Era (1976-2000)

The library’s JD holding reference librarians are happy to guide and support your research on racial justice, or any other topic. Use our Meet with a Librarian form to schedule an appointment.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian