Black Historical Newspapers Database: Baltimore and Norfolk Ties to North Carolina
Author: Elizabeth Hayden, Reference Services and Data Librarian
The Government & Heritage Library (GHL) offers free online access to the Black Historical Newspapers database to State Library of North Carolina cardholders and people visiting the library. This collection is brought to us by ProQuest and includes America’s longest-running, family-owned newspaper, The Baltimore Afro-American, from 1893 to 1988, and the Norfolk Journal and Guide, from 1916 to 2003. These historical newspapers provide genealogists, researchers, and scholars with coverage of events and issues important to the African American communities of Baltimore and Norfolk.
The Historical and Research Value of Newspapers
A researcher might ask why would the State Library of North Carolina want a Virginia or Maryland newspaper? The answer lies in historical events. Attracted by higher wages, many African Americans left North Carolina for jobs in larger cities where they could earn higher wages and make a better life for their families during the Great Migration. Throughout the early 20th century, North Carolinians were attracted to the Virginia and Maryland shipyards to build ships during wartime. Many African Americans maintained contact with home through these newspapers. In fact, the Norfolk newspaper had a column titled, “North Carolina News” that kept relocated North Carolinians up to date with people and events from the state.
The Norfolk paper always carried news about Rocky Mount, North Carolina’s famous June German dances. In 1940 A. Morisey reported people from as far away as Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk attended the June 17th event in his article "10,000 Hear Count Basie at Historic N.C. June German Dance.” In 1948, the Baltimore Afro American reported “Basie Sets a New June German B.O.: N.C. Dance Draws 24,287 for Record.”
“In Baltimore, the proportion of the Black population tripled during the Great Migration, growing from less than 85,000, 15 percent of the city’s overall population, in 1910, to more than 420,000—a near majority of the population—by 1970.”
“How Black families came “up South,” faced down Jim Crow, and built a groundbreaking Civil Rights movement.” https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/section/historypolitics/the-great-migration.
You can search both ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The Baltimore Afro-American, and The Norfolk Journal and Guide at once by entering a “Basic Search” term or going to “Advanced Search.” You can also search the individual newspapers the same way. Search strategies in this database do not need to be complex as in other ProQuest products. And these databases allow downloading or printing PDFs of articles or a single page.
Use "quotation marks" to search for exact phrases and separate terms with OR to find any of the words entered. Use AND between words will search for both terms. NOT will eliminate words you do not want to appear in the search, for example, “Spam NOT food” will likely result in a search for spam as it relates to computers. Do not use “stop words” such as the, in, on, a, an, etc.
Use the search bar to specify if a appears anywhere in the text, in a title, or is part of an author’s name. This allows researchers to select the type of information, including birth notices, classified ads, editorials, legal notices, marriages, obituaries, and more. You can also choose all dates, on this date, a date range, or specify if you would like to search before or after a certain date.
How to Access
North Carolina residents with a GHL library card or in-person library visitors can access this database on the Online Resources webpage at https://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/research/information-researchers/online-resources.
We invite you to explore these databases and more at the Government & Heritage Library. Explore North Carolina’s past through the eyes of African American’s who may have left North Carolina but maintained their ties to home.