Expressions of the Black Experience

African American writing, art, theater, music, and performance in the United States, primarily of the 20th century, can be found in several collections and collecting areas in Archives & Special Collections. 

The Black Experience in the Arts initiative forms part of a broader collecting effort to extend the scope and diversity of creators represented in the Archives and to build upon the strengths of existing collections that document Black perspectives, expression, and experiences.  Through focused acquisitions and donor support, Archives & Special Collections aims to support current and emerging interdisciplinary interests of students, faculty, and researchers.

These interdisciplinary collections include:

  • Allen Polite Papers: manuscripts, letters, diaries, artwork, and photographs documenting the work and life of poet Allen Polite. 
  • Black Experience in the Arts: a series of sound recordings made as part of UConn's long-running Black Experience in the Arts course
  • Voices of the Harlem Renaissance: works by African American writers and recording artists of the Harlem Renaissance from ASC's collections in Archives and Special Collections, including poetry, novels, plays, anthologies, and music
  • Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture: recordings of African American music, popular sheet music, video and dvd productions about African American music, research materials, manuscripts, field recordings, recording session notes and books written by the Charters and supporting the study of African American vernacular musical genres. 
  • Artists' Books: experimental and artists’ books that challenge the conventional meaning of the word ‘book.’ Over the years, the collection has grown to include fine and small press imprints, limited edition letterpress and offset printed volumes, and contemporary artists’ books. These books represent a variety of structures, construction techniques, printing methods and themes.


Accessing These Materials

All materials are available for use in the John P. McDonald Reading Room. For additional information, please see Using our Materials. Some collections are available in our digital repository.