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African Americans in Business and Entrepreneurship: A Resource Guide


Biographical information can be located in encyclopedias, books, directories, and subscription databases, including those with periodical and newspaper articles. When researching an individual, your approach will differ depending on whether the person is living or dead, and the time period under consideration. The amount of available biographical information is often related to an individual's prominence in their field and their popularity with the general public.

Researchers seeking information about a relatively unknown person have a fair bit of detective work to do. The Library of Congress' Local History & Genealogy Reference Collection in the Main Reading Room has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, and this is a good place to search for additional information. For information on the D.C. area, refer to Washington, D.C. in the Manuscript Reading Room. To search for photos related to your family or a hard to locate individual, consider consulting the Using Local and Family Photographs to Tell the Stores of Your Ancestors guide.

While you will find a lot of information available on the Internet, it may not be reliable, and you may not find what you are looking for if you rely solely on free Internet sources. Many of the best sources included here may be available in a local public or university library so check to see what you have access to locally.

Biography Resources

Well-known individuals can often be found in an encyclopedia article, which generally contains a brief summary of someone's life and major accomplishments. Directories and Who's Who type publications contain a varied amount of information, and focus on both famous individuals and those who are less prominent. The introductory chapter or page of the directory will explain how the information is obtained, and whether the information is checked for accuracy, as well as the standards or reasons for inclusion.

The following book titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

There are many databases that can be useful when researching Biographies. The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Article databases contain biographical information that can be found in periodicals (journals and magazines).  Articles that contain biographical information generally report on an event: a discovery, an achievement, or a death. Retrospective articles appear on anniversaries of important events or deaths. Following are select databases for contemporary articles. If you are searching for historic articles, consider searching the newspaper databases available in the Press & Publishing section. Additional information and resources are available in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room.

These digitized resources provide bibliographic details for some African American business owners.