Explore the Collection

Shelves in the African American Collection

The collection features more than 10,000 items, including biographies, magazines, literature, music and films. The collection has a strong emphasis on Northwest materials and Seattle-area history with pamphlets, fliers and posters on local leaders and issues. Contemporary titles are regularly added.

The collection is available to access during open hours at the Douglass-Truth Branch.

Preview the Collection

Using the catalog’s advanced search you can retrieve results for this collection by limiting the search using the ‘Collections’ drop down menu and selecting the “African American …” options. Circulating materials may also be requested via library holds.

Black Culture and History Collection

Titles in collection

Local author Jacqueline E. A. Lawson’s books on Black history and genealogy in Seattle are the latest addition to our Black Culture & History digital collection. Included are a walking tour of the Central District, a history of Camp George Jordan during WWII, and the genealogies of Seattle’s Black pioneer families, the Grose, Dixon-Lee, and Ball families. Learn more about Lawson and her legacy here.

Black Activism in Print: Visual Art from the African American Collection

Print from Black Activism in Print exhibit

Featuring framed prints created by prominent Black artists and activists Charles White and Elizabeth Catlett, from the African American Collection, on display for the first time at the Central Library since their donation in 1967. The Douglass-Truth Library received these prints through the tenacity and determination of the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., who built the African American Collection and saved the branch from closure in the 1960s.

The exhibit ran July 13 – Sept. 26, 2023.

About the Collection

The African American Collection was established in 1965 at the Douglass-Truth Library (formerly the Yesler Branch Library) through the advocacy and grit of the sorority members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., the Delta Upsilon Omega Chapter, who built the African American Collection and saved the branch from closure in the 1960s. Roberta Byrd Barr, Dr. Millie Russell, Shirley Wilcox, Ruth Marie Brown, and the other tenacious women of Delta Upsilon Omega worked alongside librarian James Welsh to build a collection that reflected the Black community in the Central District to stimulate circulation and engagement in the library. The African American Collection became a point of pride and dignity for the Central District and a burgeoning Black community.

For decades through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the collection was entirely funded and supported by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members and the Black community that would hold annual library teas and arts-related programs to raise donations to grow the collection. The collection remains at the Douglass-Truth Branch and contains some of the original donations from the collection’s origins.

Material Donation Inquiries

We are interested in donations of magazines (Suede, Ebony, Essence, Jet, Hype Hair, and Vibe) and Black diasporic literature in good condition.

For more information contact the African American Collection Librarian at the Douglass-Truth Branch.

Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute

Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute

Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute (SBSHI) is Wa Na Wari’s two-year oral history and community story training institute in partnership with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and the Library, with support from 4Culture.