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History of the Michigan Black History Bibliography (MBHB) Project

In ca. 1974, Roberta McBride, an archivist at Wayne State University’s Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs (later called the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs), created the Michigan Black History Bibliography (MBHB). The card file contains hundreds of bibliographic references to sources illuminating the history of African Americans in Michigan. Prior to her tenure at Wayne State, McBride served as a librarian at a number of institutions, including the Detroit Public Library, Kansas State University, and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) Union (Roberta McBride Vertical File, Walter P. Reuther Library).

Dr. Louis Jones, Adjunct Professor of the Wayne State University’s School of Information Sciences and Field Archivist  at the Walter P. Reuther Library, approached the Wayne State student chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) about the idea of student chapter members digitizing the physical note cards comprising the bibliography. The project became an opportunity for these students to put into practice the skills they were learning in their studies, while providing a valuable online resource to patrons working on projects associated with Michigan’s Black history. Reuther Archivist and Digital Resource Specialist Paul Neirink assisted the students in conceptualizing the digital aspects of the project. 

The student chapter began working on the project in 2017 by digitizing note cards that comprise the bibliography. Data from the note cards was then entered into spreadsheets and uploaded into Omeka, [which] provides open-source web publishing platforms for sharing digital collections and creating media-rich online exhibits. This process resulted in a searchable database. 

In the course of creating an online version of this bibliography, the student chapter presented their work in poster sessions at several conferences, including that of the Society of American Archivists annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2018. Poster presentations about the MBHB provided these students an opportunity to share their work while networking within the professional archival community. 

With this groundwork established, Allie Penn, a member of the student chapter, actively pursued and received funding from a 2018 Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association (ALA). Because this useful resource had received very little exposure and use until Wayne State’s SAA student chapter decided to create an online version, the idea resonated with this granting agency. The generous funding from this grant then allowed for the hiring of a researcher to locate resources that make up the bibliography 

In collaboration with the Wayne State University SAA student chapter, the Reuther Library is now pleased to present this work to its many researchers.