Library Resources on the Civil Rights Movement

Books at Alumnae Library

Alumnae Library’s Online Public Access Catalog is also called C/W MARS. To search for books, videos, magazines or journals (also called periodicals), go to the library homepage at Click on the link that says Online Catalog (it may also say Find a Book Using our Online Catalog).

You will be taken to the simple search. It allows you to search by author, title, keyword, subject, or periodical title, among others. If you know the author or title of a source, or it is a simple keyword search, such as civil rights, Rosa Parks, or desegregation, then the simple search will suffice.

However, if you wish to compose a complex search, such as finding books about the how African Americans were denied service at lunch counters or were forced to give up seats on a bus, or about the lunch counter protests or the 1969 riot in Greensboro, North Carolina, you would be better off using the Advanced Search. For example, you could try something like the following:

keyword=civil rights AND keyword=lunch counters
keyword=busing OR buses AND keyword=civil rights
keyword=Greensboro AND keyword=riots OR protests

The important thing to remember is that searching effectively involves coming up with a search strategy, and that strategy will probably involve using various synonyms and similar terms to maximize effectiveness. By the same token, if you wanted to find digital videos on this topic in our library, you might try something like the following:

keyword=civil rights AND format=e-video
keyword=Rosa Parks AND format=e-video

Databases: Other Books

If you want to find all books on this topic area, the best database in which to begin your search is called WorldCat. WorldCat searches for books and materials in libraries worldwide. The advantage of WorldCat over Amazon is that WorldCat finds only books that are already published and housed in libraries. You can then do an Interlibrary Loan to get your book, at no cost to you. The WorldCat Advanced Search screen will allow you to limit your search by language, number of libraries, audience (Adult vs. Juvenile), content (Fiction vs. Non-Fiction), and year of publication. If you’re interested in this option, just find a librarian to talk you through it.

Databases: Articles

To look for articles on this topic, begin by searching Academic Search Complete, a large multi-disciplinary academic database. You can use the same search strategies that you used to find books in the Alumnae Library catalog. The interface is very user-friendly. It allows you to refine or narrow your search by clicking on the options on the left. These options on the left will let you search within your results for even more specific articles, to constantly refine your search results. To get to our databases go to the library page. Then click on Electronic Databases (the link may also read Find Articles Using Electronic Databases).

More Databases: Articles

Other databases that would work for this topic include the following:

· Biography in Context, to look for information on specific famous women (or men), such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ruby Bridges, Medgar Evers, or Jesse Jackson.

· CQ (Congressional Quarterly) Researcher Online, to look for user-friendly published government studies, on topics like discrimination, white supremacy groups, and racial profiling.

· Films on Demand, to find e-video (search narrowing by subject is on the left, and you can search video titles or video segments).

· Diversity Studies Collection, to find more articles (search narrowing is on the left).

· Project Muse, to find even more articles (search narrowing occurs after you search a single search term).

The Web

You can also find useful information about on just about any aspect of civil rights by searching the internet. By far, the best search engine on the World Wide Web is Google, which is located and maintained at Stanford University. Google allows for you to search by phrases, to combine words using Boolean searches, and to limit your results by domain. For example, you could type in any of the following (including spaces and punctuation):

“Rosa Parks” Montgomery Alabama
to get websites from non-profit organizations like museums

“national guard” “kent state”
to get websites from government agencies

“protest songs” “civil rights”
to get websites from universities and educational institutions

discrimination “African Americans”
to find out that the military takes this topic seriously

The Google command for domain limitation is site: followed by the domain you wish to limit results to, such as government agencies (.gov), universities (.edu), not-for-profit organizations (.org), and military sites (.mil). By typing or in the above search, you are telling the search engine to return only those sites that come from universities and educational institutions or organizations. The Google command for a phrase search is enclosing the phrase within quotes. So when you typed “protest songs” (in quotes), you tell the search engine not to return sites with the word protest in them, unless that word is immediately followed by the word songs. The space between the commands takes the place of the Boolean operator AND, thus allowing you to combine terms, so that “protest songs” “civil rights” is the same as typing “protest songs” and “civil rights” and

Google also offers video searching and advanced searches for websites and for video. To do a Google video search, first run a regular Google search. Once you get your results, you’ll notice that at the top of the page you can click on Videos (or sometimes you have to click on More, and then Videos). Once you do that you’ll be doing a video search.

Recently, the creators of Google have begun hiding the advanced searches, but you can find them easily—by searching for them in Google.

Here are some of the important search options you have in Google:

Google Books:
Google Advanced Search:‎
Google Scholar:
Google Advanced Video Search:‎

If you stop and think about it for a second, you’ll realize that it’s very easy to search Youtube through Google. You would use two important pieces of information you learned in the Google section of this handout—how to do a searh in Google for videos and how to limit by domain. Here is an example:

     “civil rights movement” “Selma, Alabama”

Once you get a list of results, you would click on Videos.


Youtube offers only a simple search engine, which severely limits your ability to refine searches. However, one nice trick you can use in youtube will result in your finding things like movies, albums (full CDs), and documentaries. Since these items tend to be more than twenty minutes long, using the long search in youtube will find them. The trick is to use the “, long” command. For example, a youtube search for
     civil rights songs, long
     protest songs album, long
will produce documentaries, live performances, interviews, and albums, or at least videos of 20 minutes or longer. Adding the word album will find albums, if any are available.


The following is a brief list of songs used in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s; the first to groups were composed earlier whereas the last are examples of songs written for the 1960s Movement. Original and definitive performances as well as texts (lyrics) can be found on the Internet.

Examples of Previously Composed Songs That Did Not Need or Underwent Few Text Changes

· “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”: African American spiritual.
· “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite gospel song.
· “Strange Fruit”: Song based on a poem with the same title.
· “Lift Every Voice and Sing”: Sometimes called “The Black National Anthem,” the song      was based on a poem written in 1899 that was set to music a year later.
· “This Little Light of Mine”: Folk song that has often been thought of as an African      American Spiritual.
· “Which Side Are You On?”: Originally composed as a union protest song, but adapted      for the Civil Rights Movement.

Songs That Underwent Text and/or Other Changes

· “Freedom”: Same tune as “Amen,” but with different text.
· “We Shall Not Be Moved”: Just a slight text change of the song “I Shall Not Be Moved.”
· “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”: Based on a traditional work song called “Gospel Plow,”      also known as “Hand On the Plow” or “Hold On.”
· “We Shall Overcome”: Based on the gospel song text and structure of “I Will Overcome      Someday.”
· “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”: Different text with same chorus and music.

Songs Written for the Civil Rights Movement

· “A Change Is Gonna Come”
· “Blowin’ in the Wind”
· “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus”
· “People Get Ready”

Questions? Contact either of these search gurus:

Tony Fonseca:
Melissa Goldsmith:

Authors: Anthony J. Fonseca and Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith.
© 2013-2014 Anthony J. Fonseca and Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith