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The mission of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute Special Collections is to preserve and document our institutional record, the Black presence on Northeastern’s campus, and to make accessible evidence of the efforts and achievements of peoples of color, for racial, social, political, and economic parity in the United States.

The print collection consists of about 2000 volumes of unique titles, within the Northeastern University Library System. The collection is subject-specific; all materials encompass information about the African Diaspora, throughout the world. The print collection consists of items from the original Norfolk House collection in Roxbury, first editions, periodicals, newspapers, documents, rare imprints and a signature collection.

  • Access: to locate items in the JDOAAI print collection, please search the NU catalog.
  • Research Equipment: A scanner and photocopy machine is available for materials in good condition. There is no charge for photocopies, within reasonable limits.
  • Please Note: all items are non-circulating and secured within the Special Collections. However, circulation requests can be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, at your research appointment.

The Image and A/V Collections is a digital database is being constructed to house our 10K+ images and hundreds of A/V archival recordings that document the institutional record of the JDOAAI, from its beginnings in the late 1960s, to current events. We as one JDOAAI community, are preserving our history and creating our own narrative, but we need your insights! Please visit our Flickr page below, to help us identify people and events within our image collection, by tagging any known information to these photographs. Together, we can tell our story of Black excellence at Northeastern University!

  • NU DRS: The JDOAAI Digital Collections are accessible & downloadable via the NU Digital Repository Service.
  • Flickr: Displays curated digital photos albums for the series, Who’s Who of the ‘Tute which features images spanning our beginnings in the late 1960’s, to present day, featuring current students, alumni and staff.

Microforms – involves microfiche and microfilm; the collection is mostly periodicals and newspapers, but also includes 200 reels on Black culture and 11 reels on slave narratives.

  • Access Issue: the Special Collections does not have a microform reader available onsite. To research microfiche or film, arrangements will be made to view the film over at Snell Library. Please allow 5 business days to secure an appointment.

Community Curators: Sharing Black Boston History

We as one JDOAAI community, are preserving our history and creating our own narrative. Through partnerships with the Center of Community Service department’s Service-Learning Program, the English Department’s Writing in/about Black Boston course ENGL 2690,  and the JDOAAI community service program, our extensive uncatalogued image and audio/visual holdings featuring famous Black leaders who visited the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute since its inception in 1968, are being uncovered, researched and shared with the academic community.

We are proud to share the work of our intellectual entrepreneurs:

Volunteers Needed

If you would like to volunteer at the JDOAAI Special Collections to help research our historical records, intellectual entrepreneurs are always welcomed. Volunteers can assist in a few different projects:

  • Unpacking our History: approximately 40 boxes of unknown archival items are waiting to be unpacked, identified, appraised and digitized for the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute Special Collections website
  • Digital Transcription Curator: transcribe our recently digitized archival audio lectures and video presentations, from the comfort of your own computer. The transcribed materials will be employed for research guides and will make this material accessible for people with disabilities
  • Community Curator: research a pivotal figure in Black History present in our collection, and provide biographical information, their impact upon society and provide insights into their particular visit to JDOAAI and Northeastern

To learn more about volunteering and liberating our unique collection, please contact the JDOAAI Special Collections manager: Simonne Ronk |


The JDOAAI Special Collections is available by appointment only, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Requests for access after-hours will be reviewed and accommodated to the best of our ability.

Appointment Request


Simonne Ronk
Program Coordinator & Manager of the JDOAAI Special Collections