Main Content

EN 104 - Shades of Gray...and Brown...and Ivory: Race and Racism in Literature


This is a guide to selected sources of information related to race and racism. It is meant as a starting point for your research. For further research assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk, or see our Ask a Librarian page for info on how to email, text, or call a reference librarian for help.


Research Basics

Visit Geisel Library's Research Help webpage for help with getting started.  In particular, check out the following:

  • Research Planner:  Create a timetable of milestones for completing your paper, with links to useful resources at each step
  • Research Strategy:  Helpful suggestions for every stage of the research process, from choosing a topic to citing your sources
  • Research Tutorials:  Web guides and videos on how to use library resources


Background Information

Before looking for books and journal articles on your topic, it is helpful to explore reference resources such as subject-specific encyclopedias. These resources can provide background information on authors and literary works, as well as the social issues, historical periods, and themes being addressed in this course. They can also help you determine keywords to search in the library catalog and journal databases. Use the bibliographies at the end of articles in reference resources to identify books and journal articles worth tracking down.

Starting Points

Encyclopedia of Race and Racism
This online encyclopedia examines all aspects of race and racism from a scholarly perspective.  Browse the Table of Contents for topic ideas.

Encyclopedia of Social Problems
Search "race or racism" to find numerous relevant entries, such as race-blind policies, stereotyping, and sentencing disparities.

Credo Reference
Search for "race or racism" to find entries from encyclopedias of anthropology, geography, history, psychology, and other fields of study.

Oxford Reference Online
This database includes numerous reference works for obtaining basic information on authors and historical events.

Literature Resources

Literature Resource Center
This database includes lengthy biographical profiles of authors, plot summaries, and literary criticism for thousands of novelists, poets, and other writers.    User Guide

African American Writers
     Ref PS153 .N5 A344

American Writers (13 vols.)
     Ref PS129 .A55

Critical Survey of Long Fiction (8 vols.)
     Ref PN3451 .C75

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature (5 vols.)
     Ref PS153.M56 G74

Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature
     Ref PS21 .E537 (print version, 4 vols.)

Race and Racism in History and Society

Battleground:  Criminal Justice (2 vols.)
     Ref HV7411 .B38 [entries on racial profiling and other crime-related issues]

Encyclopedia of African-American History, 1896 to the Present
     Online [entries on racism, discrimination, segregation, and theories of race]

Encyclopedia of American Social Movements (4 vols.)
     Ref HN57 .E594 [entries on the antislavery, civil rights, Asian-American, and Chicano movements]

Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology
     Ref GN502 .E63 [entries on racism and discrimination, white privilege, and institutional racism]

Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
     Online [entries on racism and discrimination]

Encyclopedia of the United States in the 20th Century (5 vols.)
     Ref E740.7 .E53 [chapter on race]

Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups
     Ref E184 .A1 [entries on individual groups and on "prejudice and discrimination"]

New Dictionary of the History of Ideas
     Online [entries on race and racism, prejudice, and critical race theory]
     Ref CB9 .N49 (print version)


Return to top



Geisel Library Catalog
There are two approaches to finding books in the Geisel Library catalog:

1)  Keyword Searching

If you have a specific topic in mind, try a Keyword search on terms that represent your topic of interest. Use the Boolean AND to combine together multiple concepts, and use the Boolean OR to expand your search with synonyms and related terms. Use the * (asterisk) to retrieve variant forms of a word; for example, racis* will find books with the words "racist" or "racism" in the catalog record.

Here are some examples of keyword searches related to this course's theme:

  • America* AND (colonialis* OR imperialis* OR racis*)
  • Race AND (identity OR self)
  • "Asian America*" AND (race OR racism OR discrimin*)
  • (White OR whiteness) AND race

2)  Subject Searching

If you have a general area of interest but haven't chosen a specific topic, try searching some of the phrases below as Subject Headings in the catalog. Subject searching is effective for finding books about broad concepts.  Skimming through these books may give you ideas about how to focus your research. If you are researching a particular author or work, try searching the author's name as a Subject to locate biographies and literary criticism.

  • Race in literature
  • Racism in literature
  • African Americans in literature
  • American literature — African American authors — History and criticism
  • Asian Americans — [various subheadings]
  • Ethnicity — United States
  • Race discrimination
  • Race discrimination — United States
  • Race relations
  • Race relations — United States
  • Racism — United States

Here are some books found through keyword and subject searching:

Racial Thinking in the United States:  Uncompleted Independence
     E184.A1 R3235

American Prejudice:  With Liberty and Justice for Some
     E184.A1 R67

Yellow:  Race in America Beyond Black and White
     E184.O6 W84

"I'm Not a Racist, But.":  The Moral Quandary of Race
     HT1523 .B58

Buying Whiteness:  Race, Culture, and Identity from Columbus to Hip Hop
     PR408.R34 T39

Authentic Blackness:  The Folk in the New Negro Renaissance
     PS153.N5 F38

By searching WorldCat, you can identify potentially useful books owned by other college libraries and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use. Try searching the same keywords and subject headings that proved successful in the Geisel Library catalog. To request a book, open the book's WorldCat record, click the "Request via Interlibrary Loan" link, and follow the on-screen instructions. Allow 7–10 days for delivery. You will be emailed when your book arrives.


Return to top


Journal Articles

Below are several databases that may yield useful journal articles for your research. Try searching the same keywords that you used in the library catalog, combining concepts together using the Boolean AND and OR operators. Once you find relevant articles, examine their Subject Headings and conduct Subject searches on the ones that seem potentially fruitful.

If you find a useful article for which no full-text link is available, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in Geisel Library or in full-text via another database. If the article isn't available, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Within a week, you should receive an email indicating that the article is available to access. To learn how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins.; includes audio).

Starting Points

Academic Search Premier
This multi-disciplinary database is an excellent starting point for finding scholarly journal articles and popular magazine articles on a wide range of topics.

America:  History and Life
The best place to start for topics involving United States history. Use the Historical Period limiter (below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

MLA International Bibliography
Start here for papers with a literary focus. This database provides citations for articles related to literature, language, and literary criticism.

An excellent starting point for social perspectives on racism. This sociology database provides full-text journal articles and citations to books and conference papers.

Other Databases

Historical Abstracts
The best place to start for researching the history of racism outside the US. Use the Historical Period limiter (below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Search here for full-text articles from major scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences.   User Guide

Literature Resource Center
Limit the content type to "Literature Criticism" to find full-text articles about works of literature from more than 100 literary journals.    User Guide

ProQuest Central
A massive database covering a wide range of subjects, with full-text of scholarly journal articles and newspaper articles.


CrossSearch enables you to search across multiple databases at once to find journal articles. For papers with a literary focus, search the English subject category; for other topics, you may wish to search in History, Politics, and/or Sociology. If an article looks useful, click on the WebBridge icon to see if it is available in full-text or in Geisel Library's periodicals collection.  For tips on using CrossSearch, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins.; includes audio).

Journal Finder

Journal Finder will help you determine whether a particular article is available in Geisel Library's online databases or periodicals collection. Use it when you encounter citations to useful-looking articles in the bibliographies of reference books or other journal articles, and want to track down the full text. Search the journal's title in Journal Finder and use the resulting links to locate the article's full text in either a database or the library collection. If Journal Finder does not provide any links, you can request the journal article through Interlibrary Loan. To learn more about how to use the Journal Finder, please watch our video tutorial (3 mins.; includes audio).


Return to top


Citing Sources

For assistance with formatting your citations in MLA style, see the online resources available on the library's Citing Sources webpage.  You can also ask for the MLA Handbook (Ready Ref LB2369 .G53) at the library's reference desk. 


Return to top