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Washington, D.C., History Resources

A guide to the local history resources available on the District of Columbia.


These books address the paradox of Washington, DC: the juxtaposition of a monumental city that celebrated the American republic in a city known for both its racial inequality and its denial of representation in the local and federal government. These writers address the breakdown of slavery and the emergence of a relatively large free black community before emancipation, the impact of the Black migrations during the Civil War and early twentieth century, the implementation of a commission form of government that effectively disfranchised its citizens until the enactment of home rule in 1973, residential segregation and displacement, and the impoverishment of most of its Black residents.

Consult these books to help frame your questions, see how they use their sources, and explore your interests.


Discovery Tools

Researchers interested in a complete literature review should consult the following:

HoyaSearch Advanced Search

Use HoyaSearch to search for terms such as "Washington, D.C.,"  "District of Columbia," neighborhoods, organizations, and individual persons in the subject or title fields to find resources available at Lauinger and in the Consortium libraries in either analog or electronic formats.

America: History and Life

The most substantial bibliographic database containing citations of articles on the history of the United States and Canada, this database is indexed by author, title, and subject. It is also possible to search this database by keyword. It is frequently updated and includes writings from approximately 2,000 journals, books, dissertations, and periodicals. Entries for articles include abstracts.

Search tip: Limit search to the subject: "Washington (D.C.) -- History"


This database provides access to the full-text of articles from selected journals. It is possible to search this database by item title, abstract, and caption. Keyword searches will also return items found within the text of the article. As a result, JSTOR is a powerful tool for searches of both general topics and very particular research questions.

The Records of the Columbia Historical Society (1897-1989) and Washington History (1989-present), both publications of the DC History Center (formerly Historical Society of Washington), are available on JSTOR. Both journals include articles of historical interpretation, transcripts of addresses and speeches, and book reviews. The Records include memoirs of Washington residents that often include details of nineteenth-century life, including descriptions of the landscape and social life. 

Search tipWashington History has regularly published bibliographies of scholarship on the Metro Washington area by Matthew Gilmore. To find these bibliographies, use the Advanced Search function. Enter "Gilmore, Matthew" as an author, "bibliography" as a keyword, and Washington History as the journal title.

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global

Washington, D.C., has been a subject of several theses and dissertations. To broaden your search, look for dissertations on the Chesapeake or Mid-Atlantic regions and the counties that comprise Greater Washington.


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