Records of the Foreign Affairs Agencies in the National Archives Bearing on the History of United States Relations with Africa-IV: Records on Microfilm or Online

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

At the 1969 National Archives Conference on the National Archives and Foreign Relations Research, the proceedings of which were published in 1974,[1] Morris Rieger, a longtime National Archives staff member, contributed a paper entitled “Sources in the National Archives Bearing on the History of African-American Relations.” Since that time, the National Archives has accessioned a huge volume of additional records, rendering his important essay out of date.

This is the fourth, and final, part. It updates those portions of Rieger’s essay dealing with the availability of records on microfilm or online.

The holdings of the National Archives bearing on the history of American relations with Africa are very rich—so much so that in the brief space avail­able it is possible to attempt only an overview.

From the very nature of archival sources it should be clear that the National Archives contains no separate collection of materials on Africa; rather, such materials are located among the records of federal departments and agencies. The Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies, of course, take first place among them. Many records have been issued on various National Archives Microfilm Publications and, as of this date, a few are available online.


RG 59: General Records of the Department of State

For the central files records from the 1789 to 1906 period, all of the diplomatic and consular despatches are available on various National Archives Microfilm Publications. So, too, are the notes exchanged between the Department of State and foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in the United States. The entirety of the Numerical and Minor Files, covering the period 1906-1910 are on microfilm and online through the National Archives Catalog. Many segments of the Central Decimal File on U.S. relations with various countries and colonies and on the internal affairs of those countries and colonies have been microfilmed as separate microfilm publications.

RG 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace

Both the General Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace and the Special Reports and Studies of the Inquiry are available on microfilm and online through the National Archives Catalog.


In addition to the records described above, there is an unusual collection that should also be mentioned: the micro­film copy of originals in Belgium of the private papers of a Marylander, R. Dorsey Mohun, who served as United States commercial agent at Boma, the port of the Congo Free State, from 1892 to 1895 and as United States consul at Zanzibar from 1895 to 1897, and who was employed thereafter as the agent of various private investors in the Congo and southern Africa until 1911. Of special interest are the papers in this collection relating to Mohun’s service, while an American official, in the Free State’s military campaign against Arab slavers in the eastern Congo. This material is found on National Archives Microfilm Publication T294: Papers of R. Dorsey Mohun, 1892-1913 (3 rolls).

[1]See Milton O. Gustafson, ed., The National Archives and Foreign Relations Research (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1974).