Black History Month celebrated with free database access

Sunday, February 1, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:30 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 1, 2009

COLUMBIA — In light of President Barack Obama's inauguration and in conjunction with Black History Month, which begins Feb.1, the Oxford University Press is making the African American Studies Center database available for free to the public throughout February.

Users can access the site,, with the username "barackobama" and "president" as the password.

The center calls itself the "online authority on the African American experience" and includes more than 8,000 articles from Oxford’s reference program.

“It’s like walking into a little library, say, at the Black Culture Center,” said Rachel Brekhus, a reference librarian at MU’s Ellis Library who specializes in history. “It’s a research area that has credibility.”

More than 4,000 international scholars contribute information to provide users with comprehensive and authoritative online resources, according to the center’s Web site.

The database provides access to about 5,000 biographies, more than 1,750 images, and primary sources with accompanying commentaries, maps, charts and multimedia.

Brekhus said she’d like to see people, particularly college students, use databases such as this one instead of other Internet sites, such as Wikipedia, which can be edited by anyone.

“Unfortunately, databases are a resource that are underutilized,” Brekhus said. “There’s so much credible information in the database, like primary source documents, that can’t be found elsewhere on the Internet.”

The database is typically available for both institutional use and individual use through subscription, which costs as much as $17.95 per month.

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Ray Shapiro February 1, 2009 | 3:53 p.m.

Maybe these guys can access the African American Studies Center database and figure out where they went wrong. Or, maybe they'd just rather remain a part of America's inner-city black cultural blight.

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