Database and Letters

The downloadable excel sheet is in .csv format in preparation for use with a variety of digital visualization tools (see Data Visualization Tools tab). This excel sheet is the output of the ALP database which includes the names and locations of letter writers and receivers, the date of the letter, organizations mentioned in the letters, and a category that gives a basic keyword description of the content of the letter. Each letter has a specific code number that describes its original archival location. For example, the letter coded ARC.MSK.S1.B2.F5.P1 tells us that the letter is located in the Maida Springer Kemp collection at the Amistad Research Center, in series 1, box 2, folder 5. The P represents the specific photo. If a photo is number P1-4, that tells you that is it the fourth page in a letter.

In the last column, there is a link to a Google drive folder that holds that letter. If you click on the link you are able to view a photograph of the letter. Not all of the letters have been photographed but check back or contact Elisabeth McMahon ( for more information about when those letters will be photographed. This process is ongoing.


Publication of Images and Copyright Notice

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that all copyright owners can send a notification to a website owner to take down or remove content on websites not owned by the website owner.

The digital images linked to in the African Letters Project database are owned by the archives which provided and/or allowed the images for private use of individuals in classrooms or research and are NOT for publication usage. If a user wishes to publish an image from the database collection (whether in print or in a digital format) they must contact the home archive of that collection. “Home archive” is defined as the institution which holds physical rights to the original letters as part of their intuitional holdings. The home archives are identifiable by the first three letters in the image code in the database. For example, in an image code: ARC.MSK.S2.B45.F89.P1 – the archive code ARC denotes the image is derived from a collection at the Amistad Research Center. Thus, for the publication of images in any format, permission must be received from the home archive and/or copyright holders.

Individuals who believe they are the copyright holder of a letter (such as a descendant of a letter writer) and wish for the image of a letter to be removed from availability on the website, a takedown notice should be sent to Elisabeth McMahon ( If copyright is confirmed, the image of the letter will be removed, however, the letter itself will continue to be available for in-person public viewing at the home archive. The access policies of home archives and their agreements with donors govern such access because they are the physical owners of the letters.

Takedown notices should include information documenting the writer’s claim to be the copyright holder for that particular letter and an explanation of why it should be removed. In conjunction with the home archive, the website owner will respond in a timely manner to all takedown notices.