University of North Texas Libraries is the contributing institution for the State of Texas to the National Endowment for the Humanities’ National Digital Newspaper Program, in partnership with the Library of Congress, supporting development of Chronicling America, a nationwide newspaper database, spanning 1777-1963.

As part of this work, NDNP has formed a Race & Ethnicity in Title Essays working group, which has undertaken to develop a keyword thesaurus to facilitate searching with historical terms rather than current terms to describe people and groups. The Race and Ethnicity Keyword Thesaurus tries to address keyword searching across time, providing contextualized examples from newspaper collections to help users more easily delve into historical content.  This thesaurus is intended for all levels of researchers, and it includes a how-to guide, as well as as information about how Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in newspapers can affect the search experience.

In this thesaurus, you can find terms explained through “Related Terms,” “Definitions,” “Contextual Considerations,” and “Examples.”  Shown below is the entry for “Israelite,” a word commonly used in U.S. newspapers during the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

Keyword thesaurus example term, “Israelite.”

The thesaurus also includes a harmful language statement, which pops up before researchers look at the actual thesaurus, warning that these are historic terms, and that while these are not words we use today, the words in this thesaurus are included “to support research into the lives and experiences of various communities, rather than to propagate the use of derogatory or harmful language.”

In addition to this thesaurus being helpful for engaging with Chronicling America newspaper content, this thesaurus can also help research with newspapers on The Portal to Texas History.

Researchers may find this especially helpful when they work with Proximity Search, and a visit to the Proximity Search Quick Tip might help you locate that one person or event you’ve been trying to find for the past few years!