National Genealogical Society

Educational Courses

CGS: African American Roots: A Historical Perspective

Author: Janice Lovelace, PhD
Prerequisites: None

This course introduces you to the fundamentals of genealogical research as well as the uniqueness of searching for African American ancestors. A mixture of history and genealogy, it discusses the role Africans and African Americans played in the birth and growth of the United States from as early as the fifteenth century. Armed with this historical perspective, family historians learn where they might find information about African Americans in general and their own ancestors in particular.

Janice Lovelace, PhD (psychology) has over thirty years of experience in genealogical research and has presented nationally on methodology, DNA, and ethnic minority genealogy.

African American Roots: A Historical Perspective

The course is structured chronologically from the late fifteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Africans played a role in all the major events in this time period, although their involvement may not be as widely known and records may be more difficult to find. An African sailor piloted one of the three ships (the Santa Maria) of Christopher Columbus's fleet when he first explored the Americas. Other people of African descent were part of the sixteenth century explorations of the Americas and fought in the major wars. While many Africans were enslaved, others were living as free men and women from the 1600s through the Civil War, when all those of African ancestry were emancipated from legalized slavery.

  • Module 1—Getting Started
  • Module 2—Colonial Times (pre 1776 Revolutionary War)
  • Module 3—Revolutionary War to pre-Civil War
  • Module 4—Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow Segregation
  • Module 5—Early Twentieth Century through World War II
  • Module 6—Mid-twentieth Century: The Road to Equal Rights
  • Module 7—DNA
  • Bibliography
  • Syllabus

    To learn more about African American Roots: A Historical Perspective, see the course syllabus here.


    Since the courses under the Continuing Genealogical Studies category are cloud-based, you need either a computer or tablet with an Internet connection to access the lessons, examples, exercises, and quizzes. No software or material is loaded onto your computer or tablet.

    To optimize your online learning experience, the Canvas system uses the current version of a number of different browsers. To check for your browser compatibility, please see for further information and details.

    NGS grants a license to an individual to take the course shown above. This grants the individual a personal, nonexclusive, nontransferable right to the course materials for that student's personal educational use only. All students work independently.


    Continuing Genealogical Studies


    Non members

    African American Roots: A Historical Perspective



    How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Course?

    The Continuing Genealogical Studies series courses have no set time or date for attendance. These courses are geared toward individuals who have a variety of schedules.

    Upon registration, you have access to the course for six months from the date of registration. If you need extra time, a one-time extension of three months is granted by contacting the NGS Course Administrator.

    Certificate of Completion

    Since the Continuing Genealogical Studies series are independent learning courses, the CGS courses do not have a certificate of completion.

    Please note: The National Genealogical Society is not a licensing body, so no certification or accreditation is implied. For more information about certification or accreditation, please see Becoming a Professional Genealogist.

    When Can I Start the Course?

    Within three business days, you receive two separate e-mails, one that confirms your registration and one that provides log in instructions.

    Refund and Cancellation Policy

    All purchases of courses are final. No refunds or credits are available.


    Here is a link to the Continuing Genealogical Studies: FAQs. If you have further questions, please contact the NGS Course Administrator.


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