Statement on Anti-Racist Description

USC Libraries contains a wealth of archival materials collected and donated over many decades. Our current archivists and librarians charged with stewarding these materials attempt to describe them in ways that are respectful and equitable. However, we acknowledge that this goal has not always been successful, especially in the earlier years of our collecting activities. Our patrons may encounter language that is racist, sexist, xenophobic, and/or homophobic in our finding aids. Some instances of this language originated with our staff and others with the creators and/or donors of these records—the latter is often a reflection of the times in which these individuals lived. This potentially offensive language is often included in finding aids (for example in folder titles) because it provides context, and standard archival practice dictates that we retain these contexts for evidentiary and informational purposes. 

When we encounter such language that can be changed (language written by an archivist as opposed to the creator of a collection), we will make all attempts to balance preserving the historical context with description that acknowledges the oppressive or otherwise problematic language. In so doing, we hope to create description that is inclusive and antiracist. This will be an ongoing process, and we encourage our patrons to alert us to any language they find that can be interpreted as racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive or problematic. We recognize that language is constantly evolving and we are committed to regularly assessing our descriptive practices. We are currently exploring different tools for gathering suggested corrections to our archival description. For now, please send an email to with your suggested corrections. Suggested corrections may address oppressive language in a finding aid or they could report simple inaccuracies, such as misspellings, incorrect dates or misidentified individuals, places, or events.

Additional Resources

Adler, Melissa. “Classifications along the Color Line: Excavating Racism in the Stacks.” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1, no. 1 (2017).

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Working Group.  “Anti-Racist Description Resources.” October 2019.

Caswell, Michelle. “Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives.”  The Library Quarterly 87, no. 3 (July 2017): 222-235.

Society of American Archivists. “Statement of Principles.” Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS).