Coordinated by the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston African Americana Project gathers visual and textual materials held by the Athenaeum, the Bostonian Society, Historic New England, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. Digitized materials relating to African Americans fall broadly within the categories of slavery, the abolition movement, free blacks, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, rural life, urban life, social life, advertising, and depictions of men, women, and children, and consist of broadsides, caricatures, illustrations, manuscripts, pamphlets, political cartoons, portraits, and views. The database contains images and transcriptions of over five hundred items spanning the years 1770 to 1950, with the bulk of the collection falling around 1865.

In 2003, the Athenaeum received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, funded through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), in order to develop this database as a resource for scholars, students, and teachers; the grant was administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.