Skip to Main Content

HIST 383: Africa's Colonial Legacies

Prof. Thabiti Willis - Spring 2019

Three branches of US government

Three branches of government infographic

"Three Branches of the US Government Infographic." 9 Nov 2018.

How classified government documents become primary sources

What is FOIA and why should I care?

The purpose of the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) is to give any person the ability to ask the US Government for copies of their documents -- for any reason. These requests can take a long time, and are often rejected. But sometimes they uncover amazing things!

Many of the declassified government documents that can be found in our databases were actually originally obtained by FOIA requests. The Kissinger telephone transcripts and Civil Rights during the Reagan Administration collection are a few such collections.

Most federal (national) government entities have a "FOIA Reading Room" of some sort, in part due to Attorney General Holder's 2009 memo that instructed government agencies to “readily and systematically post information online in advance of any public request.” Not sure how to find them? Try Googling: 

site:*.gov [name of group] FOIA "reading room"

For example:

site:*.gov State Department FOIA "reading room"