The following titles provide credible background information about African American authors. They also list authors' primary works and the secondary sources written by critics and scholars about those primary works.
DLB is available online from the library's Literature Resource Center (LRC) database. Employ the appropriate title (see below) or conduct a Person Search (e.g., Morrison, Toni) across all of LRC. Click Biographies from the gray bar at the top of your author's page. Sort results by date, Newest at the top of the list. If desired, Filter Your Results by selecting the box next to "Dictionary of Literary Biography" under the Publication Title tab. The titles below, although dated, are useful for obtaining background information about your chosen author or identifying an author to research. Other DLB volumes are more up-to-date. Toni Morrison, for example, has an 18,000+ word biographical entry in Nobel Prize Laureates, DLB vol. 331 (c2007).
A companion is a "a handbook intended to be used in connection with the study of a particular subject or field" (ODLIS). Companions provide introductory essays and topic overviews.
An encyclopedia is "a book or numbered set of books containing authoritative summary information about a variety of topics in the form of short essays, usually arranged alphabetically by headword or classified in some manner. An entry may be signed or unsigned, with or without illustration or a list of references for further reading" (ODLIS).