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Search Help

Welcome to the Help page! Here, you will find information on basic searching, advanced searching, and additional features that can be found on the search interface.


You can conduct searches by entering search terms into the main search bar. The main search bar searches all collections at the same time. Type in your search terms and then click the "Search" button or hit the "Enter" key.


While searching, keep in mind that you have access to the following helpful features.

Automatic Spelling Corrections and "Did you mean" Search Suggestions

As you enter search terms in the main search bar, suggested topics or names will come up automatically for you to choose from. If your initial search does not bring up any results, the system will suggest alternate searches that are known to bring back results.

Narrowing Down Your Search

If you run a search and get a lot of search results, you can choose to refine your search by using the "Refine By" options on the left of the screen. The search results will automatically update as you narrow your search, and your results can be refined by using any combination of the "Narrow By" menu options.

Brief and Detailed Views

You can view more information about each item in your search results by clicking on the name of the item. Clicking on the item name a second time will bring back the brief view of the item. For more information on how to understand our records, view our "Some Tips" section.

Selection List

You can save items that you are interested in to a temporary list by clicking on the "Add to list" button. If you would like to remove an item from the list, click on the "Remove" button. Multiple items from different searches can be added to the list. To view your list, select the "View Selections" link in the upper right.

Advanced Searching

There is an Advanced Search form to help you build more complex searches if you are looking for a particular item or researching a very specific topic. To access the Advanced Search form, click on the "Advanced Search and Browse" link under the main search bar, and select the "Advanced Search" tab if it is not already selected.

To create an advanced search, use the "Select a field" drop down menu to select a field that you would like to search, and then type in your search terms. You can search up to 3 fields at once to help narrow down your search results.

To search by date, you can also click and drag the stoppers on the timeline to narrow down your results by date, or manually enter a date range in the "From Date" and "To Date" boxes.

Alternatively, you can search for documents published using the Document ID field. The Document ID is an identification number based on the document's date of original authorship. The ID number is in the format YYMMDD with three additional digits appended at the end to maintain organization among documents with the same date.

To search for all documents created on 28 August 1963, select "Document ID" in the "Select a Field" drop down menu and type 630828*, which would generate a list of all published documents on that day. If you are searching for documents dated only by year, you would instead type 630000*. For a list of all documents created in 1963, you will type 63*.

Once you have finished filling out the form, click the "Search" button to run your search. Alternatively, you can choose to start over by clicking the "Clear Form" button.

Browsing Indexes

Browsing indexes is a way of exploring the collections if you do not have a specific topic in mind. To access the Browsing options, click on the "Advanced Search" link under the main search bar, then select one of the "Browse" tabs. For example, if you want to explore all the different subjects that are covered in the collections, click on the "Browse Subjects" tab.

Each Browse tab is displayed alphabetically. You can scroll down the page to look through all the possibilities, or you can narrow down the options by selecting a letter from the alphabet menu at the top of the list. The number next to each option tells you how many matching items there are in the collections. To view the matching items, click on the option and the results will open up automatically.

Searching for Names and Places

Sometimes, names and places are in this search engine in slightly different variations.


  • Atlanta, Ga
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Abernathy, Ralph
  • Abernathy, Ralph D.

To find all records about a particular name or place, you can try one of these approaches:

  • Search by some other criteria, like keyword, or using a * to find all records, then select the name or place terms in the facet.
  • Use the Browse Names and Browse Places feature on the Advanced Search to view the variations, and select one.
  • Enter part of the name in the keyword search box, or the whole name in quotation marks. For example, abernathy would find all the records with this last name; "Abernathy Ralph" would find that name and would thus include the variation "Abernathy Ralph D."
  • You can use the same strategy with names and places on the Advanced Search form, selecting the Name or Place field and entering a name, or a name in quotation marks.

Searching for Martin Luther King, Sr., may require particular effort, since his son's name - Martin Luther King, Jr. - is similar, and the search engine will return records about both. To find records only about the father:

  • Use the Browse Names feature on the Advanced Search and select only "King, Martin Luther". Records about the father have this name in this variation in them.
  • On the Advanced Search form, select the Name field and enter a name "King, Martin Luther" NOT Jr to search for the father's name and exclude the son's.

Additional Search Options

The additional search options listed here can be used as described, on their own, or in combination.

Combining Search Terms with Boolean Operators

You can combine search terms with the AND, OR, and NOT Boolean operators (typed out in all capitals).

Multiple search terms are automatically assumed to be combined with AND, but you can combine the search terms explicitly by typing out AND between the terms. Use AND for searching when you want results that match both (or more) search terms.

e.g., to search for documents that contain both King and Abernathy, in the search bar, type:

King AND Abernathy

To look for records that match any one of your search terms, use OR.

e.g., to search for documents that contain either King or Abernathy, in the search bar, type:>p>

King OR Abernathy

Use NOT if you would like to include one search term but exclude another.

e.g., to search for documents that contain forest but do not contain rock, in the search bar, type:

King NOT Abernathy

Grouping Terms

You can use parentheses to group terms and phrases. This can be very useful if you want to control the boolean logic for a query.

e.g., to search for documents that contain both King and Abernathy, but not Albany Movement, in the search bar, type:

(King AND Abernathy) NOT Albany Movement 

Phrase Searches

To search for an exact phrase, enclose the phrase in quotation marks in the search bar.

e.g., to search for documents that contain the exact words Communist infiltration, type:

"Communist infiltration"

Wildcard Searches

Wildcard searches can be used when you do not know the exact term you are searching for, or if you wish to look at variations of your search term.

e.g., to find results that match SCLC or SNCC, you can use the ? symbol and search for:


The ? symbol is used in place of a single character. To search for multiple unknown characters, use the * symbol.

e.g., to find results that match wire, wiretapping, wire-tapping or any other variation that begins with wire, search for:


The * symbol can be used in the middle of a term.

e.g., to find bus, boss, bias, Burgess, etc. (i.e., any words that begin with "b-" and end in "-s"), search for:


You can also use the ? and * symbols at the start of a term.

e.g., to search for all entries mentioning an organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, such as Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, Ga.), do an Advanced Search for Names and include:

*(Atlanta, Ga.)

Proximity Searches

To search for documents that have two terms within a certain number of words of each other, use the ~ symbol with a number.

e.g., to search for the terms Brown and education within 3 word of each other, search for:

"Brown Education"~3

where the desired terms are in quotation marks, followed immediately by the ~ symbol and a number.

Fuzzy Searches

The ~ symbol can also be used for approximate searches, but only when a single word is being searched.

e.g., to search for terms that are similar in spelling to Wyatt, search for:


This can be helpful if you are not sure how to spell the person's name.

Range Searches

To perform a range search, use the [ ] symbols and the word TO (in all capitals).

e.g., if you are searching for names that fall alphabetically between Walker and Wilson, search for:

[Walker TO Wilson]

You can also search a range of numbers using the same method.

e.g., if you are searching for documents from between 1962 to 1963, search for:

[1962 TO 1963]

Boosting a Term

To give one search term more importance over another, you can use the ^ symbol followed by a number.

e.g., if you want to search for documents with both discrimination and housing, but housing is the more important search term, search for:

discrimination housing^5

which will give the term housing 5 times the value of the term discrimination.

Some Tips to Using OKRA Records

We employ several standards in our OKRA database to streamline entry. To aid you in your research, we have indicated some of the crucial ones below.

Conjectures are done only for the date, author, and place written. Conjectures are marked with square brackets (e.g., [9/15/1963] marks that the date is conjectured).

For names, we will include an affiliated organization with the name if the document explicitly links the two. Thus, King, Martin Luther, Jr. [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] indicates King's affiliation to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

We used a fixed set of genres to describe documents. Here is a guide to some of the more commonly-used document types:

  • Audio: Audio recordings (other than speeches or sermons)
  • Audio Speech/Audio Sermon: Audio recordings of speeches/sermons
  • Ephemera: Printed documents such as handouts, leaflets, programs, and other short documents with a finite period of relevance
  • Essay: school papers
  • Letter: All correspondence, including telegrams and memos
  • Manifesto: Constitutions, by-laws, proclamations, and resolutions
  • Pamphlet: Printed documents intended to be retained after reading
  • Report: Meeting minutes, annual reports, and background papers
  • Speech: Addresses and statements, except those published or on audio or film

In the detailed view, you can also click on the listed genre, names, organizations, places, and topics to launch a new search focused on the selected term.