Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela
February is Black History Month,
also known as African American History Month
From AfricanAmericanHistoryMonth.gov – “The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.” – (Excerpt from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History)
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On Campus/ Professional Resources
The Omar Ibn Said Collection consists of 42 digitized documents in both English and Arabic, including an 1831 manuscript in Arabic on the “The Life of Omar Ibn Said,” a West African slave in America, which is the centerpiece of this unique collection of texts.
Image credit: Image 1 of The life of Omar ben Saeed, called Morro, a Fullah Slave in Fayetteville, N.C. Owned by Governor Owen.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
Image credit: Photograph by Alan Karchmer for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In order to understand our nation’s history, it is vital to understand how this has shaped the African American experience. Find these stories—from escaped slaves and abolitionists, to soldiers, intellectuals, and business entrepreneurs—preserved in our national parks and historic places.
Image Credit: [District of Columbia. Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln] (National Park Service)
African Americans serving in the military service throughout U.S. history have often fought on two fronts: fighting the actual enemy and fighting a system of segregation and exclusion. Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) The Tuskegee Airmen (National Park Service)
Image credit: Terona Chivers 1st Squad 3rd Platoon Grenadiers. (Library of Congress)
Put the power of primary sources to work in the classroom. Browse ready-to-use lesson plans, student activities, collection guides and research aids.
Image credit: “Frederick Douglass appealing to President Lincoln and his cabinet to enlist Negroes,” mural by William Edouard Scott, at the Recorder of Deeds building, built in 1943. 515 D St., NW, Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress)