It’s almost February which means that it’s almost Black History Month. According to About.com, Black History Month, started in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as Black History Week. It was a way to bring recognition to and celebrate the achievements of black Americans. He chose the month of February as a way to honor Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who both have birthdays in this month. In 1976, the weeklong celebration became a month.
This article will discuss ten resources that readers can use to learn more about the history and achievements of African-Americans in this country.
The first resource which is well known in the African-American community is the African-American Historical Calendar. Since 1970 when it was created by George Beach as a project for the African-American Commemorative Society, this calendar has provided illustrated biographies on 12 prominent African-Americans as well as general information and trivia. This calendar provides a way for interested individuals to learn the founding dates of important African-American institutions, the birth and death dates of well known (and not so well known) individuals and the dates that certain events took place. Additionally, the calendar can be purchased by organizations allowing them to use the calendar as a fundraising item.
For those individuals interested in performing scholarly research on African-American history, or just finding out general information, then either an in person or online visit to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a must. The Schomburg is a division of the New York Public Library; and as part of the library’s research division, the Schomburg is dedicated to preserving and making available to all information and artifacts related to the experiences of all individuals of African descent worldwide.
The Schomburg is located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem, NY and was named after Arturo Alfonso Schomburg who donated his personal collection of African-American artifacts to the library in 1926 and served as the divisions curator from 1932 – 1938. The Schomburg allows access to African-American periodicals, rare books and manuscripts, sheet music, portraits, photographs, radio broadcasts, moving images and much more. As of the date of this article, there is an online exhibition chronicling the participation of African-Americans in American politics from the Boston Massacre in 1770 to the election of Barack Obama.
As far as websites are concerned, there is a plethora of information available. Some great resources for information on black history are from several federal government agencies in conjunction with the Department of Education. The Federal Resources for Education Excellence connects individuals to online exhibits related to the African-American experience. Drawing upon information from various government agencies, access is granted to information such as: “African-American Odyssey: A Quest for full Citizenship” from the Library of Congress, “Let Your Motto Be – Resistance: African-American Portraits” from the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, and a virtual tour of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in conjunction with the National Park Service.
The History Channel’s website and the Biography Channel’s website are both great resources for information on influential African-Americans from the past and the present. Both have interactive timetables of African-American history in the United States. The Biography Channel also an interactive tour of the Apollo theatre and the 200 notables which discusses 200 African-Americans from diverse fields such as politics, scientists, activists, artists/writers, entertainers, athletes and musicians. It provides each person’s bio and a quiz where individuals match a quote to the person it originated from. Additionally, “Who am I?” slowly uncovers a picture of a famous African-American and clues to the person’s identity, while you guess the person’s name in before the picture is revealed. The History Channel has several maps that show things such as Atlantic slave trade route, the southern states that seceded during civil war and the route of the Underground Railroad.
Over the years, PBS has also produced wonderful programs regarding the history of African-Americans in the United States. One of the more interesting productions is the four part series, Africans in America. Part one covers 1450 through 1750 and the beginnings of slavery. Part two covers the American Revolution from 1750 through 1805. Part three 1791 through 1831 and the entrenched slavery experience. Part four covers the years before and after the Civil War 1831 – 1865. On this website there are copies of historical documents relating to each part, transcripts of interviews of contemporary African-American scholars on slavery. Additionally, a teacher’s guide provides activities and questions to enhance the experience of viewing the program. Dvds of this and other programs covering African-Americans can be purchased at the PBS shop.
Those who enjoy family game night will enjoy the Black Heritage Trivia Game. This game is produced by GeeBee Marketing and allows two to four players ages 10 and above test their knowledge of African-American history and culture. By answering questions such as “Juneteenth refers to what event?”1 and “Who was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine?”2 players make their way to the game board’s inner circle, where the winner is crowned. The game contains over 1200 questions and answers covering a variety of topics. This game can be purchased from various retailers at different price points. It might be a good idea to look at a price comparison shopping website to find the best value.
If books are your passion, there is plenty of information available that chronicles the lives and experiences of African-Americans and in and of themselves are resources for learning more about black history. These books can be found at Amazon.com. The first is, “The Black Book.” This book was published in 1974 by Middleton A. Harris and through pictures and prose details the lives of African-Americans from slavery through the fight for civil rights. It can be disturbing at times, but provides a great insight into history.
Another book that I recommend as a great Black History resource is, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs. This book was written by Ms. Jacobs in 1861 and recounts her experiences during her fight for freedom – freedom to gain an education, live with her family, and escape from her confinement. (I won’t go into what type of confinement here – read the book). It is a powerful memoir and provides readers with a first hand account of what women experienced at that time.
“The Black West” by William Loren Katz is a wonderful book that provides interesting pictures, documents and antidotes relating to the contributions of African-Americans during this country’s “cowboy years.” Everything from the buffalo soldiers, expansion into California to the Civil War are covered. It provides a glimpse into a world that is often forgotten.
Exploring the resources provided in this article will greatly expand your knowledge and appreciation of Black History and the many wonderful contributions that African-Americans have made to the United States and the world.
Happy Black History Month!
1 Freeing of slaves in Texas
2 Beverly Johnson