This is the "Home" page of the "African American History" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

African American History  

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
Home Print Page

2013 Theme for Black History Month

At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality:

The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington

painting by Alonzo Chappel, property of Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Lincoln Reading the Emancipation Proclamation to His Cabinet, by Alonzo Chappel (Boston Museum of Fine Arts -

The year 2013 marks two important anniversaries in the history of African Americans and the United States. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation set the United States on the path of ending slavery. A war-time measure issued by President Abraham Lincoln, the proclamation freed relatively few slaves, but if fueled the fire of the enslaved to strike for their freedom. Increasingly those in bondage streamed into the camps of the Union Army, reclaiming ownership of their bodies. As Fredrick Douglass predicted, the war for the Union became a war against slavery. The actions of both Lincoln and the slaves made clear that the Civil War was in deed, as well as in theory, a struggle between the forces of slavery and freedom. The dismantlement of slavery had begun.

A century later in 1963, America once again stood at the crossroads. Nine years earlier, the Supreme Court had outlawed racial segregation in the public schools. Yet, the nation had not committed itself to equality of citizenship. Segregation and innumerable other forms of discrimination made second-class citizship the extra-constitutional status of non-whites. In the White House, John F. Kennedy, another progressive president, temporized over the legal and moral issue of his time. Like Lincoln before him, national concerns out-weighed his personal beliefs. On August 27, 1963, hundreds of thousands of Americans, blacks and whites, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, marched to the memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, in pursuit of the ideal of equality of citizenship. It was on this occasion that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famious speech, , I Have a Dream." Just as the Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery, the March on Washington, as it became known, numbered the days of second-class citizenship.

In marking the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History invites all Americans to join us in studying and celebrating how two different generations of African Americans each transfromed America.

2013 Black History Theme summary from the Association for the Study of African American Life & History at

Download The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, an e-book commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation featuring documents held in the National Archives.

More on The March on Washington


Useful Links

  • "I Have a Dream" - Address at March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963
    audio of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
  • Digital Archive at The King Center
    Nearly a million documents associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; scans of sermons, letters, telegrams, newspaper articles, scribbled notes, and more.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation
    transcript and scan of document from the National Archives.
  • Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
    PBS site
  • The President's House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation
    History of the enslaved people from the household of George and Martha Washington who lived and worked in the President's House in Philadelphia. National Park Service site.
  • African American History Month; exhibits and collections
    outstanding set of links for exhibits and collections related to art & design, baseball, civil rights, culture, politics, historic places, military, music, religion, slavery, and more, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
  • Documenting African American History
    This February, EDSITEment celebrates African American History Month by showcasing two online exhibits created by the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture in collaboration with the New York Public Library. Harlem 1900-1940: An African American Community is a portfolio of images, texts, and educational resources designed to help students and teachers discover the cultural, social, and intellectual history of one of the most celebrated African American communities: Harlem,
    and The Schomburg Center's Images of African Americans from the Nineteenth Century, which uses its vast collections of images to document the social, political, and cultural life of African-Americans as they dealt with the difficult transition from slavery to freedom.
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
    The newest Smithsonian Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
  • DuSable Museum of African American History
    located in Chicago, its mission is "To collect, preserve and display artifacts and objects that promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions, and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs, and activities that illustrate African American history, culture and art."
  • National Museum of African Art
    Video, webcasts, podcasts, and more are available online at this Smithsonian Museum site.
    Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. From the ballot box to the classroom, the thousands of dedicated workers, organizers, leaders and members who make up the NAACP continue to fight for social justice for all Americans.
  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
    fascinating site; "During the 1800s, estimates suggest that more than 100,000 enslaved people sought freedom through the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad is the symbolic term given to the routes enslaved Black Americans took to gain their freedom as they traveled, often as far as Canada and Mexico. Free Blacks, Whites, Native Americans and other slaves acted as conductors by aiding fugitive slaves to their freedom. This 19th century freedom movement challenged the way Americans viewed slavery and freedom. "
  • Negro League Baseball
  • African American Primary Sources
    compiled by Hilton C. Buley Library, Southern Connecticut State University
  • Dred Scott Digital Archive
    n 1846, Dred Scott and his wife Harriet filed suit for their freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court. This suit began an eleven-year legal fight that ended in the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a landmark decision declaring that the Scotts remained slaves. This decision contributed to rising tensions between the free and slave states just before the American Civil War.

    The records displayed in this exhibit document the Scotts' early struggle to gain their freedom through litigation and are the only extant records of this significant case as it was heard in the St. Louis Circuit Court. The original Dred Scott case file is located in the Office of the St. Louis Circuit Clerk. Washington University in St. Louis University Library site.
  • Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony
    Welcome to the site dedicated to the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony. During the Civil War, Union-occupied Roanoke Island, which lies between the North Carolina mainland and the barrier islands known as the Outer Banks, became home to thousands of former slaves. Initially these refugees settled near the Union headquarters, creating a community that included churches and a school. In the spring of 1863, this camp evolved into a government-sanctioned colony.

    This site presents an introduction to the colony and the colonial experiment that was conducted there. It also features some primary sources, maps, and projects for students
  • Race and Place
    Race and Place is an archive about the racial segregation laws, or the 'Jim Crow' laws from the late 1880s until the mid-twentieth century. The focus of the collection is the town of Charlottesville in Virginia. The Jim Crow laws segregated African-Americans from white Americans in public places such as schools, and school buses. The archive contains photos, letters, two regional censuses and a flash map of the town of Charlottesville, as well as newspapers, oral histories, and personal papers.
  • Freedom's Journal
    "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us."

    Thus declare Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm on the front page of Freedom's Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. The Journal was published weekly in New York City from 1827 to 1829. Samuel Cornish served as co-editor with John B. Russwurm between March 16, 1827 and September 14, 1827. All 103 issues of the Freedom's Journal have been digitized and placed into Adobe Acrobat format.
  • African American Odyssey
    Library of Congress site.
  • African American Women - archival collection
    Online archives include slave letters written by Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson were house slaves at Montcalm, the family home of David and Mary Campbell, located in Abingdon, Virginia and an 85 page handwritten memoir by Elizabeth Johnson Harris, born in 1867 to former slaves, providing glimpses of her early childhood, of race relations, of her own ambivalence about her place as an African-American in society, and of the importance of religion and education in her life. Duke University site.
  • History of Black Women in Mathematics
  • Voices from the Days of Slavery
    The almost seven hours of recorded interviews presented here took place between 1932 and 1975 in nine Southern states. Twenty-three interviewees, born between 1823 and the early 1860s, discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, coercion of slaves, their families, and freedom. Several individuals sing songs, many of which were learned during the time of their enslavement. It is important to note that all of the interviewees spoke sixty or more years after the end of their enslavement, and it is their full lives that are reflected in these recordings. The individuals documented in this presentation have much to say about living as African Americans from the 1870s to the 1930s, and beyond.
  • Revisiting King's Letter from Birmingham Jail
    From WHYY's Radio Times



Issues & Controversies in American History

Free Online Videos, Documentaries and Movies

  • The Apollos
    Short film (6:09 minutes); The Apollos is about the struggle of a high school senior class to pass a bill making Martin Luther King's birthday a nationally recognized holiday. When a bill that would have started a national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday failed to pass Congress in 1979, the group of Oakland students decided to instead lobby at the state level.
  • A Girl Like Me
    Short film (7.16 minutes); For my high-school literature class I was constructing an anthology with a wide range of different stories that I believed reflected the black girl's experience. For the different chapters, I conducted interviews with a variety of black girls in my high school, and a number of issues surfaced concerning the standards of beauty imposed on today's black girls and how this affects their self-image. I thought this topic would make an interesting film and so when I was accepted into the Reel Works Teen Filmmaking program, I set out to explore these issues
  • Muted Riot
    Short film (6.22 minutes); MUTED RIOT explores the history of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and how the riot has been largely forgotten, as well as the reasons why it is necessary to recover this lost chapter of Atlanta's past.
  • A Loud Color
    Short film (6:49 minutes); Louis Harding takes a tour of his neighborhood in post-Katrina New Orleans, recounting the contributions of notable African Americans to New Orleans culture and the long road ahead.
  • Prom Night in Mississippi
    In 1970, the town of Charleston, Mississippi, allowed black students into their white high school, but refused to integrate the senior prom. Twenty-seven years later, Charleston resident and Academy Award - winning actor Morgan Freeman offered to finance the prom - under the condition it be integrated. His offer was ignored. In 2008, Freeman made the offer again. This time the school board accepted, and history was made.

    PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI traces the tumultuous events leading up to Charleston's first integrated prom through intimate conversations with students, families, faculty members and Freeman himself. As the film unfolds, we delve deeply into the heated race issues that tear apart this tiny community, and realize that this troubling segregation has less to do with the students than their parents
  • New Flavors
    Filmmakers Brian Bentley and Vernon Clarke take a look beyond the familiar East and West Coast Hip Hop scene in this groundbreaking and poignant documentary film. New Flavors explains the impact of Southern Hip Hop and how the whole genre has impacted the cultural, economic, political and social landscape of American society.
  • Explore Civil Rights Icons
    Be inspired by the men and women of the African American Civil Rights Movement. Each of the features below on this site is a window into a documentary or program about these momentous figures,including rare interviews with Martin L. King Jr and Malcolm X. The features will connect you directly to the website of a PBS partner where it can be viewed in full or allow you to watch a preview directly within the collection below. Get started now. Venture back into history with PBS to explore the men and women of The Civil Rights Movement.
  • Explore Hip Hop
    Go beyond the beats of Hip-hop with this special collection of videos and web-exclusive features. Includes History of Hip Hop and Hip Hop and Islam, among other features.
  • Jazz at Black Culture Connection
    Treat yourself to the smooth tunes of jazz with this special collection of videos and web-exclusive features. Each of the features on site is a window into a documentary or program about Jazz.
  • American Music Legacy - Blues
    Blues can be subdivided into several subgenres ranging from country to urban blues that were more or less popular during different periods of the 20th century. Best known are the Delta, Piedmont, Jump and Chicago blues styles. World War II marked the transition from acoustic to electric blues and the progressive opening of blues music to a wider audience. In the 1960s and 1970s, a hybrid form called blues rock evolved. The America's Music Legacy series was recorded 1983-85 and produced by 20TH Century Home Entertainment. It showcases the musical legends performing the songs that continue to attract and entice the whole world, because they truly are the best of all that is America. The program is hosted by Brock Peters and features performances by B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Pee Wee Crayton, Jimmy Rushing, Ernie Andrews, and many more.
  • Dreams of Obama -Frontline PBS documentary
    This FRONTLINE documentary explores the personal and political biography of America’s 44th president, offering a rich insight into significant moments and experiences that have shaped him and formed his politics. Dreams of Obama reviews what made Barack Hussein Obama uniquely suited to launch the successful campaign that lead to his historic victory: his community organizing days in Chicago, his presidency of the Harvard Law Review, and his rise to the top of Illinois politics, in the course of which he learned how to navigate America’s complicated racial and political divides, and marry Michele Robinson. The hour-long film details key moments and decisions that led up to his announcement in early 2007 that he would run for president. (1 hour)
  • Jim Crow Pennsylvania - PBS documentary
    This groundbreaking documentary explores segregation from the end of the Civil War to the dawn of the modern Civil Rights movement. It was a brutal and oppressive era in American history, but during this time, large numbers of African Americans and a corps of influential black leaders bravely fought against the status quo, laying the groundwork for the opening of opportunities in education, business, land ownership, and a true spirit of community for African Americans. (1 hour)
  • More PBS shows and films online for Black History Month
  • Television News of the Civil Rights Era:1950-1970
    short original video footage from news reports, organized by year.

American History in Video


Modern World History Online


American History Online


Grolier Online Passport


U.S. Government Online


African American History and Fiction

Cover Art
Malcolm X - Andrew Helfer (Editor); Randy DuBurke (Illustrator)
Call Number: GN 320.54 HEL
ISBN: 9780809095049
Publication Date: 2006-11-14
Presents a brief biography of Malcolm X in graphic novel format that describes his life from his early experiences with racism through his political and religious conversions.

Cover Art
March - John Lewis; Andrew Aydin; Nate Powell (Artist)
Call Number: GN 323.1 LEW
ISBN: 9781603093002
Publication Date: 2013-08-13
Presents in graphic novel format the life of Georgia congressman John Lewis, focusing on is youth in rural Alabama, his meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement.

Cover Art
The Silence of Our Friends - Mark Long; Jim Demonakos; Nate Powell (Illustrator)
Call Number: GN F LON
ISBN: 9781596436183
Publication Date: 2012-01-17
As the civil rights struggle heats up in 1967 Texas, two families--one white, one black--find common ground. The white family, from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs, and the black family, from its poorest ward, cross Houston's color line to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.

Cover Art
The African American Religious Experience in America - Anthony B. Pinn
Call Number: 200 PIN
ISBN: 0313325855
Publication Date: 2005-10-01
Examines eleven religious traditions practiced by African-Americans since the seventeenth century, and includes a timeline of important events, a collection of short biographies of major figures, primary source documents, and first-person accounts of how religion is practiced by the African-American community.

Cover Art
The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson
Call Number: 304.809 WIL
ISBN: 9780679444329
Publication Date: 2010-09-07

Cover Art
Black Ice - Lorene Cary
Call Number: 373.18 CAR
ISBN: 0679737456
Publication Date: 1992-02-04
An autobiographical narrative of the author's days at Saint Pauls, a private prep school in New Hampshire and of her adolescent turmoil.

Cover Art
Warriors Don't Cry - Melba Patitllo Beals
Call Number: 379.2 BEA
ISBN: 9781416948827
Publication Date: 2007-07-24
Beals chronicles her harrowing junior year at Central High where she underwent the segregationists' brutal organized campaign of terrorism which included telephone threats, vigilante stalkers, economic blackmailers, rogue police, and much more.

Cover Art
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
Call Number: 616 SKL
ISBN: 9781400052172
Publication Date: 2010-02-02
Examines the experiences of the children and husband of Henrietta Lacks, who, twenty years after her death from cervical cancer in 1951, learned doctors and researchers took cells from her cervix without consent which were used to create the immortal cell line known as the HeLa cell; provides an overview of Henrietta's life; and explores issues of experimentation on African-Americans and bioethics.

Cover Art
Harlem Renaissance - Christine Slovey
Call Number: 700.89 HOW
ISBN: 0787648361
Publication Date: 2000-09-15
The book presents a comprehensive overview of the events and people that comprised this rich period in American history in the early twentieth century. Centered around Harlem, a section of New York City and a thriving center of African American life and culture in the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance was a time of great artistic and intellectual achievement in the African American community.

Cover Art
Creating Their Own Image - Lisa E. Farrington
Call Number: 704 FAR
ISBN: 9780199767601
Publication Date: 2011-03-31
Traces the history of African-American women artists from slavery to the present, analyzing stereotypes of African-American women in Western art and culture and profiling one hundred key works that challenge those stereotypes.

Cover Art
Baseball and the Color Line - Thomas W. Gilbert
Call Number: 796.35 GIL
ISBN: 0531112063
Publication Date: 1995-03-01
Using historical texts and newspaper accounts, author Tom Gilbert demonstrates how changing policies toward African Americans in baseball mirrored the attitudes of the times.

Cover Art
The Hemingses of Monticello - Annette Gordon-Reed
Call Number: 973.4 GOR
ISBN: 0393064778
Publication Date: 2008-09-17
Discusses the story of the Hemingses, an American slave family that had blood ties to Thomas Jefferson, who had an intimate relationship with Sally Hemings, his slave, and covers how the family of Elizabeth Hemings and John Wayles came under ownership to Jefferson through his marriage to Martha Wayles.

Cover Art
Courage Has No Color, the True Story of the Triple Nickles - Tanya Lee Stone
Call Number: 940.54 STO
ISBN: 9780763651176
Publication Date: 2013-01-22
What did it take to be a paratrooper in World War II? Specialized training, extreme physical fitness, courage, and -- until the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was formed - white skin. In 1943, Americans were fighting World War II to keep the world safe from tyranny, yet at home, white people had rights that black people did not. What is courage? Perhaps it is being ready to fight for your nation even when your nation won't fight for you.

Cover Art
Stolen into Slavery - Dennis Brindell Frandin; Judith Bloom Fradin
Call Number: 306.3 FRA
ISBN: 9781426309373
Publication Date: 2012-01-10
The story of Solomon Northrup, born a free black man in New York State in 1808 and kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of 32.

Cover Art
X: A Novel - Ilyasah Shabazz; Kekla Magoon
Call Number: F SHA
ISBN: 9780763669676
Publication Date: 2015-01-06

Cover Art
Lies We Tell Ourselves - Robin Talley
Call Number: F TAL
ISBN: 9780373211333
Publication Date: 2014-09-30

Cover Art
Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery - Winifred Conkling
Call Number: 306.3 CON
ISBN: 9781616201968
Publication Date: 2015-01-13


Loading  Loading...