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History & Biography

Celebrating Black History

In late summer 1915 – 39 years before Brown vs. Board of Education declared segregation unconstitutional, 40 years before Rosa Parks boarded her bus, and 48 years before Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the Lincoln Memorial and gave his famous speech – a Harvard-trained historian named Carter G. Woodson and four others founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Inspired by the crowds of eager attendees at Chicago’s 50th anniversary celebration of emancipation, the group hoped to establish a cohesive movement promoting the scientific study of black life and history.

Over the next decade, ASNLH and its publication, The Journal of Negro History, championed the cause of black intellectuals and entrepreneurs across America, and eventually pushed for the creation of Negro Achievement Week in February 1926. In 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded the week to include all of February, and Black History Month as we know it was born.

We just finished celebrating Black History Month 2012, but below are links to a few helpful resources for those wanting to take a deeper look into African American cultural identity, past and present.

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Non-fiction Books

Simple Justice: the History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger.
Kluger provides a comprehensive view of the human and legal drama involved in the landmark desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education.


 Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness edited by Rebecca Walker.
This collection looks at the roots of Black Cool and attempts to name elements of the phenomena that have emerged to shape the global expectation of cool itself.


 The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcom X.
These speeches document Malcolm's progression from Black nationalism to internationalism, and are key to both understanding his extraordinary life and illuminating his angry yet uplifting cause.

 Post Black: How a New Generation is Defining African American Identity by Ytasha Womack.
This exploration gives voice to what the author has deemed "post black" approaches to business, lifestyles, and religion that are nowhere else reflected as part of black life.


 Say it Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity edited by Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith.
The 23 speeches included range from the famous "Ballot or the Bullet" speech that Malcolm X delivered in 1964 to contemporary speeches from historian Henry Louis Gates, legislator Maxine Waters, and then-Senator Barack Obama.


 The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress by William Jelani Cobb.
Cobb argues that a sea change has occurred among black voters, ironically pushing the architects of the civil rights movement toward the periphery at the moment when their political dreams were most fully realized.

 Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves by Sana Butler.
Sugar of the Crop is the story of an unprecedented quest to find the last surviving children of slaves. In a revealing search from Los Angeles nursing homes to Alabama churches, Sana Butler provides a fascinating picture of African-American life and its legacy in the post-Civil War world.

 Thinking Black: Some of the Nation’s Best Black Columnists Speak Their Minds edited by DeWayne Wickham.
In haunting, introspective essays, several writers explore black America's internal racial conflicts.


 Reflections in Black: A History of African American Photographers, 1840 to the Present by Deborah Willis.
This collection overturns many common ideas about black life during the last century and a half, and through its sheer power and beauty rewrites American history itself.


Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Raymond Arsenault. 
Arsenault recounts how Freedom Riders, emboldened by federal rulings that declared segregated transit unconstitutional, traveled together from Washington DC through the Deep South, putting their their lives on the line for racial justice.



A celebration of the life and legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to the nation's highest judicial bench.

Black Is – Black Ain’t
A frank and honest look at black identity in America.

The Two Nations of Black America
This film measures the gap between middle class and poor African-Americans through interviews with noted Afro-Americans and historical film footage.

Leaving Cleaver: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Remembers Eldridge Cleaver
A look at the last interview given by Eldridge Cleaver, social activist, former Black Panther and author, before his death.

Citizen King
This film brings fresh insights to Martin Luther King’s charismatic leadership and his remarkable impact.

Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired the Civil Rights Movement
One of the most powerful movements in American history is told through the singers and songwriters who fought for change with their music.

Online Magazines and Journals 

Black American Literature Forum*
African American Review*
Black Issues Book Review*
American Visions*
Black Renaissance*
Journal of African American History*


Library of Congress African History Month 2012 -- a great resource including historic photographs and information on the Harlem Renaissance, the Tuskagee Airmen, and more.
The History Channel -- video clips about famous Black firsts and other historical moments.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- current information on issues and trends affecting the Black community
Association for the Study of African American Life and History -- the organization that founded Black History Month

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