African American History

The history of African Americans covers the rise from enslavement to accomplishments in every field of human endeavor--literature, art, science, business, industry, education, government, diplomacy, athletics, exploration.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about African American history.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about African American history.

The Black Heritage Trail®
Travel to Boston and visit sites significant to African American history such as the African American Meeting House which is he oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States and the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment which was the first black regiment to be recruited in the North. The movie, Glory, is about this group of African American soldiers.
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Travel to Booker T. Washington National Monument in Virginia which preserves the birth site and childhood home of Booker T. Washington and interprets his life experiences and significance in American history.
Brown v. Board of Education
Virtually visit the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. There are curriculum guides for 4th, 6th and 8th grades available, information about the case, and links to further resources.
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Born into slavery, Douglass escaped to spend his life fighting for justice and equality for all people. His tireless struggle, brilliant words, and inclusive vision of humanity continue to inspire and sustain people today.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Site
Travel to Harpers Ferry National Historic Site. It is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. It's at Harpers Ferry where John Brown captured the United States Armory and Arsenal in 1859 as part of his goal to free slaves by armed intervention. Harpers Ferry also had strategic importance during the Civil War.
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
Visit the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Richmond, Virginia. Maggie L. Walker was the the first African American woman to found a bank in the United States. 
Martin Luther King National Historic Site
Visit the Martin Luther King National Historic site in Atlanta, Georgia. This site contains Martin Luther King's birthplace, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he worshipped as a child, the Peace Plaza honoring his memory, Fire Station No. 6 which served as a community center, the King Center established by his wife, Corretta Scott King.

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People To See

African Americans in the Visual Arts
Although excluded from mainstream artistic endeavors prior to the Civil War, after the war, a host of African-American visual artists started to be recognized.
African American Women Writers of the 19th Century
This site features a digital collection of some 52 published works by 19th-century black women writers. It provides access to the thought, perspectives and creative abilities of black women as captured in books and pamphlets published prior to 1920.
Alex Haley
Meet author, Alex Haley. His book, Roots, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 and became a popular television mini-series. Roots traces Mr. Haley's family lineage back to African ancestor Kunta Kinte. Alex Haley is also famous for his book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Bass Reeves
Bass Reeves was the first African-American appointed a U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. He was famous for being a talented marksman and for knowing how to speak many Native American languages.
Black History: Inventors
Meet famous African American inventors such as Granville T. Woods and Dr. Charles Richard Drew.
Breaking Racial Barriers
Meet men and women whose achievements in the fine arts, business, education, farming, literature, music, religious service, etc. began to break the barriers of race.
Dr. Maya Angelou
Meet poet, writer, songwriter, actress, civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. She read one of her poems,"On the Pulse of Morning" at President Clinton's 1993 presidential inauguration.
Josephine Baker
Get to know Josephine Baker, jazz singer. Although born in St. Louis, she spent much of her life in Paris. During World War II, she worked for the French Resistance.
Larry Doby
Get to know Larry Doby. Larry Doby was the second African-American to play in the major leagues and the first ever in the American League. He began playing for the Cleveland Indians in 1947. In the 1948 World Series, he hit the winning home run against the Boston Braves.
Malcolm X
Remember Malcolm X. His real name was Malcolm Little, and he was born in Nebraska. In the 1950s, he became a member of the Black Muslims and went by the name of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He was killed in 1965, probably by a rival member of an Islamic group.
Marian Anderson
In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution would not allow Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. So, as a protest, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership in DAR. Mrs. Roosevelt then sponsored Marian Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
Mathematicians of the African Diaspora
Learn more about famous black mathematicians.
Matthew Henson
Meet Matthew Alexander Henson. He was an arctic explorer. In 1909, along with Robert E. Peary and a few Inuit guides, he was in the first group to reach the North Pole.
Phyllis Wheatley
Get to know Phyllis Wheatley. She is considered to be America's first African-American poet. She was born in the 1750s in Africa and was purchased in 176l by John Wheatley, a prominent Boston tailor.

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Things To Do

The African-American Mosaic
This exhibit marks the publication of The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture.
African American History
A research guide to primary and secondary sources for African American history.
African American Odyssey
This exhibition showcases incomparable African American collections. This site is not only a highlight of what is on view in this major black history exhibition, but also a glimpse into the Library's vast holdings of African American materials. Both include a wide array of important and rare books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings.
African American Perspectives
From the Library of Congress, find an African-American timeline and primary source material relating to Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Benjamin W. Arnett, Alexander Crummel, Emanuel Love, and others.
Black Facts Online
Find out what happened in African-American history for a particular date.
Black History Month
Find information in many different areas of African American history. Even though this CNN site was created for Black History Month of 1999, it has good information and links.
The Internet African American History Challenge
Take this interactive quiz that helps you sharpen your knowledge of African American history.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the united States.
A Retrospective of the African-American Experience from 1897 to 1953
This resource provides lesson plans about the era of legalized segregation. Jim Crow laws barred African Americans from many employment opportunities and from public places such as restaurants, hotels, and movie theatres. The name, Jim Crow, is thought to come from a character in a popular minstrel song.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Chambers, Veronica. The Harlem Renaissance. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, c1998.
  • Haskins, James. The Harlem Renaissance. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, c1996.
  • Palmer, Colin A. The First Passage: Blacks in the Americas, 1520-1617. New York: Oxford University Press, c1995.
  • Patrick, Diane. The New York Public Library Amazing African American History: A Book of Answers for Kids. New York: Wiley, c1998.
  • Russell, Dick. Black Genius: And the American Experience. New York : Carroll & Graf; p+sEmeryville, Calif. Distributed by Publishers Group West, c1998.
  • Shnidman, Ellen. The African-American Answer Book. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, c1999.
  • Tucker, Phillip Thomas. From Auction Block to Glory: The African American Experience. New York: MetroBooks, c1998.
  • White, Deborah G. Let My People Go: African Americans, 1804-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, c1996.
  • Wukovits, John F. The Black Cowboys. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1997.