Black History


Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. From Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Selma to Montgomery March to the Black Lives Matter movement, Black leaders, artists and writers have helped shaped the character and identity of a nation.

Black History Videos

Black History Stories

7 Things You May Not Know About MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

7 Things You May Not Know About MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

On August 28, 1963, in front of a crowd of nearly 250,000 people spread across the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Baptist preacher and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln more

Martin Luther King, Jr. is jailed; writes "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

On April 3, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their partners in the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights led a campaign of protests, marches and sit-ins against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. By April 12, King more

Activism That Led to the First Black Marines

Activism That Led to the First Black Marines

It was just a month since the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. U.S. troops were arriving in Europe to join Allied forces in fighting Adolf Hitler’s invasions. The United States needed its people to help win World War II. And yet, in January 1942, the highest-ranking officer in more

6 Black Heroes of the Civil War

6 Black Heroes of the Civil War

As America’s Civil War raged, with the enslavement of millions of people hanging in the balance, African Americans didn’t just sit on the sidelines. Whether enslaved, escaped or born free, many sought to actively affect the outcome. From fighting on bloody battlefields to more

Black 'Rosies': How African American Women Contributed on the WWII Homefront

‘Black Rosies’: The Forgotten African American Heroines of the WWII Homefront

Rosie the Riveter—the steely-eyed World War II heroine with her red bandanna, blue coveralls and flexed bicep—stands as one of America’s most indelible military images. Positioned under the maxim “We Can Do It,” the “Rosie” image has come to broadly represent the steadfast more

This 1841 Rebellion at Sea Freed More Than 100 Enslaved People

This 1841 Rebellion at Sea Freed More Than 100 Enslaved People

Throughout the annals of American slavery, enslaved people resisted captivity and strived to liberate themselves from bondage, usually against steep odds. The Creole rebellion of 1841 represented one of the most successful uprisings in U.S. history, where more than 100 captives more

The Children's Crusade: When the Youth of Birmingham Marched for Justice

The Children's Crusade: When the Youth of Birmingham Marched for Justice

Toward the end of April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and fellow leaders in the civil rights movement faced a grim reality in Birmingham, Alabama. With diminished support and fewer volunteers, their campaign to end segregationist policies was teetering on failure. But when an more

During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, African Americans Struggled to Get Healthcare

Why African Americans Were More Likely to Die During the 1918 Flu Pandemic

When it came to getting healthcare during the 1918 influenza epidemic, America’s Black communities, hobbled by poverty, Jim Crow segregation and rampant discrimination, were mostly forced to fend for themselves. Opportunities for hospital care proved scarce, leaving many relying more

African American cotton pickers in Florida, 1879

How the Black Codes Limited African American Progress After the Civil War

When slavery ended in the United States, freedom still eluded African Americans who were contending with the repressive set of laws known as the black codes. Widely enacted throughout the South following the Civil War—a period called Reconstruction—these laws both limited the more


The 1868 Louisiana Massacre that Reversed Reconstruction-Era Gains

In September 1868, a dispute over a column published in an Opelousas, Louisiana partisan newspaper provoked one of the bloodiest incidents of racial violence in the Reconstruction era. The attackers' goal: to reverse dramatic political gains made by Black citizens after the more

President Truman ends discrimination in the military

President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 9981—ending discrimination in the military—on July 26, 1948. Truman’s order ended a long-standing practice of segregating Black soldiers and relegating them to more menial jobs. African Americans had been serving in the United more

Members of the Niagara Movement meet for the first time

Niagara Movement members begin meeting on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. This all-African American group of scholars, lawyers and businessmen came together for three days to create what would soon become a powerful post-slavery Black rights organization. Although it only more

Activist Bree Newsome removes Confederate flag from South Carolina State House

On the morning of June 27, 2015, activists posing as joggers signal to one of their comrades that the police have momentarily turned their attention away from the flagpole outside the South Carolina State House. Having received the signal, Brittany "Bree" Newsome scales the pole, more

Buffalo Soldiers, 25th Infantry

Why Buffalo Soldiers Served Among the Nation's First Park Rangers

Among the earliest stewards of the nation’s national parks were soldiers from segregated black regiments. Starting in the 1890s, the Buffalo Soldiers, who had earned valor fighting in the Indian Wars and Spanish-American War, added park ranger to their titles and played a more

Matilda McCrear

A Survivor of the Last Slave Ship Lived Until 1940

The last known survivor of the last U.S. slave ship died in 1940—75 years after the abolition of slavery. Her name was Matilda McCrear. When she first arrived in Alabama in 1860, she was only two years old. By the time she died, Matilda had lived through the Civil War, more

The Daring Disguise that Helped One Enslaved Couple Escape to Freedom, Ellen and William Craft

The Daring Disguise that Helped One Enslaved Couple Escape to Freedom

In the mid 19th century in Macon, Georgia, a man and woman fell in love, married and, as many young couples do, began thinking about starting a family. But Ellen and William Craft were both enslaved and were well aware that any of their future children could be ripped away at any more

The Harlem Globetrotters

How the Harlem Globetrotters Rose From Midwest Obscurity to Become Global Stars: Photos

For nearly a century, the Harlem Globetrotters have brought flair and antics to the game of basketball. The team has played to more than 148 million people, in over 26,000 exhibition games in 124 countries and territories. The Harlem Globetrotters began in 1926 as the Savoy Big more

How the Black Power Movement Influenced the Civil Rights Movement

How the Black Power Movement Influenced the Civil Rights Movement

By 1966, the civil rights movement had been gaining momentum for more than a decade, as thousands of African Americans embraced a strategy of nonviolent protest against racial segregation and demanded equal rights under the law. But for an increasing number of African Americans, more


The MLK Graphic Novel That Inspired John Lewis and Generations of Civil Rights Activists

Shortly after noon on August 26, 1961, Hollis Watkins and Curtis Elmer Hayes filled two vacant stools at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in McComb, Mississippi. When the two African American students were refused service at the segregated dining spot, police arrested the pair for more

Emancipation Proclomation

Emancipation Proclamation

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” more


Abolitionist Movement

The abolitionist movement was an organized effort to end the practice of slavery in the United States. The first leaders of the campaign, which took place from about 1830 to 1870, mimicked some of the same tactics British abolitionists had used to end slavery in Great Britain in more


Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall — perhaps best known as the first African-American Supreme Court justice — played an instrumental role in promoting racial equality during the civil rights movement. As a practicing attorney, Marshall argued a record-breaking 32 cases before the Supreme Court, more


Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was an African American professional baseball player who broke Major Leagues Baseball’s infamous “color barrier” when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Until that time, professional ballplayers of color suited up for teams only more

The Red Summer of 1919

Red Summer of 1919: How Black WWI Vets Fought Back Against Racist Mobs

The ink had barely dried on the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I, when recently returned black veterans grabbed their guns and stationed themselves on rooftops in black neighborhoods in Washington D.C., prepared to act as snipers in the case of mob violence more


How the GI Bill's Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans

When Eugene Burnett saw the neat tract houses of Levittown, New York, he knew he wanted to buy one. It was 1949, and he was ready to settle down in a larger home with his family. The newly established Long Island suburb seemed like the perfect place to begin their postwar more

Elizabeth Freeman

Meet Elizabeth Freeman, the First Enslaved Woman to Sue for Her Freedom—and Win

In 1780, the proclamation “all men are born free and equal,” rang out from the central square in the small town of Sheffield in western Massachusetts. The line was from the state’s newly ratified constitution, read aloud for a proud public to hear. America’s war for independence more

Malcolm X

The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography

It’s not often that a little-known chapter from one of the most important books of the 20th century emerges into the public sphere. Especially one in which a prominent civil-rights figure delivers a stern rebuke to his race. In July 2018, the Schomburg Center for Research in more

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

WWII Mail Delivery Would Have Been a Mess Without These Black Female Army Heroes

An army unit known as the “Six Triple Eight” had a specific mission in World War II: to sort and clear a two-year backlog of mail for Americans stationed in Europe. Between the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Red Cross and uniformed civilian specialists, that amounted to seven million more

Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Intimate View of MLK Through the Lens of a Friend

One evening in 1958, photographer Flip Schulke was covering a rally at a Black Baptist church in Miami where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking. Schulke had spent the past few years documenting the Civil Rights Movement for publications like Life, Time, Newsweek, Jet and more


America in Mourning After MLK's Shocking Assassination: Photos

Emmett Till. Medgar Evers. Harry and Harriette Moore. The Civil Rights Movement had lost more than its fair share of heroes by 1968. But when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of a Memphis hotel on April 4 of that year, it seemed like the death knell for more

Martin Luther King, Jr. after being stabbed

How an Assassination Attempt Affirmed MLK’s Faith in Nonviolence

A small crowd gathered around Martin Luther King, Jr. in the shoe section of a Harlem department store on September 20, 1958. They had come to meet the 29-year-old preacher who sat in a roped-off section of Blumstein’s Department Store autographing copies of Stride Toward more

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He Fought for His Freedom in the Revolution. Then His Sons Were Sold Into Slavery

Born into slavery before the American Revolution, Jude Hall fought valiantly in several of the war’s most crucial battles, earning the nickname “Old Rock” for his strength and heroism. Yet while he would gain his freedom after the war, and a small plot of land in Exeter, New more

Oldest Living Veteran

Oldest Living U.S. Veteran, Richard Overton, Dies at 112

For his first 107 years, Richard Overton lived in relative anonymity. A World War II veteran who fought in the Pacific, he could usually be found post-retirement on the porch of his Austin, Texas, home, smoking cigars and chatting up his extensive circle of family and friends. more

Shirley Chisholm

'Unbought and Unbossed': Why Shirley Chisholm Ran for President

The Democratic National Convention was a tense scene in July of 1972. The gathering in Miami came just one month after burglars had broken into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate. The candidate who won the presidential nomination would be the one to take on President more

frederick douglass-promo

What Frederick Douglass Revealed—and Omitted—in His Famous Autobiographies

Frederick Douglass, the most influential black man in 19th-century America, wrote 1,200 pages of autobiography, one of the most impressive performances of memoir in the nation’s history. The three texts included Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave more


A Look Back at Segregation in the United States

Segregation is the practice of requiring separate housing, education and other services for people of color. Segregation was made law several times in 18th and 19th-century America as some believed that black and white people were incapable of coexisting. In the lead-up to the more

A group of people at the Idlewild Club House in 1938

Before the Green Book, These Resorts Offered Hidden Safe Havens for Black Americans

Idlewild, Michigan was once known as “The Black Eden”—a resort where black writers, business people, physicians and entertainers spent their summers in a racially segregated country. In its earliest days, you could run into W.E.B. Du Bois; in its later years, you could catch an more

Fredi Washington

The Fair-Skinned Black Actress Who Refused to 'Pass' in 1930s Hollywood

When Duke Ellington and his band toured the segregated South in the early 1930s, they encountered racism wherever they went. A gorgeous black performer also traveled with the band—Frederika “Fredi” Washington. Lithe and light-skinned, she was pale enough to “pass” as white in the more

The first Miss Black America pageant takes place

At nearly three in the morning, Saundra Williams walked across a stage with a cream rhinestone cape around her shoulders, a sash across her torso and a scepter in her hand, ready to be crowned as pageant royalty. Though it was the same night as the Miss America pageant, Williams’ more


How 'The Birth of a Nation' Revived the Ku Klux Klan

History is usually written by the winners. But that wasn’t the case when The Birth of a Nation was released on February 8, 1915. In just over three hours, D.W. Griffith’s controversial epic film about the Civil War and Reconstruction depicted the Ku Klux Klan as valiant saviors more


Charlotte E. Ray’s Brief But Historic Career as the First U.S. Black Woman Attorney

Martha Gadley’s marriage was a nightmare. When her husband drank, he turned increasingly violent. One night, he used an ax to chop a hole in the floor and threatened to push her into the room below. He refused to bring her water when she was sick. When she left the house, he more


The First Black Man Elected to Congress Was Nearly Blocked From Taking His Seat

Hiram Rhodes Revels arrived on Capitol Hill to take his seat as the first black member of the U.S. Congress in 1870. But first, the Mississippi Republican faced Democrats determined to block him. The Constitution requires senators to hold citizenship for at least nine years, and more


The Real Story of How a Black Cop Infiltrated the KKK

Among the white supremacist members of the Ku Klux Klan, Ron Stallworth stood out for a couple reasons: he was an undercover officer and he was a black man. In the fall of 1978, at the Colorado Springs Police Department, Stallworth saw an ad in the local newspaper calling for new more


How 'Race Records' Turned Black Music Into Big Business

In 1926, a self-taught musician named Big Bill Broonzy found his way to Chicago. A sharecropper turned soldier, he had left Mississippi and headed north to escape the pervasive racism of the Jim Crow South along with thousands of others of African-Americans in the Great more


When Ida B. Wells Took on Lynching, Threats Forced Her to Leave Memphis

Journalist Ida B. Wells was already out of town when she realized that an editorial she’d written had caused a riot. In 1892, Wells had left Memphis to attend a conference in Philadelphia, when the office of the newspaper she co-owned was destroyed and her co-editor was run out more


Charleston's Emanuel 9 Memorial: Balancing Education With Healing

On the evening of June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old baby-faced white supremacist, walked into a prayer group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. After sitting quietly for nearly an hour, he stood up, pulled out a more


The Hate Crime Solved After 34 Years

One night in October 1983, two white men waited outside a local dance club near Sunny Side, Georgia for a black man, Timothy Coggins. Coggins was young, exuberant, loved to dance—and was known to date white women. When Coggins emerged, according to court testimony, they lured him more


A Harlem Hellfighter's Searing Tales from the WWI Trenches

Like many veterans of the killing fields of World War I, Horace Pippin had a tough time shaking off the memories. So in the decade after the war he captured them, and tamed them, inside sketch-filled journals. He had no dearth of stories to tell. There was the terrified young more


The ‘White Slavery’ Law That Brought Down Jack Johnson is Still in Effect

He was known as the Galveston Giant—a boxer who fought his way toward the first world heavyweight title held by an African-American. But in 1912, Jack Johnson became something else: a wanted man. Accused of violating the Mann Act, which forbade transporting a woman across state more


Did World War II Launch the Civil Rights Movement?

The civil rights movement was a fight for equal rights under the law for African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s. Centuries of prejudice and discrimination fueled the crusade, but World War II and its aftermath were arguably the main catalysts. A. Philip Randolph’s crusade more