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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

The 1970 FBI Wanted poster for Angela Davis.

How Angela Davis Ended Up on the FBI Most Wanted List

On August 18, 1970, Angela Yvonne Davis became the third woman ever placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list, sought for her supposed involvement in kidnappings and murders growing out of an armed seizure of a Marin County Courthouse in California. Until her arrest more

Langston Hughes, circa 1942.

Langston Hughes' Path to Becoming the ‘People’s Poet’

Langston Hughes was a defining figure of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance as an influential poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, essayist, political commentator and social activist. Known as a poet of the people, his work focused on the everyday lives of the Black working more

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol at a benefit for the Brooklyn Academy of Music on November 7, 1984 at Area Nightclub in New York City.

Basquiat and Warhol: Inside Their Unlikely Artistic Collaborations

It’s one of the most intriguing—and head-scratching—friendships in recent art history. Today, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol are seen as two of the most innovative, influential artists of the late 20th century. Their works sell for tens of millions of dollars, routinely more

1956 photo of Maya Angelou as a singer.

Maya Angelou Thrived in Multiple Careers Before Becoming a Writer

When Maya Angelou published 1969’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the bestselling autobiography that would be adapted into a television movie and make her a household name, she was already in her 40s with a variety of career experiences. Angelou was an actor, dancer, activist more

A neighborhood map that outlines the different restrictive covenants on the homes in Montgomery County's Rock Creek Hills neighborhood in Maryland

How Neighborhoods Used Restrictive Housing Covenants to Block Nonwhite Families

In 1945, J.D. and Ethel Lee Shelley, an African American couple, purchased a home for their family in a white St. Louis, Missouri neighborhood. Problem was: In selling the modest, two-story brick dwelling to a Black family, the home’s white owners had defied a 34-year-old more

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad

6 Strategies Harriet Tubman and Others Used to Escape Along the Underground Railroad

Despite the horrors of slavery, it was no easy decision to flee. Escaping often involved leaving behind family and heading into the complete unknown, where harsh weather and lack of food might await. Then there was the constant threat of capture. So-called slave catchers and more

Harriet Tubman

After the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman Led a Brazen Civil War Raid

They called her “Moses” for leading enslaved people in the South to freedom up North. But Harriet Tubman fought the institution of slavery well beyond her role as a conductor for the Underground Railroad. As a soldier and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, Tubman became more

Why Frederick Douglass Passionately Recruited Black Soldiers During Civil War

Why Frederick Douglass Wanted Black Men to Fight in the Civil War

During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass used his stature as the most prominent African American social reformer, orator, writer and abolitionist to recruit men of his race to volunteer for the Union army. In his “Men of Color to Arms! Now or Never!” broadside, Douglass called on 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 Civil War Soldiers

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation: “All persons held as slaves within any States…in rebellion against the United States,” it declared, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” (The more than 1 million enslaved people in more

Nat 'Sweetwater' Clifton, the first Black player to sign an NBA contract

9 Black Athletes Who Integrated Professional Sports

After Jackie Robinson started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, ending a six-decade ban on Black players in Major League Baseball, opportunities slowly began to expand for athletes of color. Robinson’s historic achievement—a formative moment of the postwar more

How an Enslaved Man Helped Jack Daniel Develop His Famous Whiskey

How an Enslaved Man Helped Jack Daniel Develop His Famous Whiskey

Jack Daniel’s stands as one of the most iconic American brands and most popular spirits in the world. Yet while the whiskey and its eponymous founder have become dominant names in American liquor lore, the person perhaps most responsible for its success—an enslaved man named more

Teddy Roosevelt and the Battle of San Juan Hill, Spanish American War

The Buffalo Soldiers at San Juan Hill: What Really Happened?

It remains one of the most mythologized images of the Spanish-American war: Theodore Roosevelt charging on horseback, leading his Rough Rider volunteers up Cuba’s San Juan Hill through the smoke and chaos of battle to claim a decisive victory. Carefully crafted by Roosevelt more

Stephanie St. Clair Hamid, the "Numbers Queen"of Harlem, being held on charges of attempted assault.

This Woman Built a Formidable Gambling Empire in 1920s Harlem

Madame Stephanie St. Clair was a Harlem entrepreneur with a head for numbers and a skill for minting cash—even during the Great Depression. But like most African Americans in the early 20th century, she found herself barred from traditional, white-dominated financial businesses more

Moses Fleetwood Walker, Six Decades Before Jackie Robinson, This Man Integrated Major League Baseball

6 Decades Before Jackie Robinson, This Man Broke Baseball's Color Barrier

Sixty-three years before Jackie Robinson became the first African American in the modern era to play in a Major League Baseball game, Moses Fleetwood Walker debuted in the league on May 1, 1884, with the Toledo Blue Stockings in a 5-1 loss against the Louisville Eclipse. Walker, more

Jackie Robinson: His Life and Career in Pictures

Jackie Robinson: His Life and Career in Pictures

When Jackie Robinson started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, he not only integrated Major League Baseball. He was signaling to the nation—on one of its biggest stages—that Black Americans would no longer accept second-class status.  “Jackie Robinson more

How Famous Amos Built—And Lost—His Cookie Empire

Famous Amos: The Rise and Fall of a Cookie Empire

When Wally Amos founded Famous Amos cookies in 1975, the brand became one of the most unlikely success stories in food history. And the rise and fall of Wally Amos became one of its most infamous cautionary tales. Here’s how a man who broke the color barrier in the talent more

A statue of Queen Amanirenas.

The Nubian Queen Who Fought Back Caesar's Army

From 25 to 21 B.C. Amanirenas, a queen or Kandake of the Kingdom of Kush, managed to do what many male leaders in her time could not: push back a Roman invasion. Under Queen Amanirenas’ command, some 30,000 soldiers of the ancient Kingdom of Kush (located in modern-day Sudan) more

Madam C.J. Walker

How Madam C.J. Walker Became a Self-Made Millionaire

As the end of Reconstruction ushered in a volatile period in which former Confederate states instituted laws that severely restricted the upward mobility of African Americans, life for Black people largely remained just as harsh as it was during slavery. Black residents along the more

Walter White, the Executive Secretary of the NAACP, gives his views on the "Anti-Lynching Bill" before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.

How NAACP's Walter White Risked His Life to Investigate Lynchings

For Walter White, growing up Black and being able to “pass” as white empowered him to take on two identities that aided his work with the NAACP exposing racial injustice in the United States. White was born blonde-haired and blue-eyed in 1893 in Atlanta, Georgia, to a family more

Thomas Morris Chester (1813-1903)

The First Black War Correspondent Reported from the Civil War's Front Lines

During the Civil War, hundreds of reporters from Union and Confederate newspapers published stories from battles on land and sea. Only one of those reporters was a Black man: Thomas Morris Chester, the nation’s first African American war correspondent. The invention of the more

African Female Warriors Who Led Empires and Armies

Female Warriors Who Led African Empires and Armies

Long before—and during— the European colonization of Africa, ancient kingdoms and empires thrived for centuries on the continent. Some were headed by women, including female warriors who led armies against invading European powers to defend their people from conquest and more

Leg irons once used on enslaved people on display at the Kura Hulanda Museum on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

How the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Created the African Diaspora

The trans-Atlantic slave trade was the capture, forcible transport and sale of native Africans to Europeans for lifelong bondage in the Americas. Lasting from the 16th to 19th centuries, it is responsible, more than any other project or phenomenon in the history of the modern more

Alice Coachman performing the high jump at the 1939 National Women's Track and Field meet.

The First African Americans to Win Olympic Medals

Since the first Olympic Games debuted in Athens, Greece in 1896, the gathering of the world’s dominant athletes has become a global event. But with historic discrimination and fewer opportunities for elite training, Black athletes faced immense challenges to compete. Nonetheless, more

Martin Luther King Jr. shakes hands with President Lyndon B. Johnson at the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

8 Key Laws That Advanced Civil Rights

The "peculiar institution” of slavery was abolished nearly a hundred years after the Declaration of Independence called for freedom and equality for all in 1776. But it took another century before landmark legislation would begin to address basic civil rights for African more

Author Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960). (Credit: Corbis/Getty Images)

7 Writers of the Harlem Renaissance

In the early 20th century, millions of African Americans migrated from the rural South to the urban North to seek economic opportunity and escape widespread racial prejudice, segregation and violence. Many of them settled in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem, which became more

Martin Luther King Giving "Dream" SpeechMartin Luther King Jr., gives his "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. The widely quoted speech became one of his most famous.

Quotes from 7 of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Most Notable Speeches

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential figures of the American civil rights movement—and a gifted orator. His stirring speeches touched on everything from social and racial justice, to nonviolence, poverty, the Vietnam War and dismantling white supremacy. And more

African American MigrantsPhotograph of African American men, women, and children who participated in the Great Migration to the north, with suitcases and luggage placed in front, Chicago, 1918.

How Southern Landowners Tried to Restrict the Great Migration

When more than six million African Americans left the South for better opportunities in the North and West, between 1916 and 1970, their relocation changed the demographic landscape of the United States and much of the agricultural labor force in the South. This decades-long, more

Teammates show Bobby Grier, (C), what they think of Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin's threat to block Georgia Tech from playing in the Sugar Bowl on January 2nd, if the University of Pittsburgh's Negro player is part of the Panther team. Gathered around Grier from the left are: Bob Kiesel, end; Nick Carr, Guard; Jim McCuskar, tackle and Don Agafon, tackle. Two thousand Georgia Tech students staged a protest demonstration in which they twice burned the Governor in effigy. The case was scheduled to go before the Georgia State Board of Regents.

How Bobby Grier Integrated One of College Football's Biggest Games

The day after a Black woman refused to yield her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, America’s latest battle over civil rights garnered front-page headlines. The news stories capturing the country’s attention in early December 1955 did not concern Rosa Parks, however, but University more

Lee Elder becomes first Black golfer to play in Masters

On April 10, 1975, 41-year-old Lee Elder becomes the first Black golfer to play in the Masters, considered the most prestigious event in the sport. Elder shoots 37 on the front and back nine for a 74 at the Augusta (Georgia) National Golf Club and trails leader Bobby Nichols by more

Malcolm X , 1965

The Assassination of Malcolm X

Civil rights leader Malcolm X took the stage at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan on February 21, 1965. Just minutes later, shortly after 3 p.m., the former prominent Nation of Islam figure was gunned down by three men as his wife, Betty more


The Black Trailblazer Who's the Only Person in Baseball, Basketball Halls of Fame

Cumberland Posey, the only person in the Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame, was not only an excellent athlete. He also was one of the shrewdest businessmen and talent evaluators in the Negro Leagues, a fierce advocate for Black baseball and a sports pioneer. Early in the 20th more

An African American soldier in uniform with his wife and two daughters, circa 1864. This image was found in Cecil County, Maryland, making it likely that this soldier belonged to one of the seven U.S.C.T. regiments raised in Maryland.

How Black Women Fought for Civil War Pensions and Benefits

Over two million soldiers enlisted in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. When it ended, the United States had many more veterans and surviving dependents than it had ever had before. In the decades that followed, military pensions became a major part of the federal budget, more

Buck Leonard of the Homestead Grays dashes to first during a 1940 Negro League game against the New York Black Yankees.

9 Baseball Stars From the Negro Leagues Who Dominated the Game

Until Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line in 1947, Black Americans' professional baseball opportunities were limited primarily to the Negro Leagues. These leagues showcased impressive talent, from power hitters Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson to pitchers more


How Interstate Highways Gutted Communities—and Reinforced Segregation

When Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, it authorized what was then the largest public works program in U.S. history. The law promised to construct 41,000 miles of an ambitious interstate highway system that would criss-cross the nation, dramatically more

HISTORY: Dunmore's Proclamation

Dunmore's Proclamation

On November 7, 1775, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore and governor of the British colony of Virginia, wrote the document known as Dunmore’s Proclamation. It promised freedom to any indentured servants, enslaved African Americans, or others held in bondage by American more

First page of the newspaper Le Petit Journal Sunday 7 October 1906 in illustration "Lynching" Massacre in the United States of African Americans in Atlanta (Georgia).

The 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre: How Fearmongering Led to Violence

In the center of downtown Atlanta, a handful of streets intersect, forming what locals know as Five Points. Today, a park, a university, high-rise buildings and throngs of motorists and pedestrians make this a bustling area, belying its history of bloodshed. In 1906, Five Points more


How the Only Woman in Baseball Hall of Fame Challenged Convention—and MLB

Effa Manley, the only woman in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was an advocate for Black athletes, a passionate supporter of baseball in the Negro leagues, a champion for civil rights and equality…and far ahead of her time. In an era when few women were involved in sports more



The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in 1960 in the wake of student-led sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the South and became the major channel of student participation in the civil rights movement. Members of SNCC included prominent future more

South Africa captain Francois Pienaar receives the William Webb Ellis Trophy from President Nelson Mandela after the home team defeated arch rival New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup in Johannesburg.

How Nelson Mandela Used Rugby as a Symbol of South African Unity

On June 24, 1995 at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium, South Africa won the Rugby World Cup 15-12 over its arch rival New Zealand. The match stands as a hugely symbolic moment in South African history. It marked the nation’s first major sporting event since the end of its more


Why the FBI Saw Martin Luther King Jr. as a Communist Threat

In early 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved a request from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to install wiretaps on the home and office of a New York City-based lawyer named Stanley David Levison. According to FBI informants, Levison had been an influential member of the more

Newark, New Jersey, July 14, 1967: Negroes jeer at bayonet-wielding National Guardsmen here July 14th. The National Guard and New Jersey state police were called out July 14th to aid Newark police, following the second night of disorder in this, New Jersey's largest city.

The 1967 Riots: When Outrage Over Racial Injustice Boiled Over

During the summer of 1967, 158 riots erupted in urban communities across America. Most shared the same triggering event: a dispute between Black citizens and white police officers that escalated to violence. During those convulsive months, the massive social unrest—alternately more

How Mixed-Race Children in Post-WWII Germany Were Deemed a ‘Social Problem’

Why Mixed-Race Children in Post-WWII Germany Were Deemed a ‘Social Problem’

After Allied Forces defeated Germany in World War II, the United States began its occupation of West Germany from 1945 to 1955. Although American soldiers were tasked with promoting democracy to a country ravaged by fascism, Jim Crow prevailed in the U.S. military and Black GIs more

Tulsa Race Riots

'Black Wall Street' Before, During and After the Tulsa Race Massacre: PHOTOS

At the turn of the 20th century, African Americans founded and developed the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Built on what had formerly been Indian Territory, the community grew and flourished as a Black economic and cultural mecca—until May 31, 1921.  That's when a white more

Cicada Swarms Were Documented in the 18th Century by a Black Naturalist, Benjamin Banneker

Cicada Swarms Were Documented by a Black Naturalist in the 18th Century

In the spring of 1749, the billions-strong swarm of cicadas known today as Brood X emerged from the ground in rural Maryland, much to the fascination (and horror) of a 17-year-old Black tobacco farmer named Benjamin Banneker, who believed they were a plague of locusts. “The more

The Unsung Black Scientists of the Manhattan Project

The Unsung African American Scientists of the Manhattan Project

During the height of World War II between 1942 and 1945, the U.S. government’s top-secret program to build an atomic bomb, code-named the Manhattan Project, cumulatively employed some 600,000 people, including scientists, technicians, janitors, engineers, chemists, maids and day more

Customers stand outside Berry's Service Station in Tulsa.

9 Entrepreneurs Who Helped Build Tulsa's 'Black Wall Street'

As more is learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, including the discovery of mass graves, the stories of the African Americans who turned the city’s Greenwood district into “Black Wall Street” are equally as revealing. Before a white mob decimated 35 blocks of a thriving more

History Shorts: The Story Behind Kwanzaa

History Shorts: The Story Behind Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa didn't just appear spontaneously—it was specifically designed to heal a struggling community.

Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921: The Aerial Assault

What Role Did Airplanes Play in the Tulsa Race Massacre?

What role did airplanes play in the deadly Tulsa race massacre of 1921? Just after Memorial Day that year, a white mob destroyed 35 city blocks of the Greenwood District, a community in Tulsa, Oklahoma known as the “Black Wall Street.” Prompted by an allegation that a Black man more

How Laws First Passed in Jim Crow Era Suppressed the African American Vote

How Jim Crow-Era Laws Suppressed the African American Vote for Generations

Following the ratification in 1870 of the 15th Amendment, which barred states from depriving citizens the right to vote based on race, southern states began enacting measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests, all-white primaries, felony disenfranchisement laws, grandfather more