According to the African-American History and Heritage
Carter G. Woodson, a scholar, historian, and son of former
slaves, started Black History Week on February 12, 1926.
It was chosen for that week because of the birthdays of
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976, as part
of the United States’ Bicentennial, the week was expanded
to Black History Month, now celebrated throughout North
Woodson also founded the Association for the Study
of Negro Life and History, later renamed the Association
for the Study of African American Life and History [http://www.asalh.com/],
which establishes each yearly national theme for Black
The African-American History and Heritage Site offers
information on the origin of not only Black History
Month but also Kwanzaa, Juneteenth, the NAACP, the National
Urban League, and several other important dates, events,
and organizations. The site includes a toolkit, designed
for grades six and up, which provides links to lesson
plans and some of the many other Web sites offering
information on black history.
Over 600 free articles
One of the linked sites is the Encyclopaedia
Britannica Guide to Black History [http://search.eb.com/blackhistory/].
First released in February 1997, the site includes 600
free articles as well as historical photographs, film
clips, and audio recordings.
You can navigate the content through the Eras in Black
History section, which covers five distinct periods,
from the slave revolts of early America through the
Civil Rights Movement.
The site’s Timeline of Achievements section traces
the contributions of African-Americans to culture, politics,
business, religion, the arts, education, and sports.
You also can browse the site through an Articles A to
Z page, which provides links through two lists: Biographies
and Events & Institutions.
The site also includes a Bibliography area and a nice
selection of Related Internet Links. The Study Guide
for Students is organized around six classroom activities,
each with teacher recommendations and tips.
Biographies and timelines
Prominent African Americans—part of the African American
Web Connection [http://www.aawc.com/paa.html]
—is a site offering brief descriptions of about 60 people.
Most are contemporary (members of Congress, for example).
If you click on the names in the list, you can follow
links to more information at various other sites.
Lengthy, illustrated biographies of both contemporary
and historical African Americans are available from
Some of the entries include lesson plans and classroom
ideas as well as links to Biography Channel videos.
Sixty lengthy biographies of important African Americans
are available at the Gale Group’s free Black History
Month site [http://www.gale.com/free_resources/bhm/index.htm].
Most of the people profiled are from the 20th century,
but there is some information on 19th century African
Gale’s site also offers a quiz, activities from the
Black History Month Resource Book, synopses of African-American
literary works, and a timeline of events that helped
shape black history.
Another timeline is available from PBS [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/timeline.html].
These African-American World pages include links to
articles, videos, and sound clips from various PBS and
NPR programs. You can hear interviews with prominent
African Americans such as Quincy Jones and Jesse Jackson.
If you want to hear speeches and addresses important
to African-American history, visit the History Channel
Speeches Archive [http://www.historychannel.com/speeches/index.html].
Here’s a sampling of the people you can find:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses the March on
- Malcolm X talks about challenges to African-American
- Hank Aaron addresses Congress.
- Orval E. Faubus, governor of Arkansas, talks about
using the National Guard to prevent integration.
- Anita Hill accuses Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
- Jesse Jackson addresses the Democratic National
- Barbara Jordan, U.S. Representative from Texas,
delivers the keynote address to the Democratic National
- Andrew Young, U.S. politician and civil rights
leader, speaks during confirmation hearings to the
- Ralph Ellison talks about the origins of Invisible
You can find information on African-American literature
at several sites. For example, Writing Black: Texts
& Resources on the Web [http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/as/Literature/amlit.black.html]
covers 35 historical and contemporary authors and provides
links to texts and interviews.
Classic African American Literature [http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/go/multicultural/sites/aframdocs.html]
includes links to 50 online works such as The Narrative
of Sojourner Truth, Heroes in Black Skins by Booker
T. Washington, The Color Line by Frederick Douglas,
and The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois.
The Harlem Renaissance site [http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/harlem_intro.html]
offers the complete text of several poetry and prose
works by such writers as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen,
Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston. You also can find
photos of Harlem Renaissance writers and artists as
well as a resource guide to selected women writers of
The site called African American Women Writers of the
19th Century [http://digital.nypl.org/schomburg/writers_aa19/toc.html]
is a digital collection of more than 50 works by 19th
century authors. Part of the Digital Schomburg, the
collection offers access to books and pamphlets published
before 1920. The text of the works is searchable.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress offers several Black history
resources, including a remarkable site called Born in
Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers'
Project, 1936-1938 [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html].
The Federal Writers' Project originally did not plan
to collect slave interviews. The Southern Writer’s Project
collected them for almost a year before the effort was
transformed into a regional project, coordinated by
the national headquarters of the FWP in Washington,
D.C. Now, the Slave Narrative Collection offers a unique
record of people whose voices otherwise might not have
been heard and preserved.
The online collection, a joint presentation of the Manuscript
and Prints and the Photographs Divisions of the Library
of Congress, includes more than 2,300 first-person accounts
of slavery. There are over 9,500 page images as well
as searchable text, bibliographic records, and 500 black-and-white
photographs of former slaves. Introductory essays provide
information on the interviewers, the people interviewed,
and the collection process.
The Library of Congress also offers the African-American
Mosaic Web site [http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/african/intro.html].
It’s designed as an introduction to the collections
of the Library of Congress that concern African-American
history and culture.
The site focuses on four areas: colonization, abolition,
migration, and the Works Progress Administration. The
site presents historical information as well as maps,
documents, illustrations, and other images. For example,
photographs show the early African-American colonization
of Liberia. Maps illustrate black migration to the North.
And artwork shows the creativity of African Americans
who participated in the Works Progress Administration.
American Memory: Historical Collections for the National
Digital Library [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ammemhome.html]
includes documents, sound recordings, photographs, and
motion pictures. The site covers many topics relevant
to black history.
Go to the site's Collection Finder page [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/amtitle.html]
to access resources such as “African Americans – Sheet
Music – 1850-1920,” “African-American Music – Southern
U.S. – Recordings – 1938-1943,” and “African-American
Odyssey – Exhibit – Multiformat.”
The site also includes a Learning Page [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/index.html]
with lesson plans and other resources for teachers who
want to use primary sources and digitized documents
in the classroom.
For details on museums with black history information,
visit the Web site sponsored by the Association of African
American Museums [http://www.blackmuseums.org].
You can search a database of member museums and check
events calendars. The site is putting together a Virtual
African American Museum Gallery, which will feature
high-resolution images, video and audio clips, artifacts,
and digitized museum environments.
If you’re interested in museums, you also might want
to visit the African American Museums and Historical
a list maintained by Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
Finally, if you’re interested in black history from
the early part of the 19th century, be sure to visit
the Freedom's Journal site from the Wisconsin Historical
Society Library [http://www.shsw.wisc.edu/library/aanp/freedom/index.html].
The first African-American owned and operated newspaper
in the United States, Freedom’s Journal, was
published weekly from 1827 to 1829. All 103 issues of
have been digitized and are available on the site in
the Adobe Acrobat format.
Thomas Pack [ThomasPack@aol.com]
is a freelance writer who lives near Louisville, Kentucky.