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Black History on the Web

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Link-Up Digital

According to the African-American History and Heritage Site [], 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 America.

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 [], which establishes each yearly national theme for Black History Month.

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 []. 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 [] —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 []. Most of the people profiled are from the 20th century, but there is some information on 19th century African Americans, too.

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 []. 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 []. Here’s a sampling of the people you can find: 

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses the March on Washington. 
  • Malcolm X talks about challenges to African-American society.
  • 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 Convention. 
  • Barbara Jordan, U.S. Representative from Texas, delivers the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention. 
  • Andrew Young, U.S. politician and civil rights leader, speaks during confirmation hearings to the U.N. post.
  • Ralph Ellison talks about the origins of Invisible Man.

African-American literature
You can find information on African-American literature at several sites. For example, Writing Black: Texts & Resources on the Web [] covers 35 historical and contemporary authors and provides links to texts and interviews.

Classic African American Literature [] 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 [] 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 renaissance.

The site called African American Women Writers of the 19th Century [] 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 resources
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 [].

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 []. 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 [] 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 [] 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 [] 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 []. 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 Sites [], 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 []. 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 is a freelance writer who lives near Louisville, Kentucky.

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