Black History Month is celebrated in February because it coincides with the birthdates of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln. Each is credited with significantly impacting the lives of African Americans. In 1976, Black History Week became a Black History Month. The month-long commemoration was officially observed by President Gearld Ford as part of America’s Bicentennial celebrations. It has been celebrated by each president since then and is supported across the U.S. by people of various ethnicities and backgrounds. According to ASALH, “ the promotion of Black History Month is one of the most significant components of advancing Dr. Woodson’s legacy.”
Smith, J. C. (2020). Black History Month. The American Mosaic: The African American Experience. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from https://africanamerican-abc-clio-com.pgcmls.idm.oclc.org/Search/Display/1515150
Brown, K. B. (2020, July 26). The Founders of Black History Month: Our History. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from https://asalh.org/about-us/our-history/
The first African American indentured servants arrive in the American colonies. Less than a decade later, the first slaves are brought into New Amsterdam (later, New York City). By 1690, every colony has slaves.
The Stono Rebellion, one of the earliest slave revolts, occurs in Stono, South Carolina.
Eli Whitney’s (1765 – 1825) cotton gin increases the need for slaves.
Congress bans further importation of slaves.
In Boston, William Lloyd Garrison (1805 – 1879) begins publication of the anti-slavery newspaper the Liberator and becomes a leading voice in the Abolitionist movement.
Approximately 75,000 slaves escape to the North using the Underground Railroad.
Ex-slave Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) publishes the anti-slavery North Star newspaper.
Harriet Tubman (c. 1820 – 1913) escapes from slavery and becomes an instrumental leader of the Underground Railroad.
Congress passes another Fugitive Slave Act, which mandates government participation in the capture of escaped slaves.
Boston citizens, including some of the wealthiest, storm a federal courthouse in an attempt to free escaped Virginia slave Anthony Burns (1834 – 1862).
The Dred Scott v. Sanford case: congress does not have the right to ban slavery in the states; slaves are not citizens.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) is elected president, angering the southern states.
The Civil War begins.
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation proclaims that all slaves in rebellious territories are forever free.
Massachusetts 54th regiment of African American troops led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1837 – 1863) marches out of Boston on May 28th, heading into combat.
The Civil War ends.
Lincoln is assassinated.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery, is ratified.
The era of Reconstruction begins.
The “Black Codes” are passed by all white legislators of the former Confederate States.
Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, conferring citizenship on African Americans and granting them equal rights to whites.
The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee.
The 14th Amendment is ratified, defining citizenship. This overturns the Dred Scott decision.
The 15th Amendment is ratified, giving African Americans the right to vote.
The era of Reconstruction ends.
A deal is made with southern democratic leaders which makes Rutherford B. Hayes (1822 – 1893) president in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, and puts an end to efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans.
Thousands of African Americans migrate out of the South to escape oppression.
Tennessee passes the first of the “Jim Crow” segregation laws, segregating state railroads.
Similar laws are passed over the next 15 years throughout the Southern states.
Plessy v. Ferguson case: racial segregation is ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.
The “Jim Crow” (“separate but equal”) laws begin, barring African Americans from equal access to public facilities.
Brown v. Board of Education case: strikes down segregation as unconstitutional.
In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005) is arrested for breaking a city ordinance by refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. This defiant act gives initial momentum to the Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) and others set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading engine of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Civil Rights Act is signed, prohibiting discrimination of all kinds.
The Voting Rights Act is passed, outlawing the practices used in the South to disenfranchise African American voters.
Edward W. Brooke (1919 - 2015) becomes the first African American U.S. Senator since Reconstruction. He serves two terms as a Senator from Massachusetts.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
The PGCMLS Oxon Hill Library opens, including the Sojourner Truth African American Research Collection in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
President Lyndon Johnson (1908 - 1973) signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibiting housing discrimination.
Arthur Ashe (1943 - 1993) becomes the first African American man to win the U.S. Open.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise a black-gloved fist during the playing of the U.S. national anthem at the Olympics in Mexico.
Shirley Chisholm (1924 - 2005) is sworn in as the first Black woman elected to Congress.
Guitarist Jimi Hendrix headlines the Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York.
Rise of the Black Power Movement
Shirley Chisholm becomes the first Black woman to campaign for a major party presidential nomination.
Civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman establishes The Children’s Defense Fund.
Baseball player Hank Aaron (1934 - 2021) of Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run.
President Gerald Ford (1913 - 2006) officially recognizes Black History Month, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Based on the Alex Haley novel, the miniseries “Roots” airs its finale, which is watched by 36 million households.
Colonel Guion Bluford, Jr. (1942 - ) becomes the first African American to go to space as part of the Challenger Space Shuttle crew.
Vanessa Williams (1963 - ) is crowned the first Black Miss America.
Jesse Jackson (1941 - ) becomes the second African American to mount a U.S. presidential candidacy.
The first federal holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday in January.
Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ) launches a syndicated talk show. It later became the highest-rated talk show in history.
Douglas Wilder (1931 - ) becomes the first African American to be elected governor of a state (Virginia).
Four white Los Angeles police officers are acquitted of beating African American Rodney King (1965 - 2012). The verdict led to five days of riots in Los Angeles.
Engineer and physician Mae Jemison (1956 - ) becomes the first Black woman to go to space as part of the Space Shuttle Endeavour crew.
Toni Morrison (1931 - 2019) is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first Black woman to earn the honor.
Carol Moseley Braun (1947 - ) becomes the first Black woman, and only the second African American, to be elected to the US Senate.
Black men rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March.
Black women gather for the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.
Colin Powell (1937 - 2021) is appointed the first Black secretary of state.
Condoleezza Rice (1954 - ) takes office as the first Black woman secretary of state.
Barack Obama (1961 - ) becomes the first African American to win the U.S. presidential race.
The death of Black high school student Trayvon Martin (1995 - 2012) and the acquittal of George Zimmerman (1983 - ) spark nationwide protests and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
In Ferguson, Missouri, unarmed Black teen Michael Brown (1996 - 2014) is shot dead by white police officer Darren Wilson (1986 - ), resulting in weeks of protests.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens as the newest Smithsonian Institution Museum in Washington, DC.
Quarterback Colin Kaeperick (1987 - ) takes a knee during the national anthem before a football game to protest police brutality.
Amanda Gorman (1998 - ) becomes the first National Youth Poet Laureate.
Three unarmed African Americans are fatally killed. On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; on March 13, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky; and on May 25, George Floyd in Minnesota. The killings also resulted in nationwide and global demonstrations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as changes to federal and state policing laws.
Kamala Harris (1964 - ) becomes the first Black and South Asian woman elected Vice-President of the United States.
June 19 is the first celebration of Juneteenth as a U.S. federal holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves.
The Underground Railroad for many of us symbolizes the journey African slaves went on in the name of freedom. But, contrary to popular belief, the first path wasn’t south to north. Instead, it was north to south.
Take a closer look at the life of escaped slave and American icon Harriet Tubman, who liberated over 700 enslaved people using the Underground Railroad.
Get to know the story of Sojourner Truth, a woman born into slavery who became known as a powerful orator and outspoken activist.
Explore the works of science fiction visionary Octavia E. Butler, whose novels, such as “Parable of the Sower,” influenced the growing popularity of Afrofuturism.
In 1973, DJ Kool Herc set up his turntables and introduced a technique at a South Bronx house party that would change music as many people knew it. His ability to switch from record to record — as well as isolate and repeat music breaks — led to the discovery of the hip hop genre.
During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a first-term senator named Barack Obama from Illinois delivered a speech that exuded excitement, charisma and spark. Four years later, he found himself on that same platform as he launched his campaign to become the president of the United States.
In June of 2020,11-year-old Californian Jolia Bossette decided to use her fifth-grade graduation speech as an occasion to give voice to her thoughts and feelings. In her speech, she reminisced about how she was "the cutest thing," as a toddler and asked, "But when did I stop being cute and start being scary?"
In Texas and across the country, emancipated African Americans began celebrating annually, with parades, concerts, and picnics. “Being able to go wherever they want and being able to wander about; for enslaved people, it was an expression of their freedom,” says Hill. “Formerly enslaved people celebrating, in public, their newfound freedom, was an act of resistance.”
Black people are rarely featured in sci-fi and fantasy films — that is, unless that black person is Will Smith. How do black people get to exist in the future? Afrofuturism, a scholarly and artistic movement that imagines the future through black people’s experiences is one answer. The term was coined in 1994 by culture critic Mark Dery in his "Black to the Future" essay.
African American artists have helped shape the visual culture of the United States by working outside of the convention of their respective fields while defying discrimination and professional stereotypes. Often channeling their familial backgrounds and personal experiences in their work, these creative figures have influenced and inspired much of American art's evolution. Collectively, their bodies of work should not only be seen as a narrative of the African American experience of their time, but also a powerful expression of cultural protest.
Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica and experienced the impacts of colonization at the hands of the British. As a result, he developed a passion for improving race relations and launched a Black Nationalism movement that would seek to elevate black people throughout the world.
In this episode of Black History In Two Minutes or So hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., with additional commentary from Hasan Jeffries of Ohio State University, we explore how the morally questionable obtaining of Henrietta Lack’s cells led to medical advancements we still receive benefits from today.
Nearly 100 years ago, a white mob destroyed an American neighborhood called “Black Wall Street,” murdering an estimated 300 people in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That incident — known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — has been largely left out of US history books. Today, a century later, the city still has a lot of questions. For one, where are the bodies of the victims? As the city's mayor re-opens the search for mass graves, we take a look at what happened back in 1921…and why finding these graves still matters to the people of Tulsa.
In the Vox series Missing Chapter, Vox Senior Producer Ranjani Chakraborty revisits underreported and often overlooked moments from the past to give context to the present. Join her as she covers the histories that are often left out of our textbooks. Our first season tackles stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation.
In the 1960s, the FBI amassed almost 2,000 documents in an investigation into one of America’s most celebrated minds. The subject of this inquiry was a writer named James Baldwin, one of the best-selling black authors in the world at the time. What made him loom so large in the imaginations of both the public and the authorities? Christina Greer explores the life and works of James Baldwin.
John Coltrane, one of jazz history’s most revered saxophonists, released “Giant Steps” in 1959. It’s known across the jazz world as one of the most challenging compositions to improvise over for two reasons - it’s fast and it’s in three keys. Braxton Cook and Adam Neely give me a crash course in music theory to help me understand this notoriously difficult song, and I’m bringing you along for the ride. Even if you don’t understand a lick of music theory, you’ll likely walk away with an appreciation for this musical puzzle.
Aretha Franklin will always be the Queen of Soul. In the 1960s songs like “Respect” became the symbol for political and social change. It’s likely the reason her music moved so many people wasn’t necessarily the lyrics, but the way she delivered them.
In the late 1800’s, lynchings were happening all over the American South, often without any investigation or consequences for the murderers. A young journalist set out to expose the truth about these killings. Her reports shocked the nation, launched her journalism career and a lifelong pursuit of civil rights. Christina Greer details the life of Ida B. Wells and her tireless struggle for justice.
Learn about the life of Bayard Rustin, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, a gay rights activist, and one of Martin Luther King’s closest advisors.
Research African American history and culture, including primary sources, timelines, audio clips, photographs, maps, and images.
This collection was created in partnership with leading African American genealogists and recognized leaders in genealogical information and consists of a mix of resources, records, and tools. Connect with a community of research experts, whose mentoring and assistance can be the difference between research success and futility.
OverDrive offers thousands of downloadable audiobooks and eBooks, all free with your Prince George's County Memorial Library System library card. There is a limit of 10 items per customer, checked out at any time.
Explore the history, arts and culture of Black experience in the United StatesRosa Parks: In Her Own WordsDouble Victory: The African American Military ExperienceRepresent: Hip-Hop PhotographyNational Portrait Gallery: The Struggle for JusticePictoral History of Black History Month at the Oxon Hill Library