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

Josephine Baker's Double Life as a World War II Spy

Josephine Baker's Daring Double Life as a World War II Spy

As war drums reverberated across Europe in 1939, the head of France’s military intelligence service recruited an unlikely spy: France’s most famous woman—Josephine Baker. Jacques Abtey had spent the early days of World War II recruiting spies to collect information on Nazi more

How Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ Confronted an Ugly Era of Lynchings

How Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ Confronted an Ugly Era of Lynchings

The haunting lyrics of “Strange Fruit” paint a picture of a rural American South where political and psychological terror reigns over African American communities. “Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,” blues legend Billie Holiday sang in her powerful 1939 recording of 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

This Day In History: The Niagara Movement meets for the first time, July 11, 1905

Niagara Movement

In 1905, a group of prominent Black intellectuals led by W.E.B. Du Bois met in Erie, Ontario, near Niagara Falls, to form an organization calling for civil and political rights for African Americans. With its comparatively aggressive approach to combating racial discrimination more

Black History: Timeline of the Post-Civil Rights Era

Black History: Timeline of the Post-Civil Rights Era

From the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, to widespread global protests declaring Black Lives Matter in 2020, African American history in the United States has been filled with both triumph and strife. Here's a look at some of more

America’s First Black Regiment Fought for the Nation’s Freedom—As Well as Their Own

America’s First Black Regiment Gained Their Freedom by Fighting Against the British

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, widely regarded as the first Black battalion in U.S. military history, originated, in part, from George Washington’s desperation. In late 1777 during the American Revolution, the Continental Army, led by General Washington, faced severe troop more

Reconstruction: A Timeline of America's First Attempt at Tackling Slavery's Legacy. Freedman's Bureau

Reconstruction: A Timeline of the Post-Civil War Era

Between 1863 and 1877, the U.S. government undertook the task of integrating nearly four million formerly enslaved people into society after the Civil War bitterly divided the country over the issue of slavery. A white slaveholding south that had built its economy and culture on more

Black Women Who Have Run For President, Carol Moseley Braun

Black Women Who Have Run for President

When Kamala Harris entered the 2020 U.S. presidential race, she chose campaign materials with a sleek typeface and red-and-yellow color scheme that mirrored those of the late politician Shirley Chisholm, who made history in 1972 after becoming the first Black woman to compete for more

8 Black TV Shows That Helped Change Culture, Featuring 'The Jeffersons' & more

7 Boundary-Breaking Black TV Shows

African Americans have appeared on television as long as the medium has been around. In fact, the first Black person on TV may have been Broadway star Ethel Waters, who hosted a one-off variety show on NBC on June 14, 1939, when television was still being developed. The medium more

8 Steps That Paved the Way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

8 Steps That Paved the Way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. When it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, it was a major victory for the civil rights movement in its battle against unjust Jim more


How Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition Championed Diversity

In November 1983, Rev. Jesse Jackson announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming only the second Black presidential candidate (after Shirley Chisholm in 1972) to compete at the national level. In doing so, he claimed to be fighting for the rights more


Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's protest strategies of nonviolence and civil disobedience, in 1942 a group of Black and white students in Chicago founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), helping to launch one of America’s most important civil rights movements. Taking a more

Shirley Chisholm Milestones

Shirley Chisholm: Facts About Her Trailblazing Career

Shirley Chisholm is widely known for her history-making turn in 1972 when she became the first African American from a major political party to run for president and the first Democratic woman of any race to do so. But Chisholm’s presidential bid was far from Chisholm's only more

How Tuskegee Airmen Fought Military Segregation With Nonviolent Action

How Tuskegee Airmen Fought Military Segregation With Nonviolent Action

The Tuskegee Airmen are best known for proving during World War II that Black men could be elite fighter pilots. Less widely known is the instrumental role these pilots, navigators and bombardiers played during the war in fighting segregation through nonviolent direct action. more

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

This Day In History: Martin Luther King, Jr. is jailed; writes "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 12, 1963

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


Why Harry Truman Ended Segregation in the US Military in 1948

When President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, calling for the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces, he repudiated 170 years of officially sanctioned discrimination. Since the American Revolution, African Americans had served in the military, but more

6 Renowned Tuskegee Airmen

6 Renowned Tuskegee Airmen

As the first Black aviators to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen broke through a massive segregation barrier in the American military. Their success and heroism during World War II, fighting Germans in the skies over Europe, shattered pervasive stereotypes 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

In 1898, America's Only Coup d'Etat Violently Overthrew an Elected Biracial Government, Wilmington, North Carolina

America’s Only Successful Coup d’Etat Overthrew a Biracial Government in 1898

It was the only successful coup d'état in the history of the United States and a story of racial terror largely obscured from the annals of American history. In 1898, a group of white vigilantes—angry and fearful at the newly elected biracial local government—joined forces with 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

Nannie Helen Burroughs

5 Black Suffragists Who Fought for the 19th Amendment—And Much More

When Congress ratified the 19th Amendment on August 18,1920, giving American women the right to vote, it reflected the culmination of generations’ worth of work by resolute suffragists of all races and backgrounds. Historically, attention has focused on the efforts of white more

United States Air Force Staff Sergeant Edward Williams (right) of St. Louis, Missouri, exchanges a handshake with his Commander-in-Chief, President Harry S. Truman

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

This Day In History: The Niagara Movement meets for the first time, July 11, 1905

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

This Day In History: Activist Bree Newsome removes Confederate flag from South Carolina State House, June 27, 2015

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


How Literacy Became a Powerful Weapon in the Fight to End Slavery

On August 21, 1831, enslaved Virginian Nat Turner led a bloody revolt, which changed the course of American history. The uprising in Southampton County led to the killing of an estimated 55 white people, resulting in execution of some 55 Black people and the beating of hundreds 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

Peter Salem

7 Black Heroes of the American Revolution

During the American Revolution, thousands of Black Americans jumped into the war, on both sides of the conflict. But unlike their white counterparts, they weren’t just fighting for independence—or to maintain British control. In a time when the vast majority 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

Crispus Attucks

8 Things We Know About Crispus Attucks

On the evening of March 5, 1770, British troops fired into a crowd of angry American colonists in Boston who had taunted and violently harassed them. Five colonists were killed. The event, which became known as the Boston Massacre, helped fuel the outrage against British rule—and 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

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

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

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