February marks Black History Month, a month-long observance in the United States and Canada that recognizes the significant contributions of African-Americans to American history, as well as the historical legacies of the African diaspora. We hope you’ll find the stories below, and the scholarship they include in full, a valuable resource for classroom or leisure reading.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why MLK Believed Jazz Was the Perfect Soundtrack for Civil Rights

Jazz, King declared, was the ability to take the “hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.”
Charles Drew sitting with medical residents at Freedmen's Hospital

The 1910 Report That Disadvantaged Minority Doctors

A century ago, the Flexner Report led to the closure of 75% of U.S. medical schools. It still explains a lot about today’s unequal access to healthcare.
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, “The Black Swan”

Born into slavery, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield broke barriers with every note she sang.
The first black marines decorated by the famed 2nd Marine Dvision somewhere in the Pacific. (Left to right) Staff Sgt Timerlate Kirven and Cpl. Samuel J. Love, Sr., received Purple Hearts for wounds received in the Battle of Saipan.

Who Were the Montford Point Marines?

The first African-American recruits in the Marine Corps trained at Montford Point, eventually ending the military’s longstanding policy of racial segregation.
Alice Childress, Paul Robeson and Lorraine Hansberry

In the McCarthy Era, to Be Black Was to Be Red

The Marxist sympathies of Black radical leaders like Paul Robeson, Alice Childress, and Lorraine Hansberry made them targets for the FBI.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Two_African_American_women,_three-quarter_length_portrait,_seated,_facing_each_other_LCCN99472087.tif

Searching for Black Queer History in Sensational Newspapers

Sometimes finding the stories of marginalized populations demands reading between the lines.

The Mob Violence of the Red Summer

In 1919, a brutal outburst of mob violence was directed against African Americans across the United States. White, uniformed servicemen led the charge.
Student in a Black Studies class in a west side Chicago classroom, 1973

African American Studies: Foundations and Key Concepts

This non-exhaustive list of readings in African American Studies highlights the vibrant history of the discipline and introduces the field.
Smoke billowing over Tulsa, Oklahoma during 1921 race riots

The Devastation of Black Wall Street

Tulsa, Oklahoma. 1921. A wave of racial violence destroys an affluent African-American community, seen as a threat to white-dominated American capitalism.
Bestselling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at HCLS Miller Branch.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I Became Black in America

Adichie speaks on the meaning of blackness, sexism in Nigeria, and whether the current feminist movement leaves out black women.
Martin Luther King in 1957

The African Roots of MLK’s Vision

“Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice… An old order of colonialism, of segregation, discrimination is passing away now.”
Dorothy B Porter

What Dorothy Porter’s Life Meant for Black Studies

Dorothy Porter, a Black woman pioneer in library and information science, created an archive that structured a new field.
A sleeping car porter employed by the Pullman Company at Union Station in Chicago, Illinois.

The Historic Achievement of the Pullman Porter’s Union

The achievements of the Pullman Porter's Union were a significant civil rights victory for both U.S. labor and the civil liberties of African-Americans. 
Phillis Wheatley

The Privileged and Impoverished Life of Phillis Wheatley

The first African American of either gender to publish a book of poetry has remained a controversial figure in the black community.

Remembering Billie Holiday

The 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth.
Grandchildren of slaves.

A Formerly Enslaved Woman Successfully Won a Case for Reparations in 1783

In one of the earliest examples of reparations, an ex-slave named Belinda petitioned the government and was granted an annuity.
Photograph of Septima Clark, ca. 1960, Avery Photo Collection, 10-9, Courtesy of the Avery Research Center.

How Septima Poinsette Clark Spoke Up for Civil Rights

The daughter of a slave, Septima Clark graduated from college, became a teacher, and became a fierce advocate for social and cultural change.  
Shirley Chisholm and Rosa Parks

The Significance of Shirley Chisholm’s Presidential Campaign

Shirley Chisholm: the first black female U.S. Representative, first black major-party candidate for President, and the first Democratic Party woman to run.

The Story of Juneteenth

The Emancipation Proclamation outlawing slavery in the United States passed January 1st 1863. It took over 2 years for the news to reach some enslaved people.
Women's March

How Women’s Studies Erased Black Women

The founders of Women’s Studies were overwhelmingly white, and focused on the experiences of white, heterosexual women.
Howard square dance

The Slave Roots of Square Dancing

Square Dancing's lily-white reputation hides something unexpected: A deep African-American history that's rooted in a legacy of slavery. 
World War II Veterans

The Inequality Hidden Within the Race-Neutral G.I. Bill

While the G.I. Bill itself was progressive, much of the country still functioned under both covert and blatant segregation.
Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison on Race

Ralph Ellison believed fiercely in the American project and in the centrality of black people to it.

We’ll be adding more stories related to Black History Month throughout February.

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