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Ashawnta Jackson

Ashawnta Jackson

Ashawnta Jackson is a reader, writer, and record collector living in New York. She has written for NPR Music, Bandcamp, Artsy, Atlas Obscura, and GRAMMY.com, among others. You can read more of her work at heyjackson.net.

Florestine Perrault Collins

Challenging Race and Gender Roles, One Photo at a Time

Florestine Perrault Collins escaped the bounds of prescribed gender roles and racial segregation to run a successful photography studio in 1920s New Orleans.
Chuck Berry does the splits as he plays his Gibson hollowbody electric guitar in circa 1968.

Race, Rock, and Breaking Barriers

The rock music industry brought more than a little racism to the radio, but a few artists pushed beyond the boundaries imposed by white audiences.
Producer John Dolphin's "Dolphin's Of Hollywood" record store on Central Avenue, 1952

The Los Angeles Renaissance

Black composers Bruce Forsythe and Claudius Wilson transcended barriers to create concert and classical music during this West Coast art movement.
Althea Gibson of the United States plays during Wimbledon in 1956

Serving Goodwill: US Women’s Tennis and Cold War Diplomacy

By dispatching women tennis players on world tours, the US Department of State hoped to garner approval for the American way of life.
Photograph of the Tomato Girls Club in Jackson, Miss. in 1914

Like Tomatoes? Join the Club

Organizers of girls’ tomato clubs hoped that members would learn not only how to grow tomatoes, but how to build a better future for themselves.
Blues musician B.B. King stands on the back of a truck with other African-American men to raise money for radio station WDIA's Wheelin' On Beale March of Dimes charity for pregnancy and baby health in circa 1955 in Memphis, Tennessee.

How Black Radio Changed the Dial

Black-appeal stations were instrumental in propelling R&B into the mainstream while broadcasting news of the ever-growing civil rights movement.
A sprint at a U.S. Naval Academy field day, between 1890 and 1901

Professional Running: the Nineteenth Century’s Dirtiest Sport

American racers earned a reputation for deception, and Cuckoo Collins led the pack with an outsize talent for cheating.
Clockwise: Sun Ra, Betty Davis, Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu, and Jimi Hendrix

The Scholars Who Charted Black Music’s Timeline: Tony Bolden

Tony Bolden explores the spiritual principles that inform the foundation of Afrofuturist music.
A Video Player interface with a tv rating in its center

Film and TV Ratings in the Streaming Age

We've got Netflix, AppleTV, YouTube, and Prime literally in the palms of our hands. Do conventional movie and television rating systems matter to us?
Detail from a poster for "Sapphire Show" designed by Eileen Nelson

How an Unrealized Art Show Created an Archive of Black Women’s Art

Records from a cancelled exhibition reveal the challenges faced by Black feminist artists and curators in the 1970s.
Portia K. Maultsby, 1981

The Scholars Who Charted Black Music’s Timeline

Portia K. Maultsby documents the course of African American music, tracing the histories of the sounds alongside the histories of the people who made them.
Jackie Ormes

The Groundbreaking Work of Jackie Ormes

The first Black woman to have a regularly published comic strip, Ormes gave form to the political and social concerns of Black Americans.
Newcomb featured in Spalding's Red Cover series of athletic handbooks in 1914

Clara Gregory Baer and the “Lost” Sport of Newcomb Ball

The sport of Newcomb ball was created by Clara Gregory Baer two years before volleyball. Now forgotten, it's a good bet it lives on in the gyms and beach courts of today.
Denée Benton as Peggy Scott on The Gilded Age

Julia C. Collins & the Black Elite of the Gilded Age

HBO's The Gilded Age has done its homework on Black History, creating a character based upon real life wealthy Black women of the time.
Pancho Barnes and the Powder Puff Derby at Long Beach, California circa 1930-1931

1929 Women’s Air Derby Changed Views On Women Pilots

Women pilots were seen as oddities, opportunists, and "too scatterbrained" to fly. The 1929 All-Woman Air Race set out to change that.
A circus poster from 1912

Race and Gender Under the Big Top

The circus provided opportunities to some in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but could not avoid the racism and misogynoir of the "outside world."
Pixelated books

Are Video Games Like Novels?

Video games as interactive storytelling? Maybe not at first glance, but as Eric Hayot explains, the interplay between game and narrative is real.
The cover of Ebony and Topaz: A Collectanea

The Short but Influential Run of Ebony and Topaz

The 1927 art and literature magazine only ran for a single issue, but “proved an integral component of Harlem Renaissance cultural production."
A promotional image for Moon Over Harlem, 1939

How Film Ads Were Part of the Fight Against Segregation

In the Jim Crow era, Black film theaters were left out of the "first-run" distribution channels. Theater owners used creativity to attract their audiences.
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Remembering Emmett Till in Song

The murder of Emmett Till has been memorialized in song by such artists as Langston Hughes and Bob Dylan.
Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night

The Slap That Changed American Film-Making

When Sidney Poitier slapped a white murder suspect on screen, it changed how the stories of Black Americans were portrayed on film.
Duke Magazine

Why the “Black Playboy” Folded After Just Six Issues

Duke magazine aimed to celebrate the good life for the era’s growing Black middle-class.
Donna Summer, 1976

The Year The Grammys Honored Disco

In 1980, The Grammys gave disco its own category, but the genre was already receding into invisibility.
The Rolling Stones perform on the set of the pop music television show Thank Your Lucky Stars in Birmingham, England on January 30th, 1965.

Creating the Musical Canon

When you look at the canon of popular music, who's on the list looks very much like those who made the list.
Freedom House library, September 1964

Freedom Libraries and the Fight for Library Equity

Freedom libraries in the south provided Black residents with access to spaces and books, whether in church basements or private homes.