Black Domestic Workers during the Great Depression

The New Deal maintained racial hierarchies even as it aided African Americans through relief projects. By Dr. Phyllis PalmerProfessor Emeritus of American Studies and Women’s StudiesGeorge Washington University The New Deal eagerness to collect data about the American people evoked a similarly passionate response from American citizens. They answered interviewers, filled out questionnaires, kept consumption[…]

Milton Claiborne Nicholas and the Legacy of the First Black Voters

For Milton Nicholas, the practical hurdle of illiteracy was exploited by election officials in order to manipulate his vote. Introduction One cannot begin to imagine the trepidation with which Milton Claiborne Nicholas approached the polls for the very first time. The illiterate rural farm laborer faced significant challenges as a first-time voter in the November[…]

Literature and Newspapers for Black Children since 1920

At the turn of the 20th century, one young black editor implored his peers: ‘Let us make the world know that we are living.’ Introduction Hanging on the wall in my office is the framed cover of the inaugural issue of The Brownies’ Book, a monthly periodical for Black youths created by W.E.B. Du Bois[…]

Philadelphia’s Black Churches: Overcoming Strife since the 18th Century

Black churches have long been an important pillar in Philadelphia’s African American community. Introduction The Black Church is an institution that was forged in crises. Through slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation and the civil rights era, the network of places of worship serving traditionally Black congregations has seen its fair share of traumatic events. In[…]

Jim Crow and African American Life

In the South, electoral politics remained a parade of electoral fraud, voter intimidation, and race-baiting. Just as reformers advocated for business regulations, anti-trust laws, environmental protections, women’s rights, and urban health campaigns, so too did many push for racial legislation in the American South. America’s tragic racial history was not erased by the Progressive Era.[…]

A History of Challenging Jim Crow

The first real challenge to the constitutionality of state segregation laws came in 1938. Brown v. Board of Education In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld state racial segregation laws based on the “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson. The Court ruled that making a legal distinction between races did not violate the Thirteenth[…]

Rutherford B. Hayes: A President, Disputed Electoral College, and Racial Progress

One goal Hayes didn’t accomplish as president – invigorating black education – he worked for as an ex-president. More than 140 years ago, President Rutherford B. Hayes won the election of 1876 by committing to end Reconstruction. A highly controversial political compromise preceded by disputed electoral votes and involving questionable deals with Southern Democrats, it[…]

Unearthing Hidden Stories from African-American History

Team member Felix Knight looks through archives at the Church of Espiritu Santo in Havana, Cuba. David LaFevor The Slave Societies Digital Archive documents the lives of approximately 6 million free and enslaved Africans in the Americas. By Dr. Jane Landers / 12.04.2018 Professor of History Vanderbilt University Many years ago, as a graduate student searching in[…]

The African Union Society of Rhode Island, 1780-1824

The first separate black church in Newport was the Union Colored Church and Society The society is considered one of the first formal organizations founded by free blacks in the United States. By Michael J. Barga Board Member Catholic Social Workers’ National Association Background Mutual aid societies were created by free blacks in the early[…]

How World War I Sparked the Artistic Movement that Transformed Black America

Aaron Douglas. “Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstruction.” Oil on canvas, 1934. The New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division. Many associate post-World War I culture with Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s Lost Generation. But for black artists, writers and thinkers, the war changed the way they saw their past and their future. By Dr. Elizabeth J. West / 05.31.2017[…]

African Rhythms, Ideas of Sin and the Hammond Organ: A Brief History of Gospel Music’s Evolution

A choir sings traditional gospel music. Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller For the enslaved Africans, music – rhythm in particular – became a tool of communication about their conditions. Later, it laid the foundation for spirituals and gospel songs. By Dr. Robert Stephens / 02.28.2018 Professor of World Music University of Connecticut The enslaved Africans who first arrived in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 after being forcefully removed from their natural[…]

Josephine Baker: Iconic Entertainer, Resistance Spy, and American Hero

Josephine Baker | AP By Chauncey K. Robinson / 03.01.2018 It seems only fitting with Black History Month closing out, and Women’s History Month beginning, to highlight a Black woman who exemplified strength and resilience in the face of discrimination and oppression. Famed entertainer Josephine Baker was not only a pioneer in breaking color barriers[…]

Why Martin Luther King’s Trip to Tyneside Still Matters 50 Years On

Martin Luther King in Newcastle, 1967. Newcastle University Special Collections By Dr. Brian Ward / 10.20.2017 Professor in American Studies Northumbria University, Newcastle While controversy about the removal of Confederate memorials in the US rumbles on, in the north-east of England, plans to honour one of the US South’s most famous sons are coming to fruition. Freedom City[…]

What Kwanzaa Means for Black Americans

Kwanzaa celebrations. Black Hour, CC BY-NC By Dr. Frank Dobson / 12.20.2017 Associate Dean of Students Vanderbilt University On Dec. 26, millions throughout the world’s African community will start weeklong celebrations of Kwanzaa. There will be daily ceremonies with food, decorations and other cultural objects, such as the kinara, which holds seven candles. At many Kwanzaa[…]

When African-American ‘Gospel Sermons’ Came on the Phonograph

Oak Grove Acapella Singers, a Gospel group of Chester County, Tennessee, being recorded while singing in the office of the preacher at the Oak Grove Church of Christ. Tennessee State Library and Archives By Dr. Jerry Zolten / 06.29.2017 Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences Pennsylvania State University The first truly African-American musical form, the[…]