In 1926, noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” began a week-long celebration to highlight the achievements of African Americans. He selected the second week in February, as it contains the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Several years earlier in 1915, Woodson founded what is today known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) after attending an exposition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 15th Amendment and being inspired to more widely share the history and accomplishments of African Americans since slavery – stories that were not discoverable and were not being presented.
In 1976, the initial week-long celebration grew into the longer Black History Month celebration that continues to this day. ASALH also continues to honor Woodson’s lifelong mission to honor the study of African American history all year long, year after year. They’ve set the 2021 Black History Month theme as, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.”
The Library of Congress holds many varied African American historical resources within our vast collections, including the NAACP Records our largest and most accessed single collection, and we are committed to acquiring more. Last month, we announced a new, multiyear initiative – Of the People: Widening the Path – to create new opportunities for more Americans to engage with the Library and add their perspectives to the Library’s collections, allowing the national library to share a more inclusive American story. Read more below about this initiative, which is supported by a $15 million investment from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Below, you will also find a wide selection of Library blog posts highlighting African American stories in honor of Black History Month, giving a glimpse into all the history there is to discover at the Library of Congress.
Sincerely, Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. Visit this joint web portal highlighting collections, resources and events: africanamericanhistorymonth.gov
Celebrating Black History: Blog Posts from Around the Library
To celebrate Black History Month and commemorate the centennial of Hazel Scott, the Music Division is pleased to announce a new online finding aid for the Hazel Scott Papers.
By the mid-1940s Scott had become one of the best-known African-American entertainers in the United States, and she gained additional press attention when she married Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in 1945. Powell was the first African-American congressman from New York, and Scott and Powell each worked to further the causes of social justice and to fight racism and discrimination.
African American Art Dolls & Puppets for Identity & Healing
On February 18, 2020, the Library of Congress hosted a celebration of African American dolls and puppets sponsored by the American Folklife Center’s Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series. Folklorist Camila Bryce-Laporte and fellow artist, Dr. Deborah Grayson, presented several artists from Maryland and the District of Columbia. The event also included a wonderful exhibition of dolls by the presenters and other artists. The dolls and puppets featured were handmade by the presenters and exhibitors.
As part of the Library of Congress commemoration of African American History Month, the Kluge Center will be hosting two events that honor the African American scholars and activists who have contributed so much to American democracy.
Of the People: Widening the Path Funded by $15 Million Grant from Mellon Foundation
The Library of Congress announced a new, multiyear initiative to connect more deeply with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities by expanding its collections, using technology to enable storytelling and offering more internship and fellowship opportunities, supported by a $15 million investment from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The new initiative is part of a larger vision at the Library to connect with all Americans by inviting new generations to participate in creating, preserving and sharing the nation’s cultural treasures and building on the Library’s commitment to collect and preserve more underrepresented perspectives and experiences.
Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words – Visit the Exhibition Online
Visit our current exhibition on Rosa Parks which showcases rarely seen materials that offer an intimate view of Rosa Parks and documents her life and activism—creating a rich opportunity for viewers to discover new dimensions to their understanding of this seminal figure.
Virtual Student Workshop – Rosa Parks: Freedom Fighter (grades 5-8) Through discussion, questioning strategies, storytelling and more, students learn about the many ways civil rights activist Rosa Parks fought to bring about justice and equality for many Americans. The program draws on the personal papers of Rosa Parks and other multimedia items held at the Library. Workshops are led by a Library facilitator and are available by request here: loc.gov/visit/virtual-student-workshops/
Literary Series Programs for February, March 2021
Literary events in February and March will feature the new series “Made at the Library,” with a book on Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds and the ongoing series National Book Festival Presents. All programs will be virtual and premiere on the Library’s Facebook page and its YouTube site (with captions).
Thursday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m.: “Giants of Racial Justice,” part of the ongoing series National Book Festival Presents, will focus on the paths of Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in seeking racial equality.
Thursday, Feb. 25, 4 p.m.: “On the Road with Jason Reynolds” features National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds in conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.
Friday, March 12, 1 p.m.: 2021 Diversity in Children’s Literature Symposium: “Listening, Learning, Creating Communities,” followed by the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children’s Literature
Thursday, March 18, 7 p.m.: “Rediscovering Eleanor Roosevelt” is the first event in a new series called “Made at the Library,” which focuses on books that have been substantially written using the Library of Congress’ extraordinary collections.
Thursday, March 25, 7 p.m.: “War, Combat and the American Soldier” features two of the most prominent historians of war, Margaret MacMillan (“War: How Conflict Shaped Us”) and Rick Atkinson (“The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777”).
We are more grateful than ever for all that you do to keep us strong. Whether you support the Library with a gift or simply by spreading the word about what we do, you help us in our mission to connect millions of people around the world with the stories of our collective past, present, and future.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to give and you’re in a position to donate, please consider making a gift at loc.gov/donate/.