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Black History

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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

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The Black Trailblazer Who's the Only Person in Baseball, Basketball Halls of Fame

Cumberland Posey, the only person in the Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame, was not only an excellent athlete. He also was one of the shrewdest businessmen and talent evaluators in the Negro Leagues, a fierce advocate for Black baseball and a sports pioneer. Early in the 20th ...read more

An African American soldier in uniform with his wife and two daughters, circa 1864. This image was found in Cecil County, Maryland, making it likely that this soldier belonged to one of the seven U.S.C.T. regiments raised in Maryland.

How Black Women Fought for Civil War Pensions and Benefits

Over two million soldiers enlisted in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. When it ended, the United States had many more veterans and surviving dependents than it had ever had before. In the decades that followed, military pensions became a major part of the federal budget, ...read more

Ernie Davis becomes first Black player to win Heisman Trophy

On December 6, 1961, Syracuse running back Ernie Davis becomes the first Black player to win the Heisman Trophy—college football's top individual award—beating  Ohio State fullback Bob Ferguson. Earlier in day, Davis meets with President John Kennedy at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel ...read more

Buck Leonard of the Homestead Grays dashes to first during a 1940 Negro League game against the New York Black Yankees.

9 Baseball Stars From the Negro Leagues Who Dominated the Game

Until Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line in 1947, Black Americans' professional baseball opportunities were limited primarily to the Negro Leagues. These leagues showcased impressive talent, from power hitters Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson to pitchers ...read more

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How Interstate Highways Gutted Communities—and Reinforced Segregation

When Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, it authorized what was then the largest public works program in U.S. history. The law promised to construct 41,000 miles of an ambitious interstate highway system that would criss-cross the nation, dramatically ...read more

HISTORY: Dunmore's Proclamation

Dunmore's Proclamation

On November 7, 1775, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore and governor of the British colony of Virginia, wrote the document known as Dunmore’s Proclamation. It promised freedom to any indentured servants, enslaved African Americans, or others held in bondage by American ...read more

First page of the newspaper Le Petit Journal Sunday 7 October 1906 in illustration "Lynching" Massacre in the United States of African Americans in Atlanta (Georgia).

The 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre: How Fearmongering Led to Violence

In the center of downtown Atlanta, a handful of streets intersect, forming what locals know as Five Points. Today, a park, a university, high-rise buildings and throngs of motorists and pedestrians make this a bustling area, belying its history of bloodshed. In 1906, Five Points ...read more

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How the Only Woman in Baseball Hall of Fame Challenged Convention—and MLB

Effa Manley, the only woman in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was an advocate for Black athletes, a passionate supporter of baseball in the Negro leagues, a champion for civil rights and equality…and far ahead of her time. In an era when few women were involved in sports ...read more

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SNCC

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in 1960 in the wake of student-led sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the South and became the major channel of student participation in the civil rights movement. Members of SNCC included prominent future ...read more

South Africa captain Francois Pienaar receives the William Webb Ellis Trophy from President Nelson Mandela after the home team defeated arch rival New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup in Johannesburg.

How Nelson Mandela Used Rugby as a Symbol of South African Unity

On June 24, 1995 at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium, South Africa won the Rugby World Cup 15-12 over its arch rival New Zealand. The match stands as a hugely symbolic moment in South African history. It marked the nation’s first major sporting event since the end of its ...read more

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Why the FBI Saw Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Communist Threat

In early 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved a request from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to install wiretaps on the home and office of a New York City-based lawyer named Stanley David Levison. According to FBI informants, Levison had been an influential member of the ...read more

Newark, New Jersey, July 14, 1967: Negroes jeer at bayonet-wielding National Guardsmen here July 14th. The National Guard and New Jersey state police were called out July 14th to aid Newark police, following the second night of disorder in this, New Jersey's largest city.

The 1967 Riots: When Outrage Over Racial Injustice Boiled Over

During the summer of 1967, 158 riots erupted in urban communities across America. Most shared the same triggering event: a dispute between Black citizens and white police officers that escalated to violence. During those convulsive months, the massive social unrest—alternately ...read more

How Mixed-Race Children in Post-WWII Germany Were Deemed a ‘Social Problem’

Why Mixed-Race Children in Post-WWII Germany Were Deemed a ‘Social Problem’

After Allied Forces defeated Germany in World War II, the United States began its occupation of West Germany from 1945 to 1955. Although American soldiers were tasked with promoting democracy to a country ravaged by fascism, Jim Crow prevailed in the U.S. military and Black GIs ...read more

Tulsa Race Riots

'Black Wall Street' Before, During and After the Tulsa Race Massacre: PHOTOS

At the turn of the 20th century, African Americans founded and developed the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Built on what had formerly been Indian Territory, the community grew and flourished as a Black economic and cultural mecca—until May 31, 1921.  That's when a white ...read more

Cicada Swarms Were Documented in the 18th Century by a Black Naturalist, Benjamin Banneker

Cicada Swarms Were Documented by a Black Naturalist in the 18th Century

In the spring of 1749, the billions-strong swarm of cicadas known today as Brood X emerged from the ground in rural Maryland, much to the fascination (and horror) of a 17-year-old Black tobacco farmer named Benjamin Banneker, who believed they were a plague of locusts. “The ...read more

The Unsung Black Scientists of the Manhattan Project

The Unsung African American Scientists of the Manhattan Project

During the height of World War II between 1942 and 1945, the U.S. government’s top-secret program to build an atomic bomb, code-named the Manhattan Project, cumulatively employed some 600,000 people, including scientists, technicians, janitors, engineers, chemists, maids and day ...read more

Customers stand outside Berry's Service Station in Tulsa.

9 Entrepreneurs Who Helped Build Tulsa's 'Black Wall Street'

As more is learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, including the discovery of mass graves, the stories of the African Americans who turned the city’s Greenwood district into “Black Wall Street” are equally as revealing. Before a white mob decimated 35 blocks of a thriving ...read more

History Shorts: The Story Behind Kwanzaa

History Shorts: The Story Behind Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa didn't just appear spontaneously—it was specifically designed to heal a struggling community.

Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921: The Aerial Assault

What Role Did Airplanes Play in the Tulsa Race Massacre?

What role did airplanes play in the deadly Tulsa race massacre of 1921? Just after Memorial Day that year, a white mob destroyed 35 city blocks of the Greenwood District, a community in Tulsa, Oklahoma known as the “Black Wall Street.” Prompted by an allegation that a Black man ...read more

How Laws First Passed in Jim Crow Era Suppressed the African American Vote

How Jim Crow-Era Laws Suppressed the African American Vote for Generations

Following the ratification in 1870 of the 15th Amendment, which barred states from depriving citizens the right to vote based on race, southern states began enacting measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests, all-white primaries, felony disenfranchisement laws, grandfather ...read more

History Shorts: Who Built the White House?

History Shorts: Who Built the White House?

The White House is one of the great patriotic symbols of America, but its construction history gets into the darkest parts of the nation's past.

Frederick Patterson standing beside a bare Patterson-Greenfield automobile chassis, probably for a larger touring car body.

One of the Earliest US Car Companies Was Founded by a Formerly Enslaved Man

C.R. Patterson & Sons, the first African American-owned auto manufacturer, didn’t produce many of its hand-built cars—by some estimates, only a few dozen between 1915 and 1918. The company’s signature Patterson-Greenfield car, advertised as a “sensibly priced” roadster with ...read more

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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read more

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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 ...read more

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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 ...read 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 ...read 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. ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read more

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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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read 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 ...read more

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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 ...read more

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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 ...read more