african american history


This is incredibly powerful.


CultureHISTORY: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Olympics 1968

“We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country.” - Tommie Smith

On this date (10/16) in 1968, the ‘black power’ salute at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. One of my favorite historical photos and one of the most powerful moments in black history. More background here.

Photo credits:

  1. Summer Olympics, Mexico City, 1968
  2. Summer Olympics, Mexico City, 1968
  3. San Jose State University honors former students Smith & Carlos with a statue on campus, 2005
  4. Smith and Carlos, 2011

A young “Miss Maggie” Walker, the daughter of a former slave, who in 1903 became the first woman of any race to found and become president of an American bank. She also founded a newspaper and a department store called “Saint Luke’s Emporium.”

Courtesy of the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

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If you think all this brilliant scientist did for America was to create peanut butter… you’re clueless. There’s a reason he was called to testify before Congress - twice. He single-handedly saved the American agricultural industry at crucial times in our nation’s economic history. There is a reason Henry Ford hired Dr. Carver to work for him. There is a reason that Dr. Carver was recruited by Booker T. Washington to come to Tuskegee by paying him the highest salary of any professor there.

Look him up again, this time with adult eyes.

Missing Chapter From America’s History Books

One In Four Of America’s Cowboys Were African-American

Many of the slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries were familiar with cattle herding from their homelands of West Africa. This brings historians the question of the name “Cowboy” and whether or not it was made from slave cow herders.

  • On some Texas trails, about a quarter of cowboys were black.

African American cowboys were largely African American freedmen after the Civil War who were drawn to cowboy life, in part because there was not quite as much discrimination in the west as in other areas of American society at the time. For enslaved Blacks the West offered freedom and refuge from the bonds of slavery. It also gave African Americans a chance at better earnings. . After the Civil War many were employed as horsebreakers and for other tasks, but few of them became ranch foremen or managers. Some black cowboys took up careers as rodeo performers or were hired as federal peace officers in Indian Territory. Others ultimately owned their own farms and ranches.

  • Hundreds of black cowboys were among the very first hands who drove huge herds along trails to Abilene, Kansas, the cattle-selling center of the Old West.  They were especially skilled in vetting horses. When herding cattle, many black riders rode “on point,” ahead of the dust. Black cowboys were forced to do the hardest work with cattle, such as bronco busting, they had special skills with breaking in steeds.

Photo: No original source found, possible circa 1913


CultureHISTORY: #WhiteCoats4BlackLives - #Ferguson #EricGarner Protests - December 2014 

An incredible day of protests from medical students across the nation. The story and more photos here

  1. USC, Los Angeles, CA 
  2. Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 
  3. Boston University, Boston, MA 
  4. Morehouse, Atlanta, GA
  5. University of California, San Francisco
  6. Harvard Medical Students, Boston, MA 

15 Rare Photos of Black Rosie the Riveters

During World War II, 600,000 African-American women entered the wartime workforce. Previously, black women’s work in the United States was largely limited to domestic service and agricultural work, and wartime industries meant new and better-paying opportunities – if they made it through the hiring process, that is. White women were the targets of the U.S. government’s propaganda efforts, as embodied in the lasting and lauded image of Rosie the Riveter.

Though largely ignored in America’s popular history of World War II, black women’s important contributions in World War II factories, which weren’t always so welcoming, are stunningly captured in these comparably rare snapshots of black Rosie the Riveters.


CultureTRIBUTE: First Lady Michelle Obama – Happy 51st Birthday

A celebration of the nation’s First Lady on her birthday (1/17). With her warm grace, her shrewd intellect, her honest humor about life in the West Wing, her commitment to America’s youth through mentoring and educational programs, and her groundbreaking nutritional program to reduce childhood obesity, Michelle Obama has become one of the most consequential First Ladies in American history.

She’s the first White House fashion icon since Jackie O and the most significant since Eleanor Roosevelt, Mrs. Obama has captured the world’s attention for the last six years. For the black community especially, she remains a source of deep enduring pride. As a woman, a mother, a wife, a policy maker, and a role model, she has reshaped the image of the African American woman in the 21st century.

(And let’s not forget the Fallon Evolution of Mom Dancing clip from 2013. Go ‘head Michelle.)

Police Report on Arrest of Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42 year-old woman took a seat near the front of the bus on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. Refusing to yield her seat to a white passenger when instructed by the bus driver, police were called and she was arrested.

The police report shows that Rosa Parks was charged with “refusing to obey orders of bus driver.” According to the report, she was taken to the police station, where she was booked, fingerprinted, and briefly incarcerated.

The event touched off a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system in which a 26-year-old unknown minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged as the leader.

(more via DocsTeach)

Jim Crow segregation meant that African American travelers couldn’t count on the typical parts of a road trip: filling the tank at a gas station, grabbing a bite at a restaurant, or staying the night in a motel. This book mapped out a safe route of accommodations, and came out every year from 1937 through 1964.

Its 1948 edition contained this quote from publishers Victor and Alma Green:

“There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.”

You can learn more about The Green Book on tumblr by following mappingthegreenbook


Banished vividly recounts the forgotten history of racial cleansing in America when thousands of African Americas were driven from their homes and communities by violent racist mobs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fear for their lives, black people left these towns and never returned to reclaim their property. The film places these events in the context of present day race relations, by following three concrete cases of towns that remain all-white to this day (Forsyth County, Georgia; Pierce City, Missouri; Harrison, Arkansas). 

Banished raises the larger questions – will the United States ever make meaningful reparations for the human rights abuses suffered, then and now, against its African American citizens? Can reconciliation between the races be possible without them? Banished follows a twisting trail through yellowed newspaper archives registries of deeds, photos from treasured family albums and dimly recalled stories of elders who lived through those traumatic events.

The film features black families determined to go to any length to reconstruct their families past and gain some justice for their ancestors and themselves. It also interviews dedicated, local, newspaper reporters who braved community opposition to research the banishments in-depth and force their readers to confront their towns past and present. [film link]

Jane Bolin, the first African-American woman to serve as a judge in the United States, the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association and the first to join the New York City Law Department. She was sworn in as a judge in 1939. #


CultureHISTORY: The NYPD Murder of Eric Garner - 2014 

It was reported on Friday that the NY Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide. So much for the NYPD holding out hope that he had some pre-existing medical condition which caused his death. 

No, it was straight up murder. He and his family deserve justice. 

“With daylight the Americans found four dead Germans on the battlefield and evidence of perhaps as many as thirty-two more involved in the fight. The Germans had probably dragged away several of their dead. The Americans also found thirty-eight bombs, rifles, bayonets, and revolvers. The Germans are said to have thereafter designated African American troops the ‘blood-thirsty black men.’ The French dubbed them 'hell-fighters’; the 369th would henceforth be known as the 'Harlem Hellfighters.’”

Learn about the life of Henry Johnson, and the struggles of many African American soldiers during the First World War, in the American National Biography Online