african american history

Two Young African-American Civil War Soldiers- Men of the 67th Colored Infantry. 

War, The Ultimate Proving Ground-

The black troops persevered in the face of hardship, prejudice, and discrimination. They fought in spite of atrocious treatment and in the face of bitter challenges, believing they could make a difference. They fought for a better future:

So rally boys, rally, let us never mind the past;
We had a hard road to travel, but our day is coming fast;
For God is for the right, and we have no need to fear,
The Union must be saved by the colored volunteer.

~the rally cry of the 54th Massachusetts

Some historians contend that the colored volunteer did indeed save the Union; certainly, the war would have been longer and more deadly if the Union had not benefitted from the service of the black soldier. Colored troops exemplified meritorious service and bravery, earning the respect and admiration of those they fought with, and those they fought against. Of the hundreds of engagements in which the black troops fought, some of the most notable were Port Hudson, La. (May 21–July 9, 1863); Milliken’s Bend, La. (July 18, 1863); Fort Wagner, S.C. (April 12, 1864); and  Battle of the Crater, Petersburg, Va. (Sept. 29–30, 1864); and Nashville, Tenn. (Dec. 15–16, 1864). In March of 1863, Congress established the Medal of Honor for military valor. All told, 25 black servicemen (seven Navy) were awarded the military’s highest honor.

Notes: The 67th was organized in Missouri from the 3rd Missouri Colored Infantry. Photo Sold For :$3,900 PBA Galleries/Source

Full Length Double Portrait, Two Sergeants, With Swords- From: Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection

Sitters identified as Alexander Herritage Newton and Daniel S. Lathrop, quartermaster sergeants with the twenty-ninth Connecticut Infantry.

Officially designated U.S. Colored Troops (U.S.C.T), the famous 54th, along with other all-black companies, received the most basic of training before being sent out to fight. Black troops made important contributions to the Union victory with 120 infantry regiments, 12 heavy artillery regiments, 10 light artillery batteries, 5 engineer regiments, and 7 cavalry units. The U.S.C.T contributed approximately 180,000 men, or 10% of the total Union army. Many thousands more served in vital support roles such as porters, carpenters, laborers, cooks, guards, and scouts.

Beinecke Library Catalog Record:A record for this resource appears in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
MLK's Mother Was Assassinated, Too: The Forgotten Women Of Black History Month

On June 30th, 1973, Alberta Williams King was gunned down while she played the organ for the “Lord’s Prayer” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. As a Christian civil rights activist, she was assassinated…just like her son, Martin Luther King, Jr. But most people remember only one. Until a month ago, I was one of those people.

Black LBGTQ History Icons

Marsha P. Johnson

  • A leader of the Stonewall Riots. According to several eyewitnesses, Marsha was the one who “really started it”. She was “in the middle of the whole thing, screaming and yelling and throwing rocks and almost like Molly Pitcher in the Revolution or something”
  • Dedicated her life to activism:
    • Co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (later renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries)
    • Ensured that the young drag queens, trans women and other street kids on Christopher Street were fed and clothed. Marsha also housed them whenever she could. 
    • In the 1980s, she was an activist and organizer in ACT UP. 

Stormé DeLarverie

  • Also a leader in the Stonewall Riots - has been identified as the “butch lesbian that threw the first punch” against the police officers.
  • Several eye-witnesses recollections also recognize her as the cross-dressing lesbian that yelled “why don’t you guys do something” at the bystanders that evoked the reaction from them that helped make Stonewall a defining moment in history.
  • Unofficially worked at gay bars who otherwise couldn’t afford security.

Bayard Rustin

  • Was a leading strategist of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement between 1955-1968:
    • The formidable behind the scenes figure of the civil rights movement who organized the March on Washington
    • Through his influence, the civil rights leadership adopted a non-violent stance.
    • Is and was often overlooked in African-American history because of the public’s discomfort with his sexual orientation.
  • Supported LGBTQ rights and movements.
  • Was posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

  • Another leader in the Stonewall Riots.
  • Has been involved in community efforts since 1978. She has worked at local food banks, provide services for trans women suffering from addiction or homelessness. During the AIDS epidemic she also provided healthcare and funeral services.
  • Is currently serving as the Executive Director for the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project, working to assist transgender persons who are disproportionately incarcerated under a prison-industrial complex.

Alvin Ailey

  • At the young age of 22, Alvin AIley became Artistic Directer for the Horton Dance Company where he choreographed as well as directed scenes and costume designs.
  • Formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 1958 but continued to choreograph for other companies.
  • Ailey’s signature works prominently reflects his Black pride.
  • Is credited for popularizing modern dance. 
  • Was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Feel free to add anyone I’ve missed!


March 7th 1965: Bloody Sunday in Selma

On this day in 1965, a civil rights march took place from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama; it became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. At this stage, the Civil Rights Movement had been in motion for over a decade and already achieved legislative success with the Civil Rights Act. However the focus of the movement now became making the promise of equal franchise guaranteed in the Fifteenth Amendment a reality. While African-Americans exercised the right to vote in the years after the amendment’s passage in 1870, discriminatory measures like literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses were soon implemented across the country to deprive them of the vote. Thus in 1965 civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. made voter registration the core of their efforts, centering the campaign on the particularly discriminatory Selma, AL. On March 7th - 'Bloody Sunday’ - as the six hundred unarmed marchers were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were descended upon by state troopers who viciously beat the protestors. The violence encountered by these peaceful marchers, which was captured on television and broadcast around the world, led to national outcry and caused President Johnson to publicly call for the passage of his administration’s proposed voting rights bill. After securing the support of federal troops, another march was held on March 21st, and with the protection of soldiers the marchers managed to arrive in Montgomery after three days. The marchers were met in Montgomery - the epicentre of the movement and the site of the 1954 bus boycott - by 50,000 supporters, who were addressed by King. Their efforts were rewarded when, in August of that year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that ensured all Americans could vote. This was one of the crowning achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Selma to Montgomery march is commemorated as one of the most important moments of the struggle.

“We are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us. The burning of our churches will not deter us. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now…not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom
- King’s 'Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March’ - 25th March, 1965

50 years ago today

A. F. Hunt, Adjt., 65th U.S.C.I.

From: Carte-de-visite photographs of soldiers in the United States Colored Infantry Regiments during the American Civil War

65th U.S. Colored Troops

This regiment was organized as the 2nd Missouri Colored Infantry on Jan. 16, 1864, at Benton Barracks in St. Louis, where it remained until March 12, 1864, when it was dispatched to Port Hudson, La., for garrison duty. It was renamed as the 65th U.S. Colored Troops in the general reorganization of black regiments that took place March 11, 1864.

While the regiment saw little fighting, it was ravaged disease, losing 749 enlisted men and six officers. On July 12, 1865, the 65th and the equally depleted 67th USCDT were combined into a single regiment.

The regiment remained on duty in northern Louisiana until Jan. 8, 1867, when it was mustered out of the service. Before their release from duty, the men raised $1,400 to supplement the fund used to found Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, which became Lincoln University.

Beinecke Library Catalog Record:A record for this resource appears in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog


A professional musician since the age of 17, Kelis made her mark with hits including “Milkshake” and “Bossy” before she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2008. She had helped her mother with a catering business since childhood, and collected recipes from around the world while on tour, so the career change wasn’t as random as it might appear. And her desire to formalize her innate culinary skills coincided with a need to separate her identity from her musician self.

The book captures Kelis’ essence: colorful, straightforward and brimming with personal stories. Her page of kitchen essentials, both equipment and food, is simple and manageable. It takes the intimidation out of the cooking process for any novice, and returns the experienced culinarian back to basics.

“I wanted to make a book for living,” she says. “People don’t know what’s healthy. They expect me to be grilling chicken breast and steaming. That sucks. Why eat?“

“I don’t want that — but I will have a really great piece of chicken with herbs and seasonings,” she adds. “We sacrifice with everything else in life, why suffer with our food?”


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

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 

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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