African-American History Resources
African-American History: People and Events
Esteban: the first black to explore North America. He was very good at language, picking up the language of natives he met while exploring. Esteban was well-received by the natives: he was large and they saw him as a friendly giant. Esteban is famous for searching for the legendary Seven Cities of C�bola. He thought he had found the cities, but instead stumbled across the Zuni tribe. They thought he had bad intentions and attacked his group as they fled. Click here to learn more about Esteban.
Revolutionary War: During the Revolutionary War, about 5000 black
soldiers fought for the Americans. After the Revolution, many former
soldiers were freed. The Northern states abolished slavery�but with the
Constitution, slavery became a firm fixture in the South. The Constitution
said a slave was 3/5 of a person for taxation and representation purposes,
and provided for the return of runaway slaves to their owners. Click
to learn more about
Black History and the Revolution.
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad:
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and hiding places
to help slaves escape to freedom. Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave, helped
so many slaves escape to freedom that she became known as the "Moses of
her people." Harriet Tubman served the Union Army as a nurse, cook, scout
and spy during the Civil War. More is available at the
Library of Congress site on Harriet Tubman.
Booker T. Washington: Hoping to help blacks promote their constitutional rights by impressing Southern whites with their economic progress, Booker T. Washington built the Tuskegee Institute into a major industrial training center for blacks. He organized the National Negro Business League to help the growth of black business. Booker T. Washington won white support and was the most powerful black man in American history. But changing business practices and the continued discrimination against black people meant that many of the Tuskegee graduates could not use their skills. The age of Booker T. Washington ended up being an age of setbacks for black Americans. More blacks lost the right to vote, segregation became more entrenched, and violence against blacks increased. Read about Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.
W. E. B. Du Bois: For more than 50 years, this black editor, historian and sociologist was a leader of the civil rights movement. W. E. B. Du Bois was the first black to receive a doctorate from Harvard University. He helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His disagreement with Booker T. Washington reflected a deep division of opinion between black leaders. While Booker T. Washington urged integration into white society, W. E. B. Du Bois urged global African unity and separatism. In 1961 he moved to Ghana and became a citizen. Read about Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.
Tuskegee Airmen: The first Africa-American unit of combat pilots, trained in Tuskegee, Alabama. The military chose the Tuskegee Institute to train pilots because of its commitment to aeronautical training. The Tuskegee Airmen flew 1,500 missions in Europe, and their success helped lead to Harry Truman's decision to end racial discrimination in the military. The Tuskegee Airmen never lost a pilot they were assigned to escort. Learn more at the American Visionaries Tuskegee Airmen site by the National Parks Services. Another website about Tuskegee Airmen is written by an airman's daughter.
Brown vs. Board of Education: On May 17,
1954, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that "separate educational
facilities are inherently unequal." Segregated schools across the country
were now in violation of the Constitution's 14th Amendment. It was a long
road to true desegregation, and Brown versus Board of Education started at
all. Who was the Brown in this case? It was Linda Brown, who was denied
admission to her Topeka, Kansas elementary school because she was black.
Website links include
Institute Brown versus Board of Education and
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: You can't say too much about this man! Believing that love and peaceful protest could lead to the end of injustice, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the most influential black leader in the United States. He inspired whites and blacks to protest racial discrimination, poverty and war. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1964. Visit the official website of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Another excellent site is on PBS American Experience: Citizen King. Learn more at a personal website on the Montgomery bus boycott. The BBC site on Martin Luther King Jr. is full of interesting facts.
African-American People in the Arts
Harlem Renaissance: In the 1920s, a talented group of black writers, artists, and musicians made Harlem, a black area of New York City, the home of an African-American cultural movement. They believed that art could be an agent of change, making society more equal. The PBS Kids website has a Big Apple History section with information about the Harlem Renaissance.
Jazz: Jazz is called the "only American art form." Jazz is definitely quite an art! Jazz players improvise: they create and play music simultaneously. Jazz has unique sound and rhythm. The instruments are chosen for their ability to help the artists convey strong emotion. Trumpet, piano, drums and saxophone are favored, while the flute does not work so well in jazz. Famous early jazz musicians include clarinetist-soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, pianist Jelly Roll Morton, and cornetist King Oliver. Famous later jazz musicians include Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Click here to learn more about Jazz. Visit the Smithsonian Institute jazz site.
Writers: Many African-American writers have achieved literary greatness.
TV and movies: Creative and talented African-Americans blazed paths in the entertainment industry.
African-American Leaders in Sports
Baseball: Baseball used to be a segregated sport: whites played in Major League Baseball and blacks played in the Negro Leagues. Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and was a civil rights activist. Other famous black baseball players: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, and many, many more.
Basketball: Famous black basketball record
holders include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain,
Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. And of course, there's the
famous Harlem Globetrotters
Boxing: Since Joe Louis became heavyweight boxing champion in the 1930s, black Americans have been among the world's top fighters. One very famous black boxer was Muhammed Ali.
Tennis: Venus Williams and Serena
Williams are sisters who have compiled many records in tennis.
Other black tennis stars include Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.
Kwanzaa -- the African-American holiday
Now celebrated around the world by millions of people, Kwanzaa was developed by American scholar and activist Maulana Karenga in 1966. The holiday is based on African harvest celebrations, and the name is Swahili for "the first fruits of harvest."
Kwanza is the African holiday; Kwanzaa is the African-American version. Kwanzaa takes place from December 26 to January 1 -- a time called "the time when the edges of the year meet" by some African cultures.
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
There are seven symbols of the holiday: fruits, vegetables, and nuts; straw place mats; a candleholder; ears of corn (maize); gifts; a communal cup signifying unity; and seven candles in the African colors of red, green and black.
On each day of Kwanzaa, the family lights one of the candles in the kinara (candleholder) and discusses the principle for the day. A community feast called the karamu ends the celebration.
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