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Posts Tagged ‘African American history’

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: Black History Month

February is Black History Month! In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week and then in 1976 President Gerald Ford proclaimed February as “Black History Month.” African Americans have played vital roles in shaping the country’s past and present. We encourage you to observe Black History Month in your classroom and media center by teaching about African Americans. On SIRS Discoverer, young researchers can find articles and images on the accomplishments, history, culture, and heritage of African Americans. Here are samples of what they can find:

Frederick Douglass
George Kendall Warren [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • John Lewis — A vigorous civil rights worker, he has served as a Congressman from Georgia for more than 30 years. He is now the only organizer of the 1963 March on Washington who is still alive.
  • Frederick Douglass — Born into slavery, he was a journalist, public speaker, and well-known antislavery leader.
  • Sojourner Truth — Also born into slavery, she was an advocate for the abolitionist movement and women’s rights.
  • Ralph Bunche — A diplomat and a mediator working for the United Nations, he was the first African-American to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson — These barrier-breaking African-American athletes defied racist attitudes and became trailblazers in their sports.
  • Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison — Award-winning and prolific, these authors wrote about the experiences of African-American women.
  • Ruby Bridges, the Greensboro Four, and the Freedom Riders — These children and students played pivotal roles in the civil-rights movement.

How are you celebrating Black History Month in your library or classroom? Let us know in the comments or tweet us with #ProQuest. 

Lincoln, Slavery, and the Emancipation Proclamation

“I never in my life felt more certain that I am doing right than I do in signing this paper…If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”–President Abraham Lincoln, on signing the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet Painted by F.B. Carpenter ; engraved by A.H. Ritchie via Library of congress [public domain]

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet
Painted by F.B. Carpenter; Engraved by A.H. Ritchie via Library of Congress [public domain]

The Republican Party’s platform in the 1860 election specifically pledged not to extend slavery any further westward into the territories. When its candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States, it led to the secession of eleven slave-holding Southern states and the beginning of the Civil War. In a letter to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, dated August 22, 1862, he wrote: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.” Despite this letter, just one month later, on September 22, Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s executive order basically stated that if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be freed. It applied to some 3 million of the 4 million slaves in the United States at the time, and allowed them to join the Union Army.

While Abraham Lincoln is often viewed as the Great Emancipator, his ultimate political aim was to restore and preserve the Union. But as a politician, he was also acutely aware of public opinion. Lincoln’s stated views on slavery, and how they evolved over time to include the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, are reviewed below

Lincoln Wasn’t an Abolitionist.

In a speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, on Sept. 13, 1858, Lincoln said, “Slavery is an unqualified evil to the negro, to the white man, to the soil, and to the State.” While Lincoln did believe that slavery was morally wrong, it was sanctioned by the “the supreme law of the land,” the U.S. Constitution, which he had sworn to “preserve, protect and defend” as President. In his first inaugural address, on March 4, 1861, he stated “I have no purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so.”

Lincoln Didn’t Believe Blacks Should Have the Same Rights As Whites.

Though Lincoln argued that the founding fathers’ phrase “All men are created equal” applied to blacks and whites alike, this did not mean he thought they should have the same social and political rights. His views became clear during an 1858 series of debates with Stephen Douglas, his opponent in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate. In their fourth debate held in Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, after Douglas had accused him of supporting “negro equality,” Lincoln made his position clear. “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.”

Lincoln Thought Colonization Was the Best Way to Confront Slavery.

For much of his career, Lincoln believed that that if a majority of the African-American population would leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America, it could resolve the issue of slavery. Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852 and in a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, Lincoln said, “My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” As president in early 1863, Lincoln also discussed with Register of the Treasury Lucius E. Chittenden his plan to “remove the whole colored race of the slave states into Texas.”

Emancipation Was a Military Strategy.

Band of 107th U.S. Colored Infantry, Arlington, VA, November 1865. Photo by William M. Smith via Library of Congress [public domain]

Band of 107th U.S. Colored Infantry, Arlington, VA, November 1865.
Photo by William M. Smith via Library of Congress [public domain]

Lincoln didn’t see the Civil War as a struggle to end slavery, but as an effort to preserve the Union. But as the war dragged on into its second year in 1862, thousands of slaves had fled Southern plantations to Union lines. Since slaves made up a majority of the South’s labor force, Lincoln viewed emancipation as a way to weaken the Confederacy, while at the same time providing the Union with a new source of manpower to crush the rebellion. By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve in the Union Army and Navy. He issued the preliminary proclamation to his Cabinet on September 22, and it was published the following day. On September 24, Lincoln addressed a cheering crowd from a White House balcony: “I can only trust in God I have made no mistake….It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment on it.”

The Emancipation Proclamation Didn’t Actually Free the Slaves.

Since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure, it didn’t apply to border slave states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, all of which had remained loyal to the Union. In practice, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t immediately free a single slave, since the only places it applied were those where the federal government had no control–the Southern states that had seceded and were currently fighting against the Union. The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to make slavery illegal. Nearly eight months after Lincoln’s assassination, on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery throughout America, and fulfilling Lincoln’s original proclamation that “all persons held as slaves…are, and henceforward shall be free.”

To learn more about Lincoln’s views on slavery, the social and political climate that led to his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, its impact on the Civil War and the eventual passage of a Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery, check out these Research Topic pages available on ProQuest’s eLibrary:

13th Amendment

Abraham Lincoln

Civil War

Emancipation Proclamation

Slavery

Barbara Johns & the Moton High School Strike

Barbara Johns & the Moton High School Strike Research Topic

Barbara Johns & the Moton High School Strike Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

We have all heard about legendary civil rights heroes such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Little Rock Nine, but few today remember Barbara Rose Johns and the role she played in school desegregation. Sixty-five years ago this April, she led a strike in Farmville, Virginia, that had repercussions in school districts across the United States. A little background: Barbara was born in New York City in 1935, but her family moved to Prince Edward County, Virginia, where her father ran a small farm. Her uncle was Vernon Johns, a prominent civil rights activist. In 1951 in Farmville, there were two high schools. Farmville High School was for the white students, and it had plenty of classroom space, a gymnasium, a modern auditorium, locker rooms and a cafeteria, among other niceties. Moton High School – specifically, Robert Russa Moton High School (named after the influential black educator who took over for Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute) – was not so nice.

Robert Russa Moton High School

Robert Russa Moton High School via National Archives [Public Domain]

Moton was in a state of disrepair. The toilets were old and cracked; the roof leaked so bad that some students kept umbrellas with them to keep the dripping water from getting on their papers; wood-burning stoves did not provide adequate heat in the winter months; text books and supplies were secondhand and scarce, but worst of all – the school was dreadfully overcrowded. More than 450 students were crammed into a space meant for 180. Some classes were held in makeshift classrooms, shacks made of wood frames and tar-coated paper walls that the students called “chicken coops,” while other students attended classes in buses in the parking lot. Like most students, Johns, a 16-year-old junior at the time, was extremely frustrated at the conditions at the school. She expressed her concerns to her teacher, Inez Davenport. Barbara said she wished something could be done about it. Davenport then said, “Why don’t you do something about it?” Barbara did not forget that question and later conceived the idea of a school strike. The strike was held on April 23, 1951. The next day, a student strike committee met with the school superintendent who listened to their concerns, but then threatened to expel them and fire the teachers if they did not return to classes. He did, however, promise them a new school but did not say when they would get it. This was all the students were hoping for. According to Johns, it never occurred to them that the strike would lead to a desegregation lawsuit. They just wanted improvements to the school, or, at most, a new school. Students contacted the NAACP in Richmond for help. Lawyers Oliver W. Hill and Spottswood Robinson were concerned about how serious the striking students were, but after meeting with them, they decided to take the case, but it would not be just about school improvements…it would be about desegregation.

Brown v Board of Education Research Topic

Brown v Board of Education Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

The case was called Dorothy E. Davis v County School Board of Prince Edward County. This lawsuit was rolled up into the larger Brown v. Board of Education case, which was decided in 1954. The Earl Warren Supreme Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and held that segregation was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This paved the way for the integration of schools across America. As for Barbara Johns, she finished high school in Montgomery, Alabama. She then attended college in Atlanta and then at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She married a minister, raised five children and was a librarian in the Philadelphia Public School system until her death in 1991.

Learn more about Barbara Rose Johns, desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement in eLibrary.

Resources:

African-American History Topic Search

African Americans Research Topic

Earl Warren: Justice for All (Book)

Education Topic Search

Education and Racial Integration Equal Protection (Exploring the Constitution Series) (Book)

Education in the U.S. Research Topic

Jim Crow Laws Research Topic

Journal of African-American History (Scholarly Journal)

Little Rock (Book)

U.S. Constitution Research Topic

Teaching ToolThe Girl from the Tar Paper School,” by Teri Kanefield, tells the story of Barbara Rose Johns and the Farmville, VA Strike.

 

Black History Month on ProQuest SIRS Discoverer

February is Black History Month! In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week and then in 1976 President Gerald Ford proclaimed February as “Black History Month.” African Americans have played vital roles in shaping the country’s past and present. We encourage you to observe Black History Month in your classroom by teaching about African Americans. On ProQuest SIRS Discoverer, young researchers can find articles and images on the accomplishments, history, culture, and heritage of African Americans. Here are samples of what they can find:

Ruby Bridges

By Uncredited DOJ photographer (Via [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Sojourner Truth — Born into slavery she was an advocate for abolitionist movement and women’s rights.
  • Ralph Bunche — A diplomat and a mediator working for the United Nations, he was the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. — One of the civil rights movement most well-known figures, his historic “I Have a Dream” speech still influences.
  • Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson — These barrier-breaking African-American athletes defied racist attitudes.
  • Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison — Award winning and prolific, these authors wrote about the experiences of African American women.
  • Ruby Bridges, the Greensboro Four, and the Freedom Riders — These children and students played pivotal roles in the civil-rights movement.

Go to February’s Discoverer Spotlight of the Month and pay tribute to Black History Month.

Black History Month: To Celebrate or Not?

Black History Month Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Black History Month Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

February 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of Negro History Week, the predecessor to Black History Month.  Begun in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second week of February was chosen to honor the erased history and contributions of African Americans in the creation of America because of the birthdates of Frederick Douglass the abolitionist and Abraham Lincoln the emancipator.  Negro History Week became the month-long celebration we know as Black History Month fifty years later in 1976.  Today Black History months are celebrated not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Britain and Germany.

In recent years, criticism has arisen whether Black History Month should be celebrated.  Some debate its relegation to just one month.  The actor Morgan Freeman famously said, “You’re going to relegate my history to a month. I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”  Others say Black History Month has veered from its original intent whereby famous African Americans are reduced to mere soundbites of achievement and excessive worship.  The complexity of African-American life is not considered along with the achievement or contribution to history some argue.  Other critics believe it to be outdated and wonder if African Americans need to be reminded of things past in a time when the United States has its first African-American president.

On the other hand, proponents of Black History Month argue it is as important now as it has ever been to understand the intricacies of black history — intricacies which should not be in the shadows of American history curricula.  They contend until there is complete integration of African-American history in the textbooks Black History Month will continue to be relevant.  Others advocate Black History Month’s usefulness in helping teachers discuss and examine issues of race and ethnicity in the classroom.

Carter Woodson spoke of a time when Negro History Week (and now Black History Month) would not be needed.  He believed “black history should be an everyday part of American life.”  Dr. Woodson was right, and Morgan Freeman was right that black history is American history.  It’s good to know as much as you can about American history no matter which side you take in the debate.

 

 

Black History Month in the Classroom

Portrait of Harriet Tubman in 1911.<br />  by Library of Congress, via Library of Congress  [Public Domain]

Portrait of Harriet Tubman in 1911.
by Library of Congress, via Library of Congress [Public Domain]

How do you integrate Black History Month into your classroom? Do you and your students follow Harriet Tubman along the Underground Railroad? Or celebrate the innovations and contributions of African American scientists? Perhaps you incorporate art and music into your lessons with the Harlem Renaissance, or introduce your students to the leaders and events of the Civil Rights Movement.

With SIRS Discoverer, you can do all this and more. Not only is the database a fantastic place to find articles and images that you can share with your students, but it’s a wonderful resource for young and curious researchers.

Let’s start by researching the Underground Railroad, a pivotal resistance movement during slavery. Try a Subject Heading search for Underground Railroad. You’ll find editor-selected and age-appropriate articles, maps, graphics, photos, and even external Web sites to help you create your lesson plan.

Looking for a biography on an African American scientist to share with your class? A Subject Heading search for African American scientists will return 13 biographies, including profiles of medical pioneer Vivien Thomas and physicist Louis Roberts. Photos are available, also. Or click on the Biographies link under Database Features on the home page and type in the name of a specific person–for example, agricultural innovator George Washington Carver. Four articles and eight photos are provided.

George Washington Carver, full-length portrait, seated on steps, facing front, with staff.
Source: Library of Congress [Public Domain]

Have you thought about incorporating African American art, music, and literature into your curriculum with a lesson on the Harlem Renaissance? SIRS Discoverer can help. A Keyword search for “Harlem Renaissance” provides more than 60 articles, so you can pick and choose your focus. Langston Hughes was an important voice of the Harlem Renaissance–your students could learn about his life and read two poems he wrote for children. Or you could bring some music and color into the classroom with a discussion about jazz legend Duke Ellington or montage artist Romare Bearden.

Do you want your students to do their own research? Maybe challenge the class: “Who were the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement and what did they do?” A Keyword search for “Freedom Riders” provides more than 20 editor-selected, age-appropriate articles and eight graphics and photos. Students feel empowered when they discover information and answers on their own. With SIRS Discoverer, it’s easy!

If you’ve never used SIRS Discoverer to help create a lesson plan, Black History Month may be the time to start. Simplify your research and empower your students. Be sure to check out this month’s Spotlight of the Month—we highlight the lives and works of African Americans, past and present. Join us in commemorating Black History Month.

Celebrating Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History

Most people know February is Black History Month.  But do they know there was a week of celebrating African American people and their achievements prior to Black History Month?  That week was called Negro History Week.  It was created in 1926 by the historian, Carter G. Woodson, who has been commonly referred to as the Father of Black History.

Carter G. Woodson

Dr. Woodson was one of the first historians to study the African diaspora and African American history.  He founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and its academic journal, the Journal of Negro History (now called the Journal of African American History), both of which still exist today.  He believed Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”  His contributions not only included advancing the study of African American history but also the advocating of education reform for African American children and equality for all.

Follow Carter Woodson’s lead by delving into African American history offerings in eLibrary.  Use eLibrary not only to learn more about Dr. Woodson and his work but also to learn more about other pioneering African Americans with whose accomplishments you may not be familiar.  For example, search Madame C.J. Walker.  Did you know she is considered the first female self-made millionaire?  Her beauty and hair care products launched a career in the early 20th century.  What about Hiram Revels?  He was the first African American to serve in the United States Senate.  Even more interesting is that he served Mississippi from 1870-1871 during Reconstruction.

In addition, check out eLibrary’s African American-centric publications.  From classic popular magazines like Ebony to scholarly journals such as the Journal of Negro Education, eLibrary offers what you need to complete a successful search regarding African American history.  And, finally, do not forget to browse ProQuest Research Topics where hundreds of African American history topics ranging from the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing to the Tuskegee Airmen serve as jumping off points to deeper study.

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight: Black History Month

Americans, both white and black, marching from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., in March 1965, in an effort to guarantee voting rights for all Americans. <br \> by James H. Karales, Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

Americans, both white and black, marching from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., in March 1965, in an effort to guarantee voting rights for all Americans.
by James H. Karales, Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

February is Black History Month. It’s a perfect time to celebrate African-American heritage, culture, and history, and to learn about the many African Americans who have contributed so much to the United States and the world! Read about the accomplishments of African Americans who made a difference with their ideas and actions, such as Hiram Revels, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson.  This month is also a great opportunity to learn about organizations that have been vital to the progress of civil rights, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons, known as the NAACP. For more than 100 years, the NAACP helped minorities in their struggle for freedoms. The group supported the African-American labor movement of the 1930s and 1940s and, in the 1950s, was involved in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

Check out this month’s SIRS Discoverer’s Spotlight of the Month and join us in honoring African Americans and their continuing influence and triumphs.

 

SKS Spotlight of the Month: Black History Month

Eager African American Boy Scouts get ready to do their part by distributing posters in their neighborhoods <br \> 208-LU-13K-21, via ProQuest SIRS Renaissance [Public Domain]

Eager African American Boy Scouts get ready to do their part by distributing posters in their neighborhoods
208-LU-13K-21, via ProQuest SIRS Renaissance [Public Domain]

African-American history is integral to the history of the United States. Our nation and its ever-evolving notion of “freedom” rests on the backbone of the African-American experience. Stories of Black Americans overcoming great odds are interwoven into the fabric of the American experience. Consider the personal histories of such people as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.: the strength, resiliency, and wisdom of these individuals have inspired countless Americans and forever will be synonymous with the America’s heritage and culture. The American notion of “freedom”–what it stands for and what it means to society–reflects the struggles and triumphs of these and many more African Americans.

Join SKS during the month of February in celebrating Black History Month. Learn about and commemorate the achievements of African Americans throughout history and today.

The First Kwanzaa

(Credit: The Official Kwanzaa Web Site)

The first Kwanzaa, an African American celebration of life, was celebrated in 1966. Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. The name comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means “first fruits of the harvest.” Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa as a way to bring African-Americans together, and emphasize the role of the family and community in African-American culture.

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1) honors a different principle–unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. A different candle on a seven-branched candle holder (kinara) is lit each day. Three candles on the left are green; three on the right are red; and in the middle is a black candle. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa. Green represents the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red stands for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom. Along with the seven principles (nguzo saba) and the seven days of Kwanzaa, there are seven symbols that are used to represent the meaningful themes of the holiday. These seven items are arranged in an area set up as a Kwanzaa altar or table in the home. The celebration also includes the giving of gifts and a karamu, or African feast, held on December 31.

ProQuest’s SIRS Knowledge Source allows educators and students to learn more about the history and traditions of Kwanzaa by exploring resources like these:

More Cultural Than Religious, Kwanzaa Rooted in Tradition

Why We Celebrate–or Don’t Celebrate–Kwanzaa

Rooted in Africa, but Made in U.S.A.