Posts Tagged ‘Black History Month’

A Name You Should Know: Robert Smalls

Frederick Douglass. Sojourner Truth. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks. These names are in the pantheon of African American heroes. Each year during Black History Month their names are at the fore of many celebrations. Robert Smalls. His name is not well-known, or even known at all, but his contribution to black history is extraordinary and fascinating.

Robert Smalls Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Robert Smalls went from slave to naval captain to U.S. congressman by age 36. The story to his fame began in Charleston, South Carolina 13 months after the attack on Fort Sumter. Smalls was entrusted with piloting the CSS Planter, a Confederate military transport ship. He gained the confidence of the ship’s owners, and in doing so he began to plan an escape to the Union blockade about seven miles in the distance. On the early morning of May 13, 1862, Smalls stole the Planter after its three officers went ashore for the night leaving Smalls and his slave crew alone. Donning the captain’s straw hat and employing the signals he had memorized, Smalls steered the Planter to another wharf where his family and the families of the other crew were waiting. Sailing past five fortified Confederate posts, Smalls’ plan succeeded as the Planter made it to the Union without incident. At just 23 years old, Robert Smalls delivered 16 men and women to freedom and gave critical Confederate defense information to the Union. A reporter hailed it “one of the most daring and heroic adventures” of the Civil War.

Robert Smalls’ story did not end there. Hailed a hero, he was able to lobby the federal government for the enlistment of black soldiers in the Union war effort and reportedly recruited almost 5,000 men himself. He lead the Planter in 17 battles and eventually became her captain. He was the highest-ranking African American officer in the Union Navy. After the war, he became a leader during Reconstruction in the Republican Party. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature and later to the U.S. House of Representatives five times. One of his key initiatives was ensuring free education for all children.

Whether known for their activism or heroism, here are a few other names you should know. Honor them by sharing their stories with others not only during Black History Month but throughout the year.

Bessie Coleman

Hiram Revels

Dorothy Height

Nat Love

Daisy Bates

Guion Bluford

ProQuest’s eLibrary is an excellent resource for students wanting to learn more about African American history and achievement. The new eLibrary platform makes searching easy with its visually appealing Common Assignments and Subject trees. Also, make sure to look at the Editor’s Picks which are focused on Research Topics related to Black History Month. This new feature will change frequently so check back to see what’s new.

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Anniversary of the Greensboro, North Carolina Sit-Ins

Greensboro Sit-Ins, Feb. 1960

Greensboro Sit-Ins Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

February is Black History Month, and Social Studies teachers can begin the month-long commemoration by letting students use eLibrary to research the Greensboro, North Carolina Sit-Ins, which began February 1, 1960.

Just after 4 o’clock in the afternoon, four college freshmen from the all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) College entered the Woolworth’s department store in downtown Greensboro. They made a few small purchases and then sat down at the store’s Whites-only lunch counter and ordered coffee. The waitress said: “We don’t serve Negroes here.” One of the students replied: “I beg to differ,” pointing out that the store accepted their money at the cash register when they bought school supplies. The young men were asked to leave, but they remained seated until the store closed at 5:30. Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, who became known as the “Greensboro Four,” ignited a movement that would change the country.

Students on Day 2 of the Sit-In

Students from North Carolina A&T College [Photo Public Domain via the Library of Congress]

The next day, more than 20 black students joined the sit-in. As some white customers heckled them and the lunch counter staff refused them service, the students read books and studied or sat quietly. On day four, some 300 people took part in the sit-in. A week later, the sit-in movement spread to other cities in North Carolina and then to other major cities in the South.

The movement, while not the first sit-in, gained much media attention and showed that young African-Americans could peacefully protest against segregation and have a real impact.

In July 1960, Woolworth’s manager Clarence Harris asked several black employees to change out of their work clothes and order a meal at the counter, thus ending the store’s Whites-only policy.

The Original Woolworth's Lunch Counter

The Original Woolworth’s Lunch Counter [Photo via the Smithsonian Natural Museum of American History]

While there is no longer a Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, in 2010, fifty years after the first sit-in, the site of the former store reopened as the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.

Students can jump-start their Black History Month class projects by looking at eLibrary’s Research Topics. Here is just a brief sample:

Civil Rights (U.S.)

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Freedom Rides

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

When searching eLibrary, make use of our Editors’ Picks feature, which will be focusing on Black History Month topics during February.

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Celebrate Black History Month 2018 with eLibrary’s Editor’s Picks

2018 Black History Month Poster (Credit: Association for the Study of African American Life and History )


February is Black History Month in the United States. Created in 1926 as Negro History Week by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Black History Month is not only a time of celebration of the achievements and contributions of the African American community, but it also brings attention to the African American experience in the United States.

The ASALH continues what Dr. Woodson started by focusing on a different theme for Black History Month every year. The theme for 2018 is African Americans in Times of War which coincides and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  African American men and women have served in every war from the War of Independence to the War on Terror. Take a look at the new eLibrary Editor’s Picks as it pays tribute to those African Americans who served — those who served in the Armed Forces as well as those who served their communities.

eLibrary Editor’s Picks via ProQuest eLibrary

Featured Editor’s Picks include African Americans in the Civil War and both World Wars I and II. These Research Topics will lead your students to information with which they may not be familiar — the pioneering 54th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War and the 369th Infantry Harlem Hellfighters in World War I and the persistence of segregation in the military during World War II. As students scroll through the carousel, they will find the fascinating story of Robert Smalls, a 23-year-old slave who stole a Confederate ship, navigating his family and crew to freedom. He would later serve the Union in the Army and Navy and South Carolina as a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives. There is General Colin Powell, retired four-star U.S. Army general. He served his country in war, and he was the first African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Secretary of State. Unrelated to the theme but also featured are the inspiring lives of Madame C.J. Walker and Mae Jemison. Madame C.J. Walker used her marketing skills to create a cosmetics and hair care empire in the early 20th century. Her business helped to serve and empower African American women. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel to space in 1992. She also served as a doctor, college professor, Peace Corps worker and an advocate for science education for minority students.

Teachers and students: Make sure to check Editor’s Picks regularly because they will change frequently. Featured Research Topics related to monthly celebrations like Black History Month, significant events, anniversaries and people will be highlighted. Other times the picks will complement the Trending Research Topics. Research Topics are curated and created by editors with students in mind to use as a “jumping-off” point into the wonderful world of research.

eLibrary’s Editor’s Picks are but a small sample of the Research Topics related to black history. eLibrary offers a plethora of information and sources on many important people, stories and events in the African American experience.

Don’t have eLibrary? Request a free trial.


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. 

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.



Matthew Henson Reaches the North Pole

Most of us know that Robert Edwin Peary was the first man to reach the North Pole. Many of us are also aware that Roald Amundson won the race to the South Pole. Ernest Shackleton made history by not reaching the South Pole. Since February is Black History Month, it might be a good time to take a look at Matthew Henson, who may have stepped on the North Pole just ahead of Peary.

1910 Photo of Matthew Henson

1910 Photo of Matthew Henson [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Orphaned when he was very young, at the age of 12 Henson signed on as a cabin boy aboard a sailing ship, where he learned many technical skills, including navigation. Henson first served with Peary while he was with the Navy Corps of Engineers. Henson traveled with Peary on seven voyages over a period of 23 years. Before Peary’s eighth and final attempt to reach the Pole, Peary said that “Henson must go all the way. I can’t make it without him.” On April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson and four Inuit men were recognized at the first to reach the Geographic North Pole. When they were taking their official measurements, Henson discovered that his footprints had already crossed the spot of the Geographic North Pole. It is believed that Henson planted the U.S. flag for the team.

Matthew Henson in 1912

1912 Photo of Matthew Henson [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Polar Explorer Robert Edwin Peary

Robert Edwin Peary [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons










When the party returned to the United States, Robert Peary received most, if not all, of the attention for conquering the Pole, and for almost 20 years Henson received little acknowledgement for his achievement. In 1912, Peary did write a glowing forward to Henson’s autobiography. In 1937, Henson was invited to become the first African-American member of The Explorers Club. In 1946, Henson was awarded a medal, identical to the one given to Peary, by the U.S. Navy. And in 1954, he was invited to the White House by President Dwight Eisenhower to receive a special commendation for his early work as an explorer on the behalf of the United States of America.

Henson died in 1955.

On April 6, 1988, by order of President Ronald Reagan, Henson’s body was re-interred next to Peary’s tomb at Arlington National Cemetery. Henson’s monument reads: “Matthew Alexander Henson: Co-Discoverer of the North Pole.”

Find out more about Matthew Henson and other African-American heroes during Black History Month with eLibrary!

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.