African American History

In celebration of Black History Month and African American History as a whole, explore our resources on African American history and culture including famous African Americans From Philadelphia, Poets and Poetry, Speculative Fiction, Nonfiction, Books for Early Readers, The Harlem Renaissance, Tuskegee Airmen, Scientists and Inventors, Politics, Black Colleges and Universities, and Black History Month events throughout Philadelphia area.

African American History

Links

  • Black Inventors A to Z

    About.com's biographical guide to African American inventors also contains links to additional content including African American patent holders and a trivia quiz.
  • Top Ten African American Inventors

    A brief slideshow from Scholastic Magazine for grades 3-4.
  • "America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us" by Adam Serwer | Atlantic (May 8, 2020)

    The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying. The pandemic has exposed the bitter terms of our racial contract, which deems certain lives of greater value than others.
  • African American History

    Major Speeches: Speeches from outstanding African American orators.
  • African American History: Major Speeches

    Speeches from outstanding African American orators
  • African American Museum in Philadelphia

    Exhibitions, collections, educational programs, and more. This is the official web site of the museum, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the culture of African Americans in Philadelphia and beyond.
  • African American Senators

    Photos and short biographies of African Americans senators, starting with Hiram Revels of Mississippi in 1870, the first African American U.S.senator.
  • Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in University City

    Black History Month Events @ Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in University City
  • Behind The Veil - Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South

    A selection of 100 recorded oral history interviews chronicling African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950s.
  • Bethune-Cookman College

    Noted educator Mary McLeod Bethune founded what later became known as Bethune-Cookman College in 1904.
  • Black Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database

    This database serves as a starting point for relatives or researchers as they begin to piece together individual experiences of black soldiers and sailors in the Civil War.
  • Black Dispatches

    African American Contributions to Union Intelligence During the Civil War.
  • Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

    Located just outside of Philadelphia and founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is the oldest of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in America.
  • Desegregation of the Armed Forces

    A Collection of Documents detailing President Truman's decision to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Hampton University

    Located in southeastern Virginia, Hampton University offers a broad range of technical, liberal arts, pre-professional, professional, and graduate degree programs.
  • Howard University

    This HBCU is located in Washington, D.C.
  • Lincoln University

    Lincoln University is located in southern Chester County, about 45 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Famous alumni include Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall.
  • Morehouse College

    Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., filmmaker Shelton "Spike" Lee, and Olympic Gold Medalist Edwin Moses are among the renowned alumni of Atlanta, Georgia's Morehouse College.
  • NAACP’s Criminal Justice Fact Sheet

    Includes information on Incarceration Trends in America, Racial Disparities in Incarceration, Drug Sentencing Disparities, Effects of Incarceration, and Fair Chance Hiring.
  • National Constitution Center

    Daily events and activities including Decoding the Document, a workshop that examines the museum’s own rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, and the interactive Breaking Barriers show, spotlighting the lives of Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Coleman, Jackie Robinson and other barrier-breaking African-Americans.
  • Notable African Americans

    Short biographies of prominent African Americans from all walks of life.
  • Notable African-American Government Officials

    Important African American Government Officials
  • PBS’s Teaching Your Child About Black History

    "Instead of shying away from hard truths, parents can explain that a long time ago, people were separated by the color of their skin. Some people did not think that was fair, and men and women of all races united to make a change. This is a straight-forward example that teaches empathy, cooperation, and the commonality of a shared goal. It is also a way to teach children how to connect their personal experiences with the larger world." - Nefertiti Austin
  • Physicists of the African Diaspora

    Short biographies of African American scientists prominent in physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics.
  • Project Ready’s Allies and Antiracism

    A free online professional development curriculum by UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, that helps to teach allyship.
  • Talking About Race

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture today launched Talking About Race, a new online portal designed to help individuals, families, and communities talk about racism, racial identity and the way these forces shape every aspect of society, from the economy and politics to the broader American culture.
  • The 1619 Project

    The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.
  • The Combahee River Collective Statement

    A collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. [1] During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking.
  • The Faces of Science

    African Americans in the Sciences: This site contains profiles of African Americans who have contributed to science and engineering. Many profiles contain photographs of the scientist.
  • The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences

    This site contains profiles of African Americans who have contributed to science and engineering. Many profiles contain photographs of the scientist.
  • The Philly Black History Syllabus: 13 Must-read Books to Understand Our City

    Experts share what books spotlighting Philadelphia you should be reading during Black History Month.
  • Timeline of African American History

    From the Library of Congress, a timeline of events from 1852-1925 put together to support a special digital collection entitled "African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection".

Biographies For Kids by explore

Read biographies of famous and historical African Americans.

View the full list

Barack Obama: The Making of an American President (14 items)

Learn more about the life and achievement of President Obama.

African Americans Win the West (12 items)

Pioneering African Americans of the Old West.

African Americans in the Cinema (9 items)

Lights, Camera, Action! Dig into the world of Black filmmakers, actors and actresses.

Memoirs and Reminiscences by African American Authors (14 items)

Autobiographical selections.

Award-Winning African American Authors (14 items)

Books by prize-winning writers.

African American Revolutionaries and Inventors from Philadelphia (6 items)

Inspiring stories and historical perspective of African American Revolutionaries and Inventors from Philadelphia through the years.

African American Quilts (8 items)

Discover the beauty of these treasures of American folk art.

African American Celebrations (10 items)

Explore the rich cultural traditions that are an integral part of the African American experience.

African American Books for Early Readers (20 items)

Books starring African Americans for Early Readers.

Electronic Resources

Upcoming Events


Blog Posts

Black History. Black News. Black Voices.

The Free Library is pleased to announce a new digital resource that provides access to the most distinguished African American Newspapers in the United States. Cardholders now have access to 10 historic Black newspapers that help piece…

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Picture ebooks Highlights | The Old Truck

We are back with another Picture ebook Highlight , a series where we put the spotlight on an ebook that you can read at home, using the Free Library's Digital Media portal. This time we are going to talk about a book published back…

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George Washington Carver: Inventor, Environmentalist, Mentor, and Role Model

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of…

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In Appreciation of Octavia Butler

That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times. ― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of…

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Juneteenth Matters

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and he had an announcement to make. More than two years before, President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The Civil…

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Picture ebook Highlights | Celebrating Juneteenth!

Philadelphia's Mayor Kenney has declared Friday, June 19, 2020 a City holiday in recognition of Juneteenth! Juneteenth is the most popular annual celebration of Emancipation, and commemorates June 19, 1865, the date when Union…

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A History Minute: The Many Firsts of Sadie T. M. Alexander

Women today often talk about the difficulty of "having it all", but Sadie T.M. Alexander was more concerned with "doing it all." She not only raised two children and worked to advance her husband’s political…

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Visions of Black Future Month During Black History Month

I know its Black History Month, and we have a ton of programs  and resources  to share and celebrate, but February always makes me think of the title of N.K. Jemisin’s award-winning collection of stories, How Long…

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Black History Month | A Boys Booklist for Toddlers!

Have you been on the lookout for children’s books with little faces like the ones you love? This booklist offers ten of our favorite children’s books, from Coretta Scot King Book Award winners to magnificently illustrated…

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Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap and Building Up Black Generational Wealth

During Black History Month, the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME) is hosting a series on Black Generational Wealth , in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Commerce and the Office of Economic Opportunity…

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Picture Book Highlights | Brown: A Deep and Varied Joy

Magnificence sometimes appears in the most commonplace observations. In the poetic celebration of self and nature,  Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration is a series of young brown girls admiring the many different browns…

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Celebrating Everyday Experiences of Black Children and Families

Back in 2018, Denene Milner, children’s book writer and publisher, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times lamenting the scarcity of children’s books that "celebrate the humanity and everyday experiences of black…

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Explore Black History with Your Family at the Free Library!

The Free Library is proud to honor Black History Month ! We’ll be celebrating, learning, and reflecting together, with a multitude of programs for the whole family at neighborhood libraries across the city. Explore local history…

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Come Out for Sundays on Stage this Winter Season!

If you have yet to experience an afternoon with Sundays on Stage , you’re really missing out! One of the Free Library’s longest-running programs, this free-to-the-public event series features talented performers from all…

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Portraits of Heroes, Portraits of You: Black History Month at the Free Library

"This athlete is only nineteen years old, but he is six feet, two inches high, and weighs 210 pounds," noted the March 1918 issue of The Crisis , the NAACP’s flagship publication. Their "Man of the Month" is…

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Kick-Off Black History Month with Philadelphia’s African American Children’s Book Fair

At a moment of growing awareness around the importance of representation and diversity in children’s books , the African American Children’s Book Fair continues the effort it has been devoted to for nearly three decades:…

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MLK Day of Service | When the Youth Lead

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a strongly celebrated day in Philadelphia. People of all ages come together to support their communities and uplift the values of MLK’s civil rights leadership during this nationally recognized Day of…

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Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Visit to Philadelphia: A Personal Account

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  stands with one arm stretched high above his head, waving to the crowd, with a broad smile on his face, as the legendary Philadelphia civil rights attorney and firebrand Cecil B. Moore stands to one…

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A History Minute | Who was Mae Reeves and Why is She in the Smithsonian?

For over 50 years, Mae’s Millinery (definition: "the art of hat-making") was a fixture in Philadelphia, a destination for women from up and down the East Coast in search of the perfect hat. Now Mae’s is once more a…

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