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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Physicists of the African Diaspora

    Short biographies of African American scientists prominent in physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics.
  • Teachers and students embrace Black Lives Matter Week in city schools

    Among the activities were after-school and weekend events, such as film screenings and panel discussions, all meant to spark conversations about the 13 guiding principles of Black Lives Matter. The principles include embracing diversity, practicing empathy, affirmation of queer and transgender students, and how to live unapologetically Black, among others. The point was to encourage conversations among teachers, parents, and students about issues of race in their schools and communities.
  • 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

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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Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Book Award’s 50th Anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Award , honoring African American authors and illustrators in children’s and young adult literature. Noted by their familiar emblem, the Coretta Scott King Award…

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Bringing Families Together: A Booklist About Adopted Children and Their Families

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, a celebrated tradition that began in 1976 . This year, the monthly focus is on the adoption of children who are currently in foster care. The stories below portray multidimensional and…

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A History Minute | Father Divine and the Behind the Scenes History of The Divine Lorraine Hotel

The Divine Lorraine's story is not just that of a dilapidated building brought back to glory before the wrecking ball's kiss, but a much more complicated, dramatic, and sometimes scandalous history than most Philadelphian's…

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Find Out How Slavery Made Our World with These Free Library Resources

Have you read the 1619 Project yet? It’s the award-winning special issue of the New York Times Magazine all about American Slavery that was published last month. The project’s creator, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones , writes…

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Remembering Toni Morrison, 1931–2019

When I first read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison , at 15 years old, I knew it would haunt me. The story fed my soul—I was shocked at its lovely, yet stinging taste, but realized I had always been craving it. Never had my struggle…

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Juneteenth is in the Air on 52nd Street and in the House at Blackwell Regional Library!

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery, on June 19, 1865, when the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced by Union soldiers and the last remaining slaves were freed in Galveston Texas. To honor the significance of this historical…

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