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 African American History


  • Black Inventors A to Z'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

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…

podcasts African American author events remembrances literature
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…

Events at the Library Community Events African American
Celebrate African-American Music Appreciation Month!

This month is African-American Music Appreciation Month , a commemoration first started by former President Jimmy Carter, on June 7, 1979. The national recognition began as Black Music Month, but President Barack Obama changed the name…

music African American
Conversations in Color: The Coretta Scott King Awards Celebrate 50 Years of Excellence

Parkway Central Library Senior Services will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Awards for excellence in African American children’s literature with a five-part discussion series called Conversations In…

awards Events at the Library Central Senior Services Community Events Parkway Central Seniors Teens African American Children's books history diversity lecture series inclusivity
Through This Lens: African American Photographers

Through This Lens , an exhibit of library materials that illustrates and discusses the camera work of African American photographers can be viewed on the 2nd floor landing of Parkway Central Library until mid-March. Some of the…

Exhibitions art African American photography library resources
#ownvoices: Celebrating Black History Month and Picture Books

February is Black History Month – an annual commemoration that recognizes and celebrates the heritage, culture, contributions and achievements of African Americans to American history and life. Join us (and our younger readers!)…

African American Children's books recommendations Black History Month
Free Library Participating in 27th Annual African American Children's Book Fair

We are excited to share the news that the Free Library will be at the African American Children's Book Fair again this year! Founded and organized by Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, the African American Children’s Book Fair is…

Community Events African American Children's books literacy Black History Month
At These Crossroads: The Legacies of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois Exhibition

Update: The Free Library’s At These Crossroads exhibition was honored as an Adobe Government Creativity Awards finalist in the ‘Multichannel Campaign – Museum of Park Exhibit’ category! Come see this exhibition…

Exhibitions African American history Rosenbach In Conversation
Brought To You In Living Color

For Baby Boomers, the words “Land Shark”, “Samurai Delicatessen”, “Coneheads”, and “The Blues Brothers” conjures up adventures on the wild frontier of comedy, when Saturday Night Live…

African American television comedians Black History Month Black Lives Matter pop culture
Art, Gardens, and Stories: Making Philadelphia Home

[ Editor's note: We librarians offer literally thousands of programs every year. It's a special thrill to get formal feedback from our audiences. We can't publish every review we get, but we're overjoyed to have gotten…

Reviews film screenings African American Poetry history storytime New Americans community
Culinary Literacy Center Presenters Win Big at "The Oscars of the Food World"

One of the biggest nights in the food world, The James Beard Foundation Media Awards , took place April 27 at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Hailed as “the Oscars of the food world,” this prestigious ceremony shines a light…

awards African American culinary literacy Native American
Embrace the Sacred and Interstellar Through the Art and Poetry of Stellar Masses

Yolanda Wisher is back! She left us in 2017 as the first Poet Laureate since the Free Library assumed responsibility for nurturing our city's chief word smith. On May 9, 2018 at 6:30 p.m., she's returning as curator with…

art Events at the Library film screenings African American Poetry science
Black Artists from the Stacks: The Libraries Are Appreciated

Take a deep dive into the Free Library’s resources on African American artists at The Libraries Are Appreciated , an exhibition from the Parkway Central’s Art Department . Borrowing its name from the 1943 painting by Jacob…

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#OneBookWednesday: Brooklyn, Black Girlhood, and the Great Migration

Gladys Jamison couldn’t know this, but she was a girl coming of age in an exodus. Thirteen years old when her father moved her and her siblings to Brooklyn, she’d lost her mother five years before, in 1932. She was still…

One Book One Philadelphia African American A History Minute
5 African American Romance Authors to Keep Your Eye On

A few weeks ago The Ripped Bodice, a romance bookstore in Los Angeles, released the inaugural report on the State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing and it exposes some hard truths about the lack of diversity in traditionally…

romance African American
The Philadelphia Colored Directory of 1910 Recently Scanned and Available for Download in Our Digital Collections

The Philadelphia Colored Directory , a handbook of religious, social, political, professional, business activities of the Negroes of Philadelphia, was compiled by R. (Richard) R. (Robert) Wright, Jr.; assisted by Ernest Smith. This…

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Following Octavius V. Catto’s Footsteps

It has been more than 150 years since Octavius Catto may have slipped on a sack overcoat that hung by his front door, pushed a well-worn felt pocket hat over his parted hair, stepped out into the fall chill, and walked a few blocks down…

African American history
A History Minute: Octavius V. Catto - Philadelphia's Forgotten Freedom Fighter

On Sept. 26, 2017, the fence will come down and a new statue will be unveiled: the first new City Hall statue since 1923 and the first of an African American on any city-owned public property. It’s a lot of fuss over a man…

African American A History Minute racism
African-American Music Appreciation Month: 3 New Albums to Check Out

On June 7, 1979, President Jimmy Carter designated the month of June to honor the musical contributions of African Americans, known as Black Music Month. In 2016, President Barack Obama gave a presidential proclamation and formally…

music African American recommendations