Skip to main content
Font size options
Increase or decrease the font size for this website by clicking on the 'A's.
Contrast options
Choose a color combination to give the most comfortable contrast.

Black Heritage - Black History Month

Known today as Black History Month, the observance began as Black History Week in 1926. The commemoration was started by Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), respectfully known as the Father of Black History. Dr. Woodson initiated the then week-long celebration as a way for teachers, laypersons, churches, and organizations to educate and highlight the accomplishments and contributions made by African Americans to the history and culture of the United States of America and world. His legacy of extensive research, recording, collecting, and publishing of African American history and contributions began in 1915 when he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The objective of ASLAH was to disseminate historically accurate information and decrease the lack of information available about African Americans. His work countered the narrative that Blacks had no history prior to slavery and were inferior to other ethnicities.

Karen Bass (Congressperson/Los Angeles mayor)

Karen Bass (Congressperson/Los Angeles mayor)

Karen Bass of California has dedicated her career to public service, first as a state legislator, then as a member of the US House of Representatives, and later as the first Black female mayor of Los Angeles. In November 2022, she was elected mayor of the nation’s second-largest city. A physician assistant by training, she burst into the national spotlight in 2008, when she became the first Black American woman to serve as speaker of a state legislature. Two years later, she was elected to the US House of Representatives; Bass was reelected to her seat four times. Known as a consensus builder and a passionate defender of foster youth and other vulnerable populations, Bass succeeded at garnering bipartisan support for many of her initiatives.

Learn More

Charles Ogletree, Jr. (Trial lawyer/ law professor)

Charles Ogletree, Jr. (Trial lawyer/ law professor)

Charles Ogletree, Jr., was one of the most tenacious and successful trial lawyers in the United States. The Harvard University professor was a passionate advocate of a defendant's right to a fair trial within the American justice system--a Constitutional right one might find difficult to receive if a member of a minority group. For several years Ogletree worked in Washington, D.C.'s public defender's office, a difficult area of law which generally attracts only the most ideologically dedicated and stamina-imbued law school graduates. Those experiences were carried over to the Ivy League halls of Harvard Law School, where Ogletree single-handedly made significant inroads into how students at the country's most prestigious legal training ground view both the African-American community and the criminal justice system.

In 1986 Ogletree became director of Harvard's introduction to trial advocacy workshops, a program he founded to inject a more clinical, hands-on approach into a curriculum known to be a bit too focused on the theory of law. Through the intensive workshops, students--even if they are not planning a career in trial law--will walk away with a sense that the law can be "an instrument for social and political change...a tool to empower the dispossessed and disenfranchised...and a means to make the privileged more respectful of differences," Ogletree explained in the book I've Known Rivers.

He became the Jesse Climenko professor of law in 1998, the vice dean for Clinical Programs at Harvard in 2003, and in 2004 he was appointed director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. He also served as the co-chair of the Reparations Coordinating Committee, a group pursuing a lawsuit to win reparations for descendants of African slaves. The group of distinguished lawyers and other experts on the committee sought to reconcile the past wrongs brought by slavery. His legal work was recognized, and the National Law Journal named him one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America'' in 2002.

Learn More

Hakeem Jeffries (US House of Representatives leader / lawyer)

Hakeem Jeffries

Hakeem Jeffries was selected in 2022 as House Minority Leader and leader of the House Democratic Caucus for the U.S. House of Representatives, a historic move that made him the first Black person to lead one of the two major parties in either chamber of Congress. He is a Democratic member of the U.S. House who was elected in November 2012 to represent the 8th Congressional District of New York. A native New Yorker who began his political career as a three-term representative in the New York State Assembly, Jeffries is described in a National Journal profile as "equally comfortable in front of a Brooklyn church congregation as … with New York academics."

Learn More

Eliza Atkins Gleason (Librarian, Educator)

Eliza Atkins Gleason (Librarian, Educator)

Dr. Eliza Atkins Gleason was awarded a Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago in 1940, she became the first black American to receive a doctorate in library science. Gleason's groundbreaking dissertation was entitled "Government and Administration of Public Library Service to Negroes in the South" and greatly influenced the future development of public library service to black Americans in that region. It was later published under the title The Southern Negro and the Public Library; A Study of the Government and Administration of Public Library Service to Negroes in the South. In this study Gleason noted that public library service in the South was generally inadequate for all people, particularly blacks.

Gleason's career has been long and diverse. She began her career as assistant librarian, 1931-1932, at Louisville Municipal College. At Fisk University she headed the library's reference department from 1933 to 1937. For one year, 1936-1937, she was the library director at Talladega College. She established and became the first Dean of the School of Library Service at Atlanta University and created a library education program that trained 90 percent of all African-American librarians by 1986. Gleason was the first African American to serve on the board of the American Library Association from 1942 to 1946.

Learn More

Victor Glover

Victor Glover (US Navy Pilot/Astronaut)

Victor Glover is an American military officer and astronaut who was one of four crew members aboard the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon mission that launched on November 15, 2020. Glover serves as the mission's pilot and second-in-command. Prior to his career as an astronaut, Glover was an accomplished officer in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a commander, a test pilot, and an aviation specialist. He became an astronaut in 2013 while simultaneously holding a legislative fellow position in the U.S. Senate.

Glover completed multiple advanced degrees during his military career. These include a master's degree in flight test engineering, which he completed at Edwards Air Force Base's Air University in 2007. Glover also completed master's degrees in systems engineering and military operations in 2009 and 2010, respectively. A decorated naval officer, Glover distinguished himself as a top aviator during his military career. In rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, Glover accrued approximately 3,000 hours of flight experience, using more than 40 aircraft in achieving the milestone. He has also participated in 24 combat missions.

Learn More

Simone Biles (Gymnast)

Simone Biles (Gymnast)

Simone Biles is an American gymnast who rose to international prominence in 2013 when she became a world champion at the age of 16. She is the first Black gymnast in the history of the sport to win an overall world title, following the trail blazed by fellow American Gabby Douglas, who became the first Black Olympic gymnastics champion when she won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Games in London. Biles went on to win many more world championship titles. After going professional in 2015, Biles won four gold medals and one bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, becoming the first U.S. gymnast to win four gold medals at a single Olympics. On July 7, 2022, Biles was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Joe Biden, becoming the youngest person ever to win the award.

In 2018, after taking a year off from the sport, Biles returned to gymnastics in dramatic fashion. She won every gold medal at the USA Gymnastics National Championships. Then, she won six medals at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, becoming the most decorated female gymnast in World Championships history. In 2019, the Associated Press named her the Female Athlete of the Year. In 2021 Biles became the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike move in competition and several months later qualified for the Summer Olympic Games.

Learn More

Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E. Carter is an Academy Award-winning costume designer. Although she had been nominated previously on two previous occasions, she won her first Academy Award in 2019 for her work on Black Panther (2018). Carter was the first black woman to win an Oscar Award in the best costuming category. She is known for her long-term collaboration with director Spike Lee, with whom she has collaborated ten times. In addition to her Oscar nominations, Carter was also nominated for an Emmy in 2016 for the period costumes she contributed to the 2016 adaptation of Roots. Her work has been praised for authentically tapping into African and Black American cultural heritage for their inspiration. Over the course of her career, she has worked on more than 40 projects in film and television.

Learn More

Julian Francis Abele (architect)

Julian Francis Abele (architect)

Julian Abele (1881-1950) was the first African American architect to attain professional acclaim. He enjoyed a long and illustrious career and many of the buildings that bear his design stamp have endured to become American landmarks.

Between 1906, when he joined the all-white firm of Horace Trumbauer, until his death in 1950, Abele designed or contributed to the design of some 250 buildings, including Harvard's Widener Memorial Library, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Free Library, and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, originally a private residence and one of Manhattan's grandest addresses in its day.

Abele's race, coupled with his self-effacing personality, meant he would not be widely known during his lifetime, outside Philadelphia's architectural community. In 2016, Duke University renamed its main quadrangle Abele Quad to recognize his design contributions to its campus’ original academic and residential buildings.

Learn More

Victorine Quille Adams (Maryland state & local politician)

Victorine Quille Adams (Maryland state & local politician)

Victorine Quille Adams (1912-2006) was the first African American woman elected to the Baltimore City Council. She served four terms from 1967 to 1983. Her tenure on the city council inaugurated the continuous presence of African American women in Baltimore City politics. A native of the city, she sought to improve political representation, civic participation, and economic opportunity for all Baltimoreans.

In 1946, five years after Maryland ratified the 19th amendment, Adams founded the Colored Women's Democratic Campaign Committee (CWDCC). Its first campaign resulted in the 1954 election of the first African American elected to the Maryland State Senate, Harry Cole. Adams and CWDCC also mobilized support for Verda F. Welcome, resulting in her 1962 election as the first African American woman in the Maryland Senate.

Adams became a successful entrepreneur in 1948 and opened Charm Center, the only black owned and operated clothing store for women in Baltimore. In 1966, she successfully ran for the Maryland House of Delegates and later won a seat on the Baltimore City Council. She created the Baltimore Fuel Fund, a public-private partnership that raised money from charitable contributions to help families needing financial assistance with heating costs. The fund humanized government assistance and its model was eventually replicated by other Maryland cities.

Learn More

George Edward Alcorn, Jr. (physicist/inventor)

George Edward Alcorn, Jr. (physicist/inventor)

George Edward Alcorn Jr. is an atomic and molecular physicist. In 1984 Alcorn and his colleagues patented a device to detect extraterrestrial life: the imaging X-ray spectrometer. He has also studied missile trajectory and orbits, invented components for semiconductors, and designed instruments used in space. For his work Alcorn earned NASA's Inventor of the Year Award and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.

After earning his Ph.D. in 1967, Alcorn began his career as a scientist in the semiconductor and aerospace industries before starting at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 1978. He helped develop technologies used for the Freedom space station, as well as identified how to promote NASA-developed technologies within government, business, and universities. Few people have the training needed to understand the implications of Alcorn's work, or the details of his eight patents. Much of his work is classified as top secret by the U.S. government.

Alcorn has encouraged others, especially minorities, to follow in his footsteps through his work as a university professor and as a youth tutor. He taught electrical engineering at both Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia.

Learn More

Patricia Bath (ophthalmologist/inventor)

Patricia Bath (ophthalmologist/inventor)

In 1988, Patricia Bath (1942-2019) became the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention. She developed a laser device to remove cataracts. She developed a new field called community ophthalmology, which provides quality eye care to underserved populations.

Bath earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hunter College in 1964 and then attended Howard University Medical School. Two jobs solidified her decision to incorporate social consciousness into her career. From 1968 to 1969 she worked as an intern at the Harlem Hospital and completed an ophthalmology fellowship at Columbia University. Bath noticed the contrasts between the patients and quality of medical care at the two locations. She convinced her Columbia University colleagues to operate free of charge on blind patients at Harlem Hospital's Eye Clinic.

In 1974, Bath became the first African American woman surgeon at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center. She was also a dedicated professor at Charles R. Drew University. Bath founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness and served as president until her death in 2019. A children's book about her life, The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes, was published in 2017.

Learn More

William Wells Brown (novelist/abolitionist)

William Wells Brown (novelist/abolitionist)

William Wells Brown (1815-1884) escaped to freedom and became the first African American to publish a novel or play. He was also an abolitionist and an internationally acclaimed lecturer.

Born a slave, Brown taught himself to read and write. While working on a steamboat, he escaped and in 1834 settled in Canada. Brown's published first work was his memoir The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave (1842). He eventually became an important link in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to freedom, sometimes concealing them aboard his ship until they could be put ashore in a friendly port.

In 1843, Brown was invited to lecture for the Anti-Slavery Society and soon gained renown as a public speaker. The American Peace Society chose him as their representative to the Peace Congress in Paris in 1849. Brown remained in Europe for several years. His first novel, Clotelle, or the President's Daughter published in London in 1853. His play, The Escape, or a Leap for Freedom, was published in 1858. Brown also studied medicine and was active in the temperance, women's suffrage, and prison reform movements.

Learn More

Patrisse Cullors (Black Lives Matter co-founder/artist)

Patrisse Cullors (Black Lives Matter co-founder/artist)

Patrisse Cullors is an activist and artist based in Los Angeles, California. She is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, which campaigns against racial injustice and violence toward black people. She also campaigns for LGBTQ rights and identifies as a queer activist. In 2018 she published When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.

In 2019, Cullors co-founded the Crenshaw Dairy Mart art space in Inglewood, Los Angeles, after she earned a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the University of Southern California. At Prescott College in Arizona, she designed and founded an MFA program called Social and Environmental Arts Practice.

Black Lives Matter protests grew across the US and internationally following the May 25, 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nearly 100,000 people attended the June 7, 2020, protest in Hollywood, California. Cullors spoke and said only radical shifts can stop police violence. "The demand of defunding law enforcement becomes a central demand in how we actually get real accountability and justice, because it means we are reducing the ability of law enforcement to have resources that harm our communities."

Learn More

Ryan Coogler (filmmaker/director)

Ryan Coogler (filmmaker/director)

Ryan Coogler's first feature-length film, Fruitvale Station, received widespread acclaim, nabbing major prizes at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals in 2013 and introducing the young African-American filmmaker to the spotlight. Throughout his nascent career, Coogler has drawn from his roots growing up in the troubled neighborhoods of San Francisco's East Bay to make films that combine art with an urgent call for social change. These roots also informed his next project, Creed. The film is a spin-off of the Rocky film series and follows the rise of Adonis Creed, son of Rocky Balboa's deceased rival and friend Apollo Creed. The film was a major hit with audiences when it premiered in 2015. Following this success, studios tapped Coogler to direct Black Panther, a superhero film based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. The film was the first Marvel film with a predominately black cast, and later became the first superhero film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar at the 2019 Academy Awards.

Born in Oakland, California, in 1986 to a strict, probation officer father and a mother who worked as a community organizer, Coogler grew up with a keen understanding of the problems facing black urban neighborhoods. Though his parents were not wealthy, they pulled together the money to send Coogler and his two younger brothers to a private Catholic school to ensure that they received a quality education. Coogler's father, Ira, also introduced his boys to sports, often driving them to Bay Area neighborhoods where they could play and practice safely. When he was eight years old, Coogler's family relocated to Richmond, a Bay Area city known for its high crime rates.

Learn More

Amandla Stenberg (actor/ activist)

Amandla Stenberg (actor/ activist)

Up-and-coming actor Amandla Stenberg is best known for her breakthrough role as Rue in the 2012 film The Hunger Games. Since then, Stenberg has appeared in several films and television series, with starring roles in two 2018 releases: the dystopian sci-fi thriller The Darkest Minds and drama The Hate U Give. Stenberg also performs as one-half of the folk-rock duo Honeywater, and she is the coauthor of the Niobe fantasy comic series.

Stenberg was born on October 23, 1998 in Los Angeles. Her father, Tom Stenberg, is a Danish citizen with white and Inuit ancestry; her mother, Karen Brailsford, is African American. Amandla Stenberg's acting career began in early childhood. At age three, after learning that a friend had appeared in a commercial, Stenberg announced to her parents that she, too, wanted to act and needed an agent. At age four, she landed her first Disney catalog shoot. She appeared in a number of commercials as a child, including nationwide spots for Walmart, Kmart, and McDonald's. She also appeared in a public service announcement for, raising funds for a national Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, which aired during President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.

In 2011 Stenberg appeared in her first feature film, Colombiana, directed by Luc Besson. The thriller stars Zoe Saldana as Cataleya Restrepo, a hit woman seeking to avenge her parents' murder. Stenberg played the child Cataleya in the 10-minute flashback sequence that opens the film. Critics praised her performance. Mike Hale of the New York Times noted that "her portrayal of the future deadly-but-sensitive killer is such a perfect combination of trembling emotion, action chops and deadpan humor." After Colombiana, Stenberg appeared in a Hallmark Channel movie, A Taste of Romance, before landing her blockbuster role in The Hunger Games in 2012.

Learn More

Audre Lorde (poet/activist)

Audre Lorde (poet/activist)

The poet, novelist, and teacher Audre Geraldine Lorde was born in Harlem to West Indian parents. She described herself as "a black lesbian feminist mother lover poet." The exploration of pain, rage, and love in personal and political realms pervades her writing. Perhaps because Lorde did not speak until she was nearly five years old and also suffered from impaired vision, her passions were equally divided between a love of words and imagery and a devotion to speaking the truth, no matter how painful. Her objective, she stated, was to empower and encourage toward speech and action those in society who are often silenced and disfranchised.

Lorde published her first poem while in high school, in Seventeen magazine. She studied for a year (1954) at the National University of Mexico, before returning to the United States to earn a bachelor of arts degree in literature and philosophy from Hunter College in 1959. She went on to receive a master's degree from the Columbia School of Library Science in 1960. During this time she married attorney Edward Ashley Rollins and had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. Lorde and Rollins divorced in 1970. Juggling her roles as black woman, lesbian, mother, and poet, she was actively involved in causes for social justice. Throughout this period she was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild.

Learn More

N.K. Jemisin (writer/first Black winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel)

N.K. Jemisin (writer/first Black winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel)

Fantasy-novel writer N. K. Jemisin became the first Black writer to ever to win the coveted Hugo Award for Best Novel. In 2017 and 2018, two more installments in her acclaimed "Broken Earth" series also won Hugo honors, making Jemisin the first author ever achieve that triple feat in the seven-decade-plus history of the World Science Fiction Society prize. The initial win ranked her alongside previous honorees like Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, and Ursula K. Le Guin, but Jemisin is often compared to one of the trailblazing African American women in science fiction and fantasy literature, Octavia Butler. In 2020, she was awarded the MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

Nora Keita Jemisin was born in Iowa City in 1972. Her parents' paths diverged and she grew up in Mobile, Alabama, with her psychologist mother; summers were spent with her father, who settled in New York City and forged a career as a painter and sculptor. Both Jemisin and her cousin, the comedian and television host W. Kamau Bell, were only children and were accustomed to spending long stretches of time on their own; when together, the two--born just four months apart--worked on writing and drawing comic-book-style sagas.

Learn More

Angela Davis (political activist/professor)

Angela Davis (political activist/professor)

Angela Davis has never wavered in her quest for women's rights and the eradication of poverty and oppression.

She was born in 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama and as a young girl attended civil rights demonstrations with her mother. In 1965 Davis graduated from Brandeis University and earned her doctorate from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. The University of California at Los Angeles hired her as an assistant professor of philosophy in 1969 and she quickly became a popular teacher on campus.

Davis joined several groups, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Black Panthers, as well as the Communist Party. She was also involved in demonstrations calling for parole of the imprisoned Soledad Brothers. On August 7, 1970, a teen-aged sibling of one of the brothers staged a violent escape attempt at the Marin County Courthouse. The firearms used were traced to Davis and she fled into hiding. The FBI found her in New York City and extradited her to California, where she was held in prison for over a year. Davis was tried and acquitted of all charges in 1972.

In subsequent decades Davis has continued as a University of California professor and an activist for national health care, civil rights, and prison reform. She has written over ten books and lectures throughout the world.

Learn More

Paul Robeson (civil rights activist/singer/actor)

Paul Robeson (civil rights activist/singer/actor)

Paul Robeson--civil rights activist, singer, actor, law school graduate, athlete, scholar, author--was perhaps the best known and most widely respected black American of the 1930s and 1940s. Paul Robeson was also a Soviet apologist, and a man, later in his life, widely vilified and censored for his outspokenness and unyielding views on issues to which public opinion ran contrary. As a young man, Robeson was virile, charismatic, eloquent, and powerful. In his last two decades, he was defeated and unsure mentally, a remnant physically. He learned to speak more than 20 languages to break down the barriers of race and ignorance throughout the world, and yet, as Sterling Stuckey pointed out in the New York Times Book Review, for the last 25 years of his life his name had "been a great whisper and a greater silence in black America." Martin Baulm Duberman, in his 1989 biography Paul Robeson, asserted that Robeson ultimately was a hero wrongly accused, that his story was an "American tragedy." Barry Gewen, writing in the New Leader, felt instead that Robeson was a great man tragically flawed, "an artist of unassailable gifts and achievement who was brought low through his own political obtuseness." Such divergent views of Robeson can only be reconciled by understanding the complexity of his life from the beginning. Born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898, Robeson wasn't subjected to the brutalities of daily life common for black Americans after the turn of the century. But his family was not totally free from hardship. Robeson's mother died from a stove-fire accident when he was six. His father, a runaway slave who became a pastor, was removed from an early ministerial position. Nonetheless, from his father Robeson learned diligence and an "unshakable dignity and courage in spite of the press of racism and poverty." These characteristics, Stuckey noted, defined Robeson's approach in his beliefs and actions throughout his life. Having excelled in both scholastics and athletics as a youth, Robeson received a scholarship to Rutgers College (now University) where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and chosen valedictorian in his senior year. He earned varsity letters in four sports, and was named Rutgers' first All-American in football. Fueled by his class prophecy to be "the leader of the colored race in America," Robeson went on to earn a law degree from Columbia University, supporting himself by playing professional football on the weekends. After graduation he obtained a position with a New York law firm, only to have his career halted when a stenographer, as Duberman related the incident, refused to take down a memorandum: "I never take dictation from a nigger."

Learn More

Kamala Harris (US Senator/Vice-President of the United States)

Kamala Harris (US Senator/Vice-President of the United States)

Kamala Harris was elected Vice-President of the United States in 2020, alongside her running mate Joe Biden. With the win, she became the first woman, first African American, and first South Asian American to be elected to serve as Vice-President.

Kamala Devi Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California, a child of a mixed-race marriage. Though Harris would most often be identified as African American, she also highly valued her Indian heritage and her grandmother, who she saw on visits to the Indian city of Chennai. Harris spent her early years in Berkeley, where her parents attended college and worked in the civil rights movement.

After graduating from high school in Montreal, Canada, Harris returned to the US to attend Howard University in Washington, DC, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1986. She received her law degree in 1989 from the University of California and went to work as a law clerk in the district attorney's office in Alameda County.

Though an experienced prosecutor by 2003, Harris was a relative newcomer to politics when she was elected San Francisco district attorney. However, her hard work, respectful leadership style, and sincere concern for the most vulnerable members of society introduced integrity and positive social change to an office that had often been controversial. In 2010, Harris made history when she became the first woman and African American elected California attorney general. In 2016, Harris became only the second African American woman to be elected to the US Senate.

Learn More

Jeremiah Hawkins (politician/first mayor of North Brentwood, MD)

Jeremiah Hawkins (politician/first mayor of North Brentwood, MD)

Jeremiah Hawkins (1862-1940) was born in the Brandywine district of southern Prince George’s County to parents who had been enslaved. He became interested in politics and participated as a circuit court juror in all Black court cases. He was also a delegate for the Brandywine voting district at the county’s Republican Party conventions.

In 1905, he and his wife Emma Quander Hawkins moved to North Brentwood, at that time called Randallstown. They owned and operated a dairy business. He continued his political participation by leading the town’s civic organization and its efforts to become an incorporated town, which occurred in 1924. Hawkins served as the town’s first mayor and remained active in state and local politics until his death in 1940.

Learn More

Carla Hayden (Librarian of Congress)

Carla Hayden (Librarian of Congress)

Carla Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to lead the Library of Congress. She is a veteran of the Chicago Public Library and Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library, as well as a former president of the American Library Association (ALA).

Born in 1952, in Tallahassee, Florida, Hayden grew up in Chicago. She earned her undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University and went on to earn two advanced degrees, including a Ph.D., from the University of Chicago. She began her career with the Chicago Public Library in 1973 as a library associate and children's librarian and rose through the ranks to become deputy commissioner and chief librarian.

In 1993, she became executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. In 2002, Hayden's storied career made her a natural candidate for the ALA presidency. Upon winning she announced that "equity of access" was one of her primary goals and urged her colleagues to "rededicate ourselves to maintaining that seamless web that helps our customers reach their dreams. Libraries and librarians are truly lifelines for so many."

In 2016, Hayden began her 10-year term as Librarian of Congress. She has noted that in the not-so-distant past, it was illegal for African American slaves to learn to read, a crime punishable by dismemberment. "So, to have an African American heading up the world's largest library is not quite an oxymoron, but it speaks to the history."

Learn More

Ava DuVernay (filmmaker)

Ava DuVernay (filmmaker)

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay made her feature directorial debut in 2008 with the acclaimed documentary This Is the Life, a behind-the-scenes look at Los Angeles's legendary Good Life Café, where West Coast rap got its start in the early 1990s. A former movie publicist, DuVernay came to filmmaking with nearly two decades of experience in Hollywood, having worked with such directors as Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood before stepping behind the camera herself. She ventured into narrative film for the first time in 2011 with the heartfelt family drama I Will Follow, earning praise from critics such as Roger Ebert. DuVernay premiered her second feature, Middle of Nowhere, at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. She earned the festival's U.S. Directing Award in the dramatic category, making her the first African American woman ever to win the prize. She next directed the 2014 film Selma and the 2016 documentary 13th. In 2019 Netflix released DuVernay's smash-hit miniseries When They See Us, and DuVernay signed a deal to create a television series about football player and activist Colin Kaepernick's life.

Ava Marie DuVernay was born on August 24, 1972, in Long Beach, California, and grew up south of the city in Compton with her mother, stepfather, and two sisters. As a girl, she fell in love with the movies thanks to an aunt who was a community theater actress. "She was a huge film buff," she recalled in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "We were always at the movies. So I caught the bug."

Learn More

Chadwick Boseman (actor/playwright/theatrical director)

Chadwick Boseman (actor/playwright//theatrical director)

American actor Chadwick Boseman studied to become a director and writer but instead devoted much of his career to acting. While taking on a number of television and film roles, he continued to write and direct plays. Boseman received significant attention in April of 2013 when he starred as Jackie Robinson in the film 42. He later portrayed legendary soul singer James Brown in Get on Up (2014). In 2016 he took on the role of T’Challa, also known as Black Panther, in the superhero film Captain America: Civil War. Two years later, he reprised the role of T’Challa in the blockbuster film Black Panther, which went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide in box office sales. His star was on the rise and his name in contention for high acting honors when Boseman passed away of cancer on August 28, 2020. At the 2021 Golden Globes, he won a posthumous Best Actor award for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Chadwick Boseman was born in 1977 and grew up in South Carolina, where he played Little League baseball and later basketball. He attended Howard University in Washington, DC. Although he was interested in directing and writing, he wanted to understand the acting process as well. He took a number of acting classes and caught the acting bug. He graduated in 2000 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in directing. He later graduated from the British American Drama Academy at Oxford.

Learn More

Alex Haley (writer/biographer)

Alex Haley (writer/biographer)

The late Alex Haley gave America a bicentennial gift that will not soon be forgotten--his fact-based book Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Haley's account of his ancestor Kunta Kinte, who was captured by slave traders in 1767 and brought to America against his will, won a special Pulitzer Prize and a citation from the National Book Award committee. An international bestseller published in more than 30 languages with six million copies sold, Roots made its author a millionaire celebrity. It also did more to foster interest in black history and genealogy than any novel before or since. Such critics as Essence magazine correspondent Betty Winston Baye hailed the author as "a national treasure [of lasting] importance to the world."

"Few works in the post-World War II era can match the searing impact Roots had on a racially troubled land," assessed Mark Goodman in People. Indeed, the book and the subsequent television miniseries marked a watershed for the nation. The original eight-night run of the Roots television show attracted a staggering audience. TV Guide contributor Larry L. King noted, "At least 130 million Americans, more than half the country, tuned in at least one episode." The book topped the nonfiction bestseller lists for six months and has sold briskly ever since. King maintained that in both the print and screen versions, Haley "drew on the deep, natural well-spring of familial love.... Roots hardly could have missed. Alex Haley simply had one of America's, and mankind's, most powerful stories to tell."

The path leading to the publication of that powerful story was a long and painful one. Haley labored for a dozen years on the project, beginning with only the most slender leads from his grandmother's oral history of her family. In an effort to trace that history, the author searched through dozens of archives and eventually found his way to his ancestral village on the Gambia River in West Africa. There, Haley was able to link the threads of his grandmother's stories with the history of the Kinte clan through the tale of the young man captured by white-faced traders. Meeting his relatives in Gambia was a high point for Haley. Another was the overwhelming reception his book received when it was published at long last in 1976. "Do you know what it's like to go from the YMCA to the Waldorf?" he asked a People reporter. "If I'd known I'd be this successful, I would have typed faster."

Learn More

Patrick Mahomes (football athlete/Super Bowl MVP)

Patrick Mahomes (football athlete/Super Bowl MVP)

Patrick Mahomes became one of professional football's most celebrated quarterbacks before his 25th birthday. In his second year with the Kansas City Chiefs, he led the team to the 2019 American Football Conference (AFC) title game, and a year later, led his team to a Super Bowl championship--the Chiefs' first NFL title in half a century.

Mahomes had already collected the league Most Valuable Player (MVP) honor in 2018--making history as the youngest ever to win the award--and was voted MVP of Super Bowl LIV. In July 2020, the Chiefs made Mahomes the richest player in NFL history with a 10-year, $503 million contract extension. The deal was also the richest contract ever signed by a player in any North American sport.

Mahomes was a gifted athlete at a young age. He played baseball and football and excelled at basketball too. In March 2014, Mahomes committed to playing football for Texas Tech University. In 2017, he declared his eligibility for the NFL Draft and the Kansas City Chiefs took him as the 10th pick. Mahomes became their starting quarterback in the 2018 season and finished the year with 50 TD passes--tied for second-most in a single season in NFL history.

Learn More

Octavia E. Butler (writer)

Octavia E. Butler (writer)

"I didn't decide to become a science fiction writer," Octavia Butler claimed in an interview with Frances M. Beal in the Black Scholar. "It just happened." Butler--the most recognized black woman writer in the genre--became one of sci-fi's leading lights with a career that included publishing the Patternmaster series, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, the celebrated historical fantasy Kindred, and the highly praised dystopian saga The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, among other works. Along with "cyberpunk" novelist William Gibson, Terri Sutton of the LA Weekly listed Butler among "science fiction's most thoughtful writers." Vibe magazine's Carol Cooper declared that what Gibson "does for young, disaffected white fans of high tech and low life, Octavia Estelle Butler does for people of color. She gives us a future." The Washington Post went further, declaring Butler to be "one of the finest voices in fiction period."

Butler's work helped put race and gender into the foreground of speculative fiction, exploring these and other social and political issues with a developed sense of ambiguity and difficulty. Such explorations, Cooper noted in Vibe, were previously absent from science fiction: "In the '70s, Butler's work exploded into this ideological vacuum like an incipient solar system." As the award-winning author told Black Scholar, "A science fiction writer has the freedom to do absolutely anything. The limits are the imagination of the writer."

Learn More

Walter Dean Myers (writer)

Walter Dean Myers (writer)

Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) was one of the best-known African American writers of children's and young adult literature. Starting in the late 1960s, Myers published dozens of books for young readers seeking realistic stories and recognizable characters who tackled issues such as teen pregnancy, crime, imprisonment, drug abuse, and school shootings. He also addressed historical topics in both fiction and nonfiction books and wrote many biographies of notable African Americans. Myers often collaborated with his son Christopher Myers, a respected illustrator.

The author of more than ninety books, Myers’ most famous titles were Fallen Angels, Monster, and Scorpions. He received numerous awards and honors, including the Coretta Scott King Award. As the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2014, he spoke at schools and libraries throughout the US encouraging children to read. Myers told Marti Parham in Jet, "I'm never going to stop writing. It's my hobby as much as it is my profession...I do this because I love it. I'll write until I die."

Learn More

Lorraine Hansberry (playwright/activist)

Lorraine Hansberry (playwright/activist)

Playwright Lorraine Hansberry ushered in a new era of U.S. theater history. She brought to the stage the realistic portrayal of urban, working-class African American life. Writer James Baldwin offered insights into the impact of her work through his description of the staging of her landmark 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun: "I had never in my life seen so many black people in the theater," he related in a 1969 introduction to Hansberry's adapted autobiography To Be Young, Gifted and Black. "And the reason was that never before, in the entire history of the American theater, had so much of the truth of black people's lives been seen on the stage."

But Hansberry did more than just expand the content of realistic stage drama to include African Americans. When her additional writings became available in the 1980s, several literary critics argued for an even broader recognition of her stature. In his 1991 book Hansberry's Drama: Commitment Amid Complexity, Steven R. Carter commented: "When Lorraine Hansberry died at 34, she left a wide and rich dramatic heritage, although only a small part of it was visible then, and some parts have yet to become known. When all of her work is brought into view, she should be seen as one of the most important playwrights of this century, not simply on the basis of the one play already considered a classic, but on her collective work." In recognition of her accomplishments, Hansberry was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2017. Impressive as her achievement is in the field of literature, she has now become recognized as a pioneering defender of lesbian relationships, as part of a wider campaign to apply the principles of the U.S. Constitution to all disadvantaged groups. Hanberry was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1999.

Learn More

Mary Church Terrell (political activist/organizer)

Mary Church Terrell (political activist/organizer)

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) was an educator and political activist who dedicated her life to improving social conditions for black Americans. She helped to start the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Both former slaves, Mary’s parents instilled in her the importance of religion and education. In 1879, she was accepted at Oberlin College, one of the few integrated universities in the US, where she earned a bachelor's degree. She and educator/lawyer Robert Terrell married in 1891.

In 1892, Terrell led a local Washington, DC club, the Colored Women's League, which later merged with other black women's organizations to become the National Association of Colored Women. Terrell was elected its first president. NACW’s agenda of social reform included establishing day care centers for children of black working mothers, as well as campaigning for female suffrage, equal rights for blacks, and repeal of Jim Crow laws.

In 1895, Terrell became the first black female elected to the Washington, DC Board of Education. She also participated in the 1901 founding of the NAACP. She published her autobiography A Colored Woman in a White World in 1940. Although nearly 90 years old, Terrell led demonstrations in 1949 at segregated local restaurants and she was part of a small group that sued one that refused to serve them. The case went to the Supreme Court, where she testified. Their case won in 1953 and DC began desegregating.

Terrell lived just long enough to learn of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which effectively ended segregation in public schools. She died on July 24, 1954.

Learn More

Raphael Warnock (pastor/US Senator)

Raphael Warnock (pastor/US Senator)

In January 2021, Raphael Warnock became the first Democratic African American US Senator elected from a southern state since Reconstruction. In 2005 Warnock became senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1969, Warnock earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He served as youth pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York and as senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. Warnock came to prominence in Georgia politics in 2014 as a leader of the campaign to expand Medicaid in the state.

Warnock authored the 2014 book The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness, in which he investigates whether the true mission of the black church is to save souls or to transform the social order. He argued that there is room for both approaches to work in harmony.

Learn More

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (journalist)

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (journalist)

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) was a woman ahead of her time--courageous, independent, assertive, and outspoken. The eldest of eight children, she was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1862. She later became the owner and editor of her own Southern newspaper, crusading at great personal risk against the illegal lynching of Black people and injustices of segregation.

Devoting herself to Black progress and racial equality, Wells-Barnett played a leading role in the Black women's club movement, as well as the creation of national organizations like the NAACP. Her reputation as a fearless activist was secured by her tenure at the Memphis weekly Free Speech and Headlight. She purchased a one-third ownership and became its editor in 1889. Never one to shun controversy, her militant editorials added to her growing reputation for fearlessness. Wells-Barnett died in 1931. In 2020, she was recognized for her vital journalistic role with a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

Learn More

August Wilson (playwright)

August Wilson (playwright)

August Wilson (1945-2005) was a modern–day griot who eloquently chronicled black American life. His ten plays, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, and Seven Guitars, have been performed across the US, transporting audiences on odysseys of black life through Wilson's focus on identity, culture, and history. He was the first African American to have two plays running simultaneously on Broadway and is one of seven American playwrights to win two Pulitzer Prizes.

When Wilson began writing his plays, he had little experience with theater, having only seen two plays, and no formal training. He had no particular method of writing his plays but admitted to relying on what he called the "4 Bs"--the blues; fellow playwright Amiri Baraka; author Jorge Luis Borges; and painter Romare Bearden--to help him craft his stories. Wilson claimed, "When I saw [Bearden’s] work, it was the first time that I had seen black life presented in all its richness, and I said, 'I want to do that--I want my plays to be the equal of his canvases.'"

August Wilson carved his signature on American theater by capturing the changing texture of black life with his plays, each covering a different decade of the 20th century. The skill with which he did this earned him two Pulitzers, a Tony Award, and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, in addition to 23 honorary degrees.

Learn More

Carter G. Woodson (scholar/father of Black History)

Carter G. Woodson (scholar/father of Black History)

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was born on December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia, to parents who were former slaves. He officially began high school at 20 years old after securing enough money to care for himself. He graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Huntington, West Virginia in two years and went on to earn both bachelor’s and master's degrees. In 1912, he became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University and was the first descendant of slavery to do so.

One of Woodson’s most significant accomplishments was the establishment of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, known today at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASLAH). To disseminate scholarly work on Black history and culture, he also created The Journal of Negro History, today known as The Journal of African American History.

Woodson discovered that all Americans were miseducated and lacked knowledge of the extraordinary accomplishments and contributions African Americans made to the world. His solution was development of a curriculum and kits for educators, laypersons, churches and organizations to utilize during a week-long celebration known as Black History Week.

Black History Week was celebrated in February because it coincided with the birthdates of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, it became Black History Month. Woodson’s life and legacy are honored locally in Washington, DC with ASALH’s headquarters, with his home a National Park Service historic site and with a life-sized statue of him.

Learn More

Jane Cooke Wright (physician/cancer researcher)

Jane Cooke Wright (physician/cancer researcher)

American physician Jane Cooke Wright (1919-2013) was a prominent cancer researcher who made many contributions to the early field of chemotherapy.

Wright graduated from Smith College in 1942 and New York Medical College in 1945. She trained at Harlem Hospital, where she served as a resident in internal medicine for several years. In 1948, Wright's father founded the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation to investigate the possibilities for and effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs in cancer treatment. Wright joined the staff as a clinician in 1949.

In 1952 after her father’s death, Wright became the head of the foundation. Because the drugs used in chemotherapy could be harmful to patients, Wright worked to develop treatment guidelines with maximum benefit to patients. She had the joy of seeing some of her patients with advanced stages of cancer recover and live for years after treatments.

In 1967, Wright became associate dean and professor of surgery at New York Medical College. At a time when African American women physicians numbered a few hundred in the US, Wright was the highest ranked African American woman at a nationally recognized medical institution. She developed a program of study into cancer, heart diseases, and stroke, as well as a program to teach doctors how to use chemotherapy. Wright retired from the college and active cancer research in 1987.

Learn More

The concept of Black History Month began in 1926, when African American historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson proposed the idea as a way to recognize the accomplishments of African Americans and to inspire them to strive for further accomplishments. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially declared February as Black History Month in order to remind the United States of its’ rich and varied past. Today, Black History Month is celebrated all around the world and is an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions African Americans have made to history, culture, and society. An emphasis is placed on the shared history of African descendant people from across the diaspora, making it a special time to remember the past and foster a sense of pride and community.


Smith, J. C. (2020). Black History Month. The American Mosaic: The African American Experience. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from

Brown, K. B. (2020, July 26). The Founders of Black History Month: Our History. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from

Upcoming Events

Wed, Jul 24, 2:30pm - 5:00pm
New Carrollton - Large meeting room 2
We are proud to present a special screening of "The Price of the Ticket," followed by an enlightening discussion led by Dr. Jason Nichols, African American History Studies Professor at the... more
We are proud to present a special screening of "The Price of the Ticket," followed by an enlightening discussion led by Dr. Jason Nichols, African American History Studies Professor at the University of Maryland.
Registration is now closed

Thu, Jul 25, 12:30pm - 1:30pm
Margaret Adams, a free Black woman, owned her own tavern in 1800’s Prince George’s County. While most Black Marylanders were enslaved, Margaret Adams defied the slaveholding society and built... more
Margaret Adams, a free Black woman, owned her own tavern in 1800’s Prince George’s County. While most Black Marylanders were enslaved, Margaret Adams defied the slaveholding society and built a successful business. Explore the world of Margaret Adams and see how she resisted one of Maryland's most powerful families.

Tue, Jul 30, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Virtual Branch
This summer, grab your favorite lunch at noon and tune in to virtual conversations with the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System... more
This summer, grab your favorite lunch at noon and tune in to virtual conversations with the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System on topics from how racism is making us sick to human trafficking awareness to increasing equity and opportunity in the sciences. Let’s learn together!

Mon, Aug 05, 12:30pm - 3:30pm
Fairmount Heights
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, there was the Cloud Club, led by John Greene. These Black civilian aviators built a community not only for aviation but also for recreation during the Jim Crow era.... more
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, there was the Cloud Club, led by John Greene. These Black civilian aviators built a community not only for aviation but also for recreation during the Jim Crow era. Explore how the first Black pilots in the United States made a way out of no way, trained the Tuskegee Airmen, and created a community of Black aviators.

Tue, Aug 13, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
New date Saturday, August 24, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Writing Revolution is a reading of essays, memoirs, and poetry composed by local Black writers to commemorate Black August. These writers will share their perspectives and solutions for reclaiming... more
Writing Revolution is a reading of essays, memoirs, and poetry composed by local Black writers to commemorate Black August. These writers will share their perspectives and solutions for reclaiming liberation and autonomy through their artistry.

Tue, Aug 20, 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Oxon Hill
Listen to pianist Desmond Charles play from the Truth Room African American sheet music collection. We have limited seating capacity in the Truth Room, so please register.

Black Heritage Timeline



The first African American indentured servants arrive in the American colonies. Less than a decade later, the first slaves are brought into New Amsterdam (later, New York City). By 1690, every colony has slaves.


The Stono Rebellion, one of the earliest slave revolts, occurs in Stono, South Carolina.




Eli Whitney’s (1765 – 1825) cotton gin increases the need for slaves.


Congress bans further importation of slaves.




In Boston, William Lloyd Garrison (1805 – 1879) begins publication of the anti-slavery newspaper the Liberator and becomes a leading voice in the Abolitionist movement.


Approximately 75,000 slaves escape to the North using the Underground Railroad.




Ex-slave Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) publishes the anti-slavery North Star newspaper.


Harriet Tubman (c. 1820 – 1913) escapes from slavery and becomes an instrumental leader of the Underground Railroad.




Congress passes another Fugitive Slave Act, which mandates government participation in the capture of escaped slaves.

Boston citizens, including some of the wealthiest, storm a federal courthouse in an attempt to free escaped Virginia slave Anthony Burns (1834 – 1862).


The Dred Scott v. Sanford case: congress does not have the right to ban slavery in the states; slaves are not citizens.




Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) is elected president, angering the southern states.


The Civil War begins.




Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation proclaims that all slaves in rebellious territories are forever free.


Massachusetts 54th regiment of African American troops led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1837 – 1863) marches out of Boston on May 28th, heading into combat.




The Civil War ends.

Lincoln is assassinated.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery, is ratified.

The era of Reconstruction begins.


The “Black Codes” are passed by all white legislators of the former Confederate States.

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, conferring citizenship on African Americans and granting them equal rights to whites.

The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee.




The 14th Amendment is ratified, defining citizenship. This overturns the Dred Scott decision.


The 15th Amendment is ratified, giving African Americans the right to vote.




The era of Reconstruction ends.

A deal is made with southern democratic leaders which makes Rutherford B. Hayes (1822 – 1893) president in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, and puts an end to efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans.


Thousands of African Americans migrate out of the South to escape oppression.




Tennessee passes the first of the “Jim Crow” segregation laws, segregating state railroads.

Similar laws are passed over the next 15 years throughout the Southern states.


Plessy v. Ferguson case: racial segregation is ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.

The “Jim Crow” (“separate but equal”) laws begin, barring African Americans from equal access to public facilities.




Brown v. Board of Education case: strikes down segregation as unconstitutional.


In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005) is arrested for breaking a city ordinance by refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. This defiant act gives initial momentum to the Civil Rights Movement.




Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) and others set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading engine of the Civil Rights Movement.


The Civil Rights Act is signed, prohibiting discrimination of all kinds.




The Voting Rights Act is passed, outlawing the practices used in the South to disenfranchise African American voters.


Edward W. Brooke (1919 - 2015) becomes the first African American U.S. Senator since Reconstruction. He serves two terms as a Senator from Massachusetts.




Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.


The PGCMLS Oxon Hill Library opens, including the Sojourner Truth African American Research Collection in Oxon Hill, Maryland.




President Lyndon Johnson (1908 - 1973) signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibiting housing discrimination.


Arthur Ashe (1943 - 1993) becomes the first African American man to win the U.S. Open.




Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise a black-gloved fist during the playing of the U.S. national anthem at the Olympics in Mexico.


Shirley Chisholm (1924 - 2005) is sworn in as the first Black woman elected to Congress.




Guitarist Jimi Hendrix headlines the Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York.

Late 60s-Early 70s

Rise of the Black Power Movement




Shirley Chisholm becomes the first Black woman to campaign for a major party presidential nomination.


Civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman establishes The Children’s Defense Fund.




Baseball player Hank Aaron (1934 - 2021) of Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run.


President Gerald Ford (1913 - 2006) officially recognizes Black History Month, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”




Based on the Alex Haley novel, the miniseries “Roots” airs its finale, which is watched by 36 million households.


Colonel Guion Bluford, Jr. (1942 - ) becomes the first African American to go to space as part of the Challenger Space Shuttle crew.




Vanessa Williams (1963 - ) is crowned the first Black Miss America.


Jesse Jackson (1941 - ) becomes the second African American to mount a U.S. presidential candidacy.




The first federal holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday in January.


Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ) launches a syndicated talk show. It later became the highest-rated talk show in history.




Douglas Wilder (1931 - ) becomes the first African American to be elected governor of a state (Virginia).


Four white Los Angeles police officers are acquitted of beating African American Rodney King (1965 - 2012). The verdict led to five days of riots in Los Angeles.




Engineer and physician Mae Jemison (1956 - ) becomes the first Black woman to go to space as part of the Space Shuttle Endeavour crew.


Toni Morrison (1931 - 2019) is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first Black woman to earn the honor.




Carol Moseley Braun (1947 - ) becomes the first Black woman, and only the second African American, to be elected to the US Senate.


Black men rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March.




Black women gather for the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.


Colin Powell (1937 - 2021) is appointed the first Black secretary of state.




Condoleezza Rice (1954 - ) takes office as the first Black woman secretary of state.


Barack Obama (1961 - ) becomes the first African American to win the U.S. presidential race.




The death of Black high school student Trayvon Martin (1995 - 2012) and the acquittal of George Zimmerman (1983 - ) spark nationwide protests and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.


In Ferguson, Missouri, unarmed Black teen Michael Brown (1996 - 2014) is shot dead by white police officer Darren Wilson (1986 - ), resulting in weeks of protests.




The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens as the newest Smithsonian Institution Museum in Washington, DC.


Quarterback Colin Kaeperick (1987 - ) takes a knee during the national anthem before a football game to protest police brutality.




Amanda Gorman (1998 - ) becomes the first National Youth Poet Laureate.


Three unarmed African Americans are fatally killed. On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; on March 13, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky; and on May 25, George Floyd in Minnesota. The killings also resulted in nationwide and global demonstrations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as changes to federal and state policing laws.




Kamala Harris (1964 - ) becomes the first Black and South Asian woman elected Vice-President of the United States.


June 19 is the first celebration of Juneteenth as a U.S. federal holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves.




Los Angeles County returned to the heirs of Charles and Willa Bruce the $20 million Manhattan Beach property that was wrongfully seized from the African American couple by an act of racism in 1924.


Hakeem Jeffries became leader of the US House of Representatives Democrats, making him the first African American to lead a party in either chamber of the United States Congress.




Wes Moore inaugurated as Maryland’s first Black governor. He is the third African American elected governor in US history.


60th Anniversary of the March on Washington is held in DC to call for action on issues such as voting rights and student debt cancellation.




Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast of all time by earning an additional 4 gold medals (for a career total of 37) at the World Artistic Gymnastic Championships in Belgium.

Work Cited:

Black History Milestones: Timeline

Online Resources

Research African American history and culture, including primary sources, timelines, audio clips, photographs, maps, and images.

This online community is dedicated to training and sharing resources for researching African American Genealogy. It's a good entry point if you're starting out and are interested in the basics.

Contains millions of records from The United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands between 1865 -1872. Records contain names of people across the United States including formerly enslaved African Americans, those who were free before the Civil War, white southerners, northern educators, elected officials, and more.

OverDrive offers thousands of downloadable audiobooks and eBooks, all free with your Prince George's County Memorial Library System library card. There is a limit of 10 items per customer, checked out at any time.

Speak Your Truth Oral History project

Speak Your Truth! Oral History Project @ Oxon Hill - Do you have a story to share?

Online Exhibits


National Museum of African American History and Culture Celebrates 50 Year of Hip-Hop

A celebration of 50 years of Hip-Hop including live performances, interviews, panel discussions, and more.

Crash Course: Black American History (51 videos in the playlist)

Over the course of 51 episodes, learn about Black American History. Clint Smith will teach you about the experience of Black people in America, from the arrival of the first enslaved Black people who arrived at Jamestown all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Excellist: 10 Trailblazing Black Visual Artists

African American artists have helped shape the visual culture of the United States by working outside of the convention of their respective fields while defying discrimination and professional stereotypes. Often channeling their familial backgrounds and personal experiences in their work, these creative figures have influenced and inspired much of American art's evolution. Collectively, their bodies of work should not only be seen as a narrative of the African American experience of their time, but also a powerful expression of cultural protest.

Show More Videos + Show Less Videos -

The Breathtaking Courage of Harriet Tubman - Janell Hobson

Take a closer look at the life of escaped slave and American icon Harriet Tubman, who liberated over 700 enslaved people using the Underground Railroad.

An Unsung Hero of the Civil Rights Movement - Christina Greer

Learn about the life of Bayard Rustin, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, a gay rights activist, and one of Martin Luther King’s closest advisors.

The Electrifying Speeches of Sojourner Truth - Daina Ramey Berry

Get to know the story of Sojourner Truth, a woman born into slavery who became known as a powerful orator and outspoken activist.

How One Journalist Risked Her Life to Hold Murderers Accountable - Christina Greer

In the late 1800’s, lynchings were happening all over the American South, often without any investigation or consequences for the murderers. A young journalist set out to expose the truth about these killings. Her reports shocked the nation, launched her journalism career and a lifelong pursuit of civil rights. Christina Greer details the life of Ida B. Wells and her tireless struggle for justice.

Why should You Read Sci-fi Superstar Octavia E. Butler? - Ayana Jamieson and Moya Bailey

Explore the works of science fiction visionary Octavia E. Butler, whose novels, such as “Parable of the Sower,” influenced the growing popularity of Afrofuturism.

The Birth of Hip Hop

In 1973, DJ Kool Herc set up his turntables and introduced a technique at a South Bronx house party that would change music as many people knew it. His ability to switch from record to record — as well as isolate and repeat music breaks — led to the discovery of the hip hop genre.

What Black Lives Matter Means to an 11-year-old

In June of 2020,11-year-old Californian Jolia Bossette decided to use her fifth-grade graduation speech as an occasion to give voice to her thoughts and feelings. In her speech, she reminisced about how she was "the cutest thing," as a toddler and asked, "But when did I stop being cute and start being scary?"

Why All Americans Should Honor Juneteenth

In Texas and across the country, emancipated African Americans began celebrating annually, with parades, concerts, and picnics. “Being able to go wherever they want and being able to wander about; for enslaved people, it was an expression of their freedom,” says Hill. “Formerly enslaved people celebrating, in public, their newfound freedom, was an act of resistance.”

Afrofuturism Mixes Sci-fi and Social Justice. Here’s How it Works.

Black people are rarely featured in sci-fi and fantasy films — that is, unless that black person is Will Smith. How do black people get to exist in the future? Afrofuturism, a scholarly and artistic movement that imagines the future through black people’s experiences is one answer. The term was coined in 1994 by culture critic Mark Dery in his "Black to the Future" essay.

The First Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad for many of us symbolizes the journey African slaves went on in the name of freedom. But, contrary to popular belief, the first path wasn’t south to north. Instead, it was north to south.

Marcus Garvey: Leader of a Revolutionary Global Movement

Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica and experienced the impacts of colonization at the hands of the British. As a result, he developed a passion for improving race relations and launched a Black Nationalism movement that would seek to elevate black people throughout the world.

Henrietta Lacks: The Woman With the Immortal Cells

In this episode of Black History In Two Minutes or So hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., with additional commentary from Hasan Jeffries of Ohio State University, we explore how the morally questionable obtaining of Henrietta Lack’s cells led to medical advancements we still receive benefits from today.

Genealogical News

An Air Force veteran named Fred Miller wanted a new house for large family gatherings; he ended up getting an incredible link to his family’s past. The home he bought was actually the plantation his enslaved ancestors worked on for generations in Southern Virginia.

The Lost Neighborhood Under New York's Central Park

In the Vox series Missing Chapter, Vox Senior Producer Ranjani Chakraborty revisits underreported and often overlooked moments from the past to give context to the present. Join her as she covers the histories that are often left out of our textbooks. Our first season tackles stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation.

Notes of a Native Son: The World According to James Baldwin - Christina Greer

In the 1960s, the FBI amassed almost 2,000 documents in an investigation into one of America’s most celebrated minds. The subject of this inquiry was a writer named James Baldwin, one of the best-selling black authors in the world at the time. What made him loom so large in the imaginations of both the public and the authorities? Christina Greer explores the life and works of James Baldwin.

The Most Feared Song in jazz, Explained

John Coltrane, one of jazz history’s most revered saxophonists, released “Giant Steps” in 1959. It’s known across the jazz world as one of the most challenging compositions to improvise over for two reasons - it’s fast and it’s in three keys. Braxton Cook and Adam Neely give me a crash course in music theory to help me understand this notoriously difficult song, and I’m bringing you along for the ride. Even if you don’t understand a lick of music theory, you’ll likely walk away with an appreciation for this musical puzzle.

Aretha Franklin’s Musical Genius in 2 Songs

Aretha Franklin will always be the Queen of Soul. In the 1960s songs like “Respect” became the symbol for political and social change. It’s likely the reason her music moved so many people wasn’t necessarily the lyrics, but the way she delivered them.

Obama's 2008 Election

During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a first-term senator named Barack Obama from Illinois delivered a speech that exuded excitement, charisma and spark. Four years later, he found himself on that same platform as he launched his campaign to become the president of the United States.

Recommended Reads

Adult Recommendations

Teen Titles

Kids' Reads