Celebrating Black History Month

Every day, we celebrate the remarkable contributions of African Americans to the American Story. The National Archives contains millions of records related to the interactions of African Americans with the Federal government—from the Emancipation Proclamation to the millions of historical records ranging from the Census to military service.

The National Archives grant program, our National Historical Publications and Records Commission, extends the reach of the agency and connects to thousands of collections across the country at state and local governments, colleges and universities, historical societies, and other nonprofit organizations. Over the past 50 years, the NHPRC has awarded grants to projects to document black lives.

Among the earliest records are those dealing with slavery and the fight for freedom. The Frederick Douglass Papers, the Black Abolitionist Papers, the Race and Slavery Petitions project at the Digital Library on American Slavery, Freedmen and Southern Society, and the O.O. Howard (head of the Freedman’s Bureau and founder of Howard University) projects were all supported with major funding from the NHPRC, and other grants went to the preservation of court and chancery records which deal with landmark events such as the Dred Scott case at the Supreme Court of Missouri and manumission petitions now being digitized by the Maryland State Archives.

Freedman and southern society imageFreedman and Southern Society Project

Following emancipation, the quest for equal rights is documented in the early 20th century records such as Booker T. Washington Papers and a microfilm edition of the W.E.B. Dubois Papers to the latter decades with the papers of such civil rights leaders as Clarence Mitchell, Ted Berry, the archives of Mary McLeod Bethune and the National Council of Negro Women, and the Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Archives from the history of Boston Desegregation (some of which are now part of the National Archives DocsTeach site) to the preservation of film interviews from the landmark PBS series “Eyes on the Prize” are but some of the many collections of interest for students of American civil rights history.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some “hidden” gems.

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